A guide for first time visitors

6 days in Madeira

Getting There

Madeira is a Portuguese island near the equator and is actually closer to Africa than Europe. From mainland Europe, it is a 3+ hour flight to reach the Funchal airport in Madeira.  

One thing to note about flying into Madeira is the airport is actually known to be one of the more dangerous airports to land in. That being said, it just means there are more precautions in place which need to be met in order for planes to be able to land, and pilots generally tend to be more experienced as well. The airport is challenging due to changing weather and winds, as well as its location between mountains and the coast. The short runway makes it imperative to have certain standards on wind and visibility to land. As this is a known factor, planes often over fuel to enable time to circle until it is safe to land.

Getting Around

The island of Madeira is best visited at your own pace with a car. Plan to pick-up and drop off your car rental at the airport to provide immediate flexibility on your visit to Madeira. There are numerous car rental companies available to rent from directly at the airport. It would be best to book in advance to ensure you have access to the type of car you need.

A few considerations when booking a rental car:

  • Automatic vs manual: opt for automatic as Madeira has a LOT of steeper roads, which can make using manual more challenging. Automatic will remove any additional stress caused by these hills knowing you do not have to focus on changing gears
  • Size of vehicle: opt for smaller vehicles to help navigate leaner roads and tighter parking places. We had a Ford focus which was perfect for our adventures. It enabled us enough space for luggage and comfortably would've held 3-4 without luggage

More information in Location Snapshots: Madeira

Where to stay?

When picking where to stay, it's helpful to think about what you would like to do on your trip to Madeira. Generally, the island is quite small. You could drive around the entire perimeter in about 3-4 hours. Some routes through the middle will take longer as you'll have to go through the mountains, but these are still not significantly long drives. Depending on your trip length, I'd recommend staying in 1-2 places. If staying for 5+ days, it is nice to split up where you stay into two locations to have a change and experience different spots on the island as a home base.

For ease of travel across the island


The capital of the island, this is very much a city. With a population of 100,000 it is the hub in Madeira. Funchal is located right on the water just 20 minutes from the airport on the southeastern side of the island. Staying in Funchal is great for visiting areas on the eastern side of the island and the city itself. It also has tons of food options for meals, making it easy to come back to Funchal at the end of a day exploring and find dinner in town.

For a quieter, coastal feel

Ponta do Sol

The opposite of Funchal, this is a tiny town on the southern coast, west of Funchal. Sitting right on the water as well, this little town is known for being the sunniest place on the island as is inferred by its name "sun point". The town has its own beach, a few restaurants, and a church, but not much else. It is a charming and pretty town, with beautiful sunsets from the beach and easy sea access to get out into the ocean for a dip.

For a quaint seaside village

Camara de Lobos

If you prefer smaller towns to city, this is a good option over Funchal. Camara de Lobos is a quaint fishing village just 10 minutes west of Funchal. The village definitely has some tourist traps, but generally is a cute town and would be an easy and nice home base if not interested in staying in the larger city of Funchal.


For a local feel

Ribeira Brava

Also on the southern coast, Ribeira Brava is another local town to stay in. Ribeira Brava has slightly more going on than Ponta do Sol, but is not as charming as Ponta do Sol. This can be a good option for those not wanting to stay in Funchal but also not wanting to move around between stays as it is a good central (based on roads) point to use as a home base and visit different parts of the island.

Snapshot itinerary for 6 days in Madeira

Day 1 - arrival and exploring

Arrival and check-in to accommodations

Explore Funchal

  • Grab lunch at O. Giro Churros & Paninis
  • Walk along Lido Promenade and check out Formosa Beach
  • Explore the Old town and stop in Mercado dos Lavradores for a snack or ice cream
  • Shop or stop in a cafe on Santa Maria street
  • Enjoy dinner in Funchal at Kampo

Day 2 - the eastern coast

Grab a coffee in Funchal

  • Hike Ponta de Sao Lourenco
  • Stop in Porto da Cruz for a coffee and check out the surfers on the beach
  • Continue onto Santana to see the traditional houses
  • Head to Sao Jorge for lunch and eat at Cabo Aero Cafe Restaurant with a beautiful view
  • Visit Vereda dos Balcoes and complete the short walk out to the viewpoint
  • Enjoy dinner in Funchal at 5 Sentidos

Day 3 - sunrise hike

Set the alarm early to park and arrive at the trailhead for sunrise at Pico Areeiro

  • Watch the sunrise
  • Hike trail PR1 - Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo
  • Head to Eira do Serrado viewpiont
  • Head back to Funchal and hop on Monte Cable Car (Teleferico do Funchal) to ride up and see the city up above
  • Walk into a restaurant on Rue Portao de Sao Tiago

Day 4 - the southern coast

Move accommodations from Funchal to Ponta do Sol

  • Grab a coffee and brunch in Funchal at The Studio: Specialty Coffee and Brunch
  • Drive to Camara de Lobos and walk around the little village
  • Stop at Cabo Girao to walk on the skywalk hanging from the cliff edge
  • Enjoy lunch in Ribeira Brava
  • Get settled, grab some ice cream in Ponta do Sol and hang out on the beach
  • Drive to Cascata dos Anjos to see the waterfall over the road
  • Head to dinner at 90 degree bar, grill and restaurant for a lovely sunset meal

Day 5 - northwest and natural pools

Drive to the northern part of island

  • Grab a coffee and bite to eat in Sao Vicente
  • Continue onto Seixal where you can visit the beach and natural pools
  • Visit Porto Moniz and walk around the area to see the natural pools and check out if you want to jump in
  • Head to Teleferico das Achadas da Cruz and take the cable car down to the tiny village
  • Grab lunch at Talho Santa (meat sticks!)
  • Stop at the viewpoint over Ribeira da Janela just off the road
  • Grab a drink at Taberna da Poncha on the way back
  • Watch the sunset from Restaurante Sol Poente

Day 6 - hike and relax

  • Drive to the trailhead of the popular PR6 hike
  • Hike Levada das 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco
  • Picnic lunch in Fanal Forest
  • Afternoon at Ponta do Sol beach
  • Dinner at Steak & Sun

Day 7 - and we're off

Today is travel day

  • Grab a bite to eat in the morning
  • Head to the airport and be on your way

Madeira map by day

Exploring highlights of the island of Madeira from the mountains to the coast

Custom Map Key


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Detailed Itinerary for 6 days in Madeira

Day 1

Day 1 | Morning

Arrival and Check-in

Arrive in Madeira and head to your accommodations. You are likely arriving early afternoon and may have some time to explore. First get yourself settled in your accommodations and then put on your walking shoes and get out to explore the city.

Day 1 | Afternoon

Lunch and Exploring Funchal

After a long flight, you're probably quite hungry and in need of a tasty meal. Check out O. Giro Churros & Paninis for a good sandwich or salad, and of course a churro or one of their shakes for dessert. Then wander around the Old Town to get a feel for the capital city. Walk along Santa Maria street and pop into a few shops and then head out towards the beach to see Formosa Beach and walk along the Lido Promenade. If time allows, stop in Mercado dos Lavradores before heading back to get ready for dinner.

Day 1 | Evening

This evening, make a reservation for Kampo in Funchal. The food is phenomenal and they also have quite fun drinks.

Day 2

Day 2 | Morning

Hike Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Grab a coffee in Funchal and jump in the car to drive to the start of the Ponta de Sao Lourenco hike. The hike takes about 3 - 4 hours including breaks and is 4.6 miles / 7.5 km with 400 - 500 meters of elevation change. This hike is different from many other walks on Madeira as it sits on the eastern coast of the island and bakes in sunlight. It is recommended to get there before 9 am to lock in a parking spot and start before the path gets too busy.

The hike is like a lollipop shape with the beginning and end being the same out and back path and the middle portion being a small loop. The path is largely along the water and therefore has lots of coastal, open views. The path is rolling, meaning there are ups and downs throughout the entire hike rather than climbing to a summit or trekking down to a canyon. This helps keep the hike at a moderate level of difficulty.

Day 2 | Afternoon

Small northern towns

After the hike, continue north to Porto da Cruz for a coffee and walk down to the beach to admire the surfers out learning. This will be a quick stop, but is a quaint little town. Next drive about 10 - 15 minutes and you'll hit Santana, known for its triangular shaped houses with thatched roofs. This will also be a relatively quick, and more touristy stop, but the houses are interesting.

Now head to Sao Jorge for lunch and eat at Cabo Aero Cafe Restaurant which serves local Madeira food and offers a beautiful view. They have an open fire and are cooking meat and fish on the skewer so be prepared for a tasty meal.

After you've wrapped up lunch, navigate to Vereda dos Balcoes. This is a short, very flat walk out and back trail that takes you to a beautiful viewpoint. Especially pretty on a clear day when you can see the mountains in one direction and ocean in the other.

Day 2 | Evening

Drinks and Dinner

Tonight try out 5 Sentidos for dinner, offering a variety of local options.

Day 3

Day 3 | Morning & Early Afternoon

Sunrise Hike

Set your alarm early so you can watch the sunrise at the highest point on the island. Hop in the car and head to Pico Areeiro. You'll want to arrive by around 6:15 to get parking ahead of the sunrise. In late May, we arrived just around 6:20 and there was still decent space (probably for about 10 - 15 minutes more) but definitely was filling up. Note times may differ depending on the season and time of sunrise so be sure to check this in advance.

There are TWO parking lots. The lower parking lot is for hikers and where you need to park if you plan on adventuring for more than just the sunrise. The upper parking lot is for the observatory and you are only permitted to park here for 1 hour so this is no good for anyone looking to hike.

Watch the sunrise from a spot around the observatory, or start the beginning of the hike to see the sunrise from a different vantage point. Once you're ready, commence the approx. 10 mile out and back hike to Pico Ruivo. There are some steep climbs using stairs so take your time and enjoy the adventure. Remember to pack your lunch or snacks to have along the way!

Day 3 | Late Afternoon & Evening

Viewpoints and Funchal

After you've wrapped up your big hike, consider driving to Eira do Serrado viewpiont. There is a beautiful backdrop of mountains from this viewpoint and worth the detour to visit. It also looks down on the town of Curral das Freiras. You can drive down to the town, but should be prepared for some very windy roads as you descend towards the base from above.

Then head back to Funchal to relax and rest or explore more. If you've not had time yet, consider taking the Monte Cable Car (Teleferico do Funchal) to ride up and see the city up above

As you're likely to be quite tired today, it might be better not to make a dinner booking. Check out some of the restaurants in the Old Town or near the water on Rue Portao de Sao Tiago.

Day 4

Day 4 | Morning

From Funchal to Ponta do Sol

Today you'll move accommodations from Funchal to Ponta do Sol so pack your bags and take advantage of your final morning in Funchal. Grab a coffee and brunch in town at The Studio: Specialty Coffee and Brunch and then hop in the car and drive to Camara de Lobos to explore the little fishing village. Park down near the bay and walk around the area, sitting for a coffee if you fancy.

Day 4 | Afternoon

Skywalk and small towns

Next make a stop at Cabo Girao to walk on the skywalk hanging from the cliff edge. This is definitely a tourist attraction, but does have some stunning views over the coastline. It is largely on your way to the next town, Ribeira Brava, so makes for a quick and easy stop. Sit down for lunch in Ribeira Brava at Restaurant & Grill Muralha Terrace for an oceanside view.

After lunch continue onward to Ponta do Sol and get settled in your new accommodations. If it's a nice day, consider relaxing on the beach in this quiet town. If you feel like adventuring more, you can head out west to Farol da Ponta do Pargo. Then, on your way back, stop at Maktub Pub for a drink. Note the west side of the island does not have much going on so you will be spending more time in the car if you opt for this afternoon choice.

Day 4 | Evening

Waterfall over the road and sunset dinner

This evening, drive to Cascata dos Anjos to see the waterfall over the road and then walk to dinner at 90 degree bar, grill, and restaurant for a lovely sunset meal. The food here is delicious and the restaurant is cozy and offers a nice evening ambiance.

Day 5

Day 5 | Morning

Small northwestern towns and coastline

Wake up and head to the northern part of island today. Stop for a coffee and bite to eat in Sao Vicente and then continue onto Seixal where you can visit the beach and natural pools. First visit Praia Seixal and then drive over to Piscinas Naturais do Seixal, but be sure to park at the top rather than trying to drive down to the base here. There is a steep road which is not worth driving down to park. If it's a nice day, you may want to go for a swim at the beach and / or in the natural pools so pack a swimsuit and towel!

Day 5 | Afternoon

Swimming and Cable Cars

Next head to the northwestern town of Porto Moniz and walk around the area to see the natural pools here. There are two different natural pools here, Piscinas Naturais do Aquario and Piscinas Naturais do Porto Moniz. Spend as much or as little time as you like in the town of Porto Moniz and then evaluate if you'd like to drive a bit further to take a cable car. Teleferico das Achadas da Cruz is made up of two cable cars and takes visitors down to the tiny village at sea level. This is a cool experience and something nice to add on with extra time, but not a must do.

Instead of getting lunch in Porto Moniz, try grabbing lunch at Talho Santa for the traditional meat sticks! Then, start the drive back and stop at the viewpoint over Ribeira da Janela just off the road to break up the drive.

If you're feeling thirsty, and up to try a quirky spot serving the traditional Madeira drink, Poncha, stop at Taberna da Poncha on the way back.

Day 5 | Evening

Drinks and Dinner

Cap off the night by watching the sunset from Restaurante Sol Poente. Consider grabbing bites here or at Ponta do Sol - Sun Spot Cafe. Both are good options for something casual with a nice sunset view.

Day 6

Day 6 | Morning & Early Afternoon

Levada das 25 Fontes + Levada do Risco hike

This morning is another slightly earlier wake-up, but nothing like the one for sunrise. Reason being, this hike is known for being very populate and very busy so you'll want to get a head start to ensure you have parking and can walk the trail before it gets too busy. The hike takes about 3 - 4 hours and is approx. 11 km (without any shuttling). It's largely an out and back trail which traverses through the forest to see two different waterfalls, Levada das 25 Fontes and Levada do Risco. As the route is largely out and back, it does get busier as it gets later in the morning so definitely nice to get an earlier start.

Pack a lunch and drive to the Fanal Forest picnic area to eat your lunch outside in the sunshine or the spooky Fanal forest if it's a cloudy day. If you feel like walking more, you can explore this area, or just head back to Ponta do Sol for a chilled afternoon.

Day 6 | Late Afternoon & Evening

Viewpoints and Funchal

It's your last full day of vacation so why not take it easy at the beach. Throw on a swimsuit, bring your book and music down to the beach, and relax in the sunshine. Grab a drink at the Sun Spot Cafe and ice cream from Baloo Gelados Artesanais to cool off.

Finish off the evening with a delicious dinner at Steak & Sun followed by walking down to the beach to watch the final sunset over your Madeira vacation.

Day 7

Day 7 | Goodbye Madeira!

Flying away

Depending on when you're flight departs from the island, enjoy a quiet morning and head early to the airport. Hopefully you've had a nice 6 day vacation exploring the island of Madeira!

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.