Tourist’s guide to Madeira: main attractions on the island

Madeira Island is part of the eponymous archipelago on which the autonomous region of Portugal under the same name is located. Madeira is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1000 km from Portugal and 500 km from Africa.

Madeira Island

You won’t be bored on the island, because there are so many interesting things to see!

Madeira is so picturesque that it becomes a pity to waste time visiting museums and inspecting buildings. Here I want to walk along the edge of the surf, cut by cliffs, to go as far as possible into the depths of unbelievably beautiful mountains, to wander through ancient relict forests.

There are a lot of attractions on the island, and it is unlikely that it will be possible to pay attention to everyone in one trip. But there is in the list of interesting places in Madeira and such that you must see! They will be discussed in this article.

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Cable car in monte

Almirante Reis Park
Almirante reis

In the historical part of Funchal, the capital of the autonomous region, there is a beautiful garden Almirante Reis. This is where the Monte Cable Car cableway station is located – the exact address is Avenida do Mar / Jardim do Almirante Reis, Funchal. The upper station is on Mount Monte, at an altitude of 550 m.

The distance between them is 3.2 km, and the cabin overcomes it in 15 minutes. The funicular ride is the fastest, easiest and most spectacular way to the top of Monte. Cabins move slowly, so you can enjoy the picturesque panoramic views of Funchal in places where the road is laid at the height of a bird’s flight, and see in detail the pretty courtyards near the houses of citizens where the road goes very low.

Cable Car

When planning a trip to the funicular, you must always take into account the weather conditions. If the wind is raging, the funicular does not work, and on hot days in the booths it can be too stuffy – ventilation is carried out only with the help of small windows, there is no air conditioning.

Of course, the trip will be most comfortable if there are 2 people in the booth, but if there are a lot of people, 8 people are seated in them.

The view from the cab
  • Monte Cable Car is open daily from 09:00 to 17:45 (Christmas, December 25 – day off).
  • Tickets can be bought at the box office or at a vending machine. For children under 6 years old the trip is free, for teenagers under 14 years old 8 €, for adults 16 €. By the way, it is more profitable to buy tickets in 2 directions at once, in which case their cost will be 5.5 and 11 € for adolescents and adults, respectively.

What sights to see on Monte Mountain and what to do there? For 25 € you can ride, or rather, go down on the wicker toboggan sleigh – this is quite safe, but an adrenaline rush is provided. You can see the Church of the Holy Virgin and Monte Palace, or take a walk through the tropical garden at the palace.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

The tropical garden ( address Caminho do Monte, 171, Funchal) is one of the most interesting sights not only of the autonomous region of Madeira, but of the whole of Portugal.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

The garden is open to visitors daily from 9:30 to 18:00. Admission for children under 15 years is free, for adults – 10 €. Together with the ticket, a card is handed in which various walking routes along the park are marked.

By the way, you can get here not only by funicular, but also by car or buses No. 20, 21, 22 and 48 (fare 2 €). This road is no less exciting: picturesque landscapes, steep climbs and unexpected turns.

In the tropical garden of Monte Palace

Monte Tropical Garden is a multi-level park covering 70,000 m². Rare plants for the local area are planted here, brought from different parts of the globe: laurel trees from the Canary Islands, azaleas from Belgium, heather bushes from Scotland. Peacocks, fighting cocks and other exotic animals walk among all this vegetation. There are 2 artificial lakes in the park – they are inhabited by bright multi-colored fish, and black and white swans swim on their surface. A variety of sculptures, stone lanterns, statues of Buddhas, original pagodas are also of interest. There is also a cafe that offers free wine tasting. The park has an observation deck with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and the capital Funchal.

Minerals at the Museum

Separately, it is necessary to mention the 3-storey palace of Monte, which in itself is a landmark of Madeira. Now this building is occupied by a museum: sculptures are represented on 2 floors, and on the 3rd floor you can see an extensive collection of minerals.

  • The museum is open from 10:00 to 16:30
  • Admission is free (but you still have to pay 10 € to enter the garden).

Nature lovers can extend their excursion and see another attraction of Madeira Island – the Botanical Garden.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

You can get to the Botanical Garden ( address Caminho do Meio | Bom Sucesso) directly from the top of Mount Monte. You just need to take the Cable car of the Botanical Garden of Madeira cable car, station located at Caminho Voltas 15. This cable car runs daily from 9:00 to 17:00. The fare for adults is 8.25 € one way and 12.5 round trip. For children from 7 to 14 years old, the fare will cost 4.15 and 6.4 €, respectively, and for children under 7 years old the trip is free.

Bus number 31

You can get to the Botanical Garden by bus directly from Funchal, the journey takes 10-15 minutes. Bus number 29 runs from Pinga stop, and departs on flights No. 31 and 31A from the square opposite the Royal Palace. If you buy a ticket on the bus, it will cost 1.95 €, and with a pre-purchased GIRO card, the fare will cost 1.35 €.

You can enter the Madeira Botanical Garden from two sides: from the east, where city buses stop, and from the north, where the Botanical Garden Cable Car station is located.

On the north side of the park there is an arboretum where you can see the diverse vegetation of Madeira. Among the vegetable oasis is a beautiful artificial lake, there is a cave of lovers, convenient paths are laid.

Garden sculptures

The central part is the most picturesque. Here is a regular garden with green topiary sculptures and flower beds with vibrant colors. In the same part of the garden you can see more than 200 species of cacti and various succulent plants.

The south side of the park, at the amphitheater, is planted with palm trees and cycas. There is a parrot garden and a natural history museum.

You can visit the Botanical Garden and see the plants growing here on any day (day off only at Christmas, December 25) at this time:

  • from 9:00 to 18:00 in the period from October 1 to April 29;
  • from 9:00 to 19:00 in the period from April 30 to September 30.

Adults can see this landmark of Madeira Island for 5.5 €, children from 6 to 18 years old – for 2 €, children under 6 years old are free. You can buy a ticket exclusively for cash, and there are no ATMs nearby.

Areiro Peak

Peak Areyro (1810 m) is the second highest point in Madeira, its location: E 202, Funchal.

Areiro Peak

You can get to the beginning of the tourist route by rented car, or you can order Daniel taxi. From Funchal, the average price of a taxi is around 40 €, travel time 40-50 minutes. At the foot of Areyro there are 2 parking lots, from which steep winding paths lead straight to the top.

In the mountains, the weather is very changeable, and most often by noon the clouds are overcast. The track should be started as early as possible – in this case there is a greater likelihood that there will be good visibility and it will be possible to see the whole island from a height right away.

You should definitely take a jacket with you, since the temperature difference in Funchal and on the peak of Areyro is more than 20 ° C.

Cape San Lorenzo

Cape San Lorenzo

Cape San Lorenzo ( location: Baía da Abra, Machico, Madeira) is the easternmost point of the island. This natural attraction of Madeira is a protected area.

San Lorenzo in Madeira – a must-see place! It is famous for its amazingly beautiful lunar and Martian landscapes, completely different from the landscapes of the rest of the island. Boundless expanses, volcanic soils unusual in color and shape, rounded boulders, high cliffs up to 180 m, rumble of waves, as well as a fresh and very gusty wind that does not allow any fertile layer or large plants to stay on the surface – this is how this natural attraction of Madeira. There are no tall trees and flowers, only low hard grass, the same shrubs and cacti.

Desertash Island Reserve

On the territory of the cape there is a small oasis and a small beach where you can swim in good weather. You can also visit the base of ornithologists and see how it is equipped. And then behind them – the last peak (183 m), which you can climb. There are observation platforms on the cape, from which, in clear weather, it is possible to see the Desertas island reserves that are part of the Madeira archipelago.

A walk along Cape San Lorenzo is included in the list of official routes that Madeira’s tourist offices offer. Nevertheless, paying for the excursion program does not make much sense. Its main advantage: organized delivery (30 €), and then the usual walking route, which you can go on your own.

You can get to the cape like this:

  1. From Funchal (with a stop in Mashika) there is a SAM bus number 113 – a round-trip ticket costs 6 €, travel time 1 hour 15 minutes. The bus comes directly to the place where you can start the track.
  2. The highway to Cape Sae Lorenzo goes past the only natural sandy beach of Prainha on the island. This route ends with a small parking lot, from which begins a hiking trail to the easternmost point of the island. It should be noted that the parking is small, and the sooner you arrive, the more chances there will be free space on it.

In general, you need to come here as early as possible also because somewhere around 12 noon the sun begins to literally burn everything that is alive on this territory. Shoes should be reliable, with a tread sole, since there are stretches of path without stone steps and with unsteady sand.

Observation deck at Cape Cabo Girao

In the list of Madeira attractions that are worth a visit, there is another cape, but already on the south coast of the island. Cape Cira Girao (589 m) rises right next to the village of Camara di Lobos, the second highest in the world and the first in Europe. This is a very picturesque natural cliff with eucalyptus forests and waterfalls, standing directly above the deep waters of the Atlantic.

Observation deck at Cape Cabo Girao

Here, at the very top of the cliff, a unique observation deck is equipped – a real man-made attraction. It is completely made of glass – floor, barriers – which creates the feeling of flying over the ocean and the cliff itself.

Cliff of cape girao

Rodoeste buses run to Cape Cira Girao – they are marked “Vis Cabo Girao” in the schedule. You can also get there by car, leaving it later in a convenient large parking lot nearby. A special cable car was laid directly to the top of Cabo Girao.

Back in 2017, visiting the site was free, but judging by the work on installing turnstiles, the entrance will be paid.

Near the site there are several souvenir shops, there is also a center where extremals are offered paragliding. At the foot of the cliff, in the fishing village of Camara di Lobos, there is a restaurant serving excellent national dishes of fresh sea fish.

Cape Ponta do Pargo

The list of attractions of Madeira Island continues with another cape – Potnta do Pargo (312 m), located at the westernmost point of Madeira Island.

Cape Ponta do Pargo

The road to its top leads through the tunnel. If standing on top, turn your back to the sea, then on the right side, approximately 1km, there will be a viewing platform with a restaurant. Walking a bit far, as well as driving around on asphalt, is quite normal to drive straight along a straight dirt road.

Ponta Pargo Lighthouse

The main attraction of this part of Madeira Island is the old lighthouse, which rises directly on the top of Panta do Pargo. Lighthouse address: Rua do Farol 1, Ponta do Pargo, Caleta, Madeira. This lighthouse with a height of 14 m is considered the highest in Portugal. In its interior there is a small free museum where you can see photos and descriptions of Madeira’s lighthouses, the samples of lamps and lanterns of these lighthouses, as well as the installation of a map with lighthouses indicated by flashing lights.

Monish Port Lava Pools

On the northwestern side of the island of Madeira there is the small town of Porto Manish, which attracts tourists with a very special attraction: coastal lava pools. ( Location: Rua do Lugar, Porto Moniz, Madeira 9270-156).

Monish Port Lava Pools

Streams of molten magma that emerged to the surface and cooled by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean formed natural and water-filled pools near the coast. Due to the fact that the lava pools are connected to the ocean, the water in them is regularly updated and remains very clean. And at the same time, she remains calm and warms up well – even in November her temperature reaches + 22 ° C.

Rest on the Lava Basins of Monish Port

The natural pools were ennobled and made comfortable for swimming: the bottom was leveled, bridges and stairs were built around. On the coastal territory, recreation areas and a playground were equipped, as well as locker rooms, showers, toilets, a left-luggage office. For an additional fee, you can take sunbeds. The safety of bathing is watched by rescuers – there are quite a lot of them. At the exit, a beautiful drinking fountain is equipped, there are several fish restaurants.

Entrance to the lava pools is paid: for children from 2 years old for 1 €, for adults – 1.5.

Bus to Port Moniz

The most economical way to get from the capital of Madeira to the lava pools is bus number 139 Rodoeste. He leaves Funchal at 9:00 and arrives at Port Moniz, right at the entrance to the lava pools, at 12.15. The road goes through the mountain range, through Camara di Lobos and Cabo Girao with 10-minute stops at the observation points. From Porto Moniz, the bus leaves at 16:00 and arrives in Funchal at 18:30. A one way trip will cost you 6 €.

A faster, but more expensive way is to take a taxi. In time, the road will take a little more than an hour, payment – about 35 € one way.

Levada Caldera Verde
Levada Caldera Verde

In Madeira, walks along levades are very popular – this is the name of the artificial irrigation canals laid across the island and delivering water from the mountains to the settlements. The list of the most interesting sights included Levada Caldera Verde, its location: Parque Florestal das Queimadas, Santana.

It is better to arrive early to the route, even if there is still fog in the mountains, because then a lot of people gather. You need to take a raincoat and a flashlight with you, shoes – hiking.

Waterfall, Madeira

At the very end of the route, where you can see the picturesque waterfall, there is a turn onto the Calderacao do Invierno trail. This path is already more difficult to pass: a large number of steep descents and ascents, many tunnels, you need to go under the waterfalls. But all these difficulties fully pay off with the views that open to the eye! In time, both trails can be walked in 5-6 hours at a fairly fast pace, without long stops for rest.

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Valley of the Nuns

The Valley of the Nuns, which the Portuguese know as Curral das Freiras, is one of those places in Madeira that you must see. This attraction is a natural hollow in the mountains in the depths of the island, 13 km from Funchal. Location: Travessa do Serrado, Camara de Lobos, Madeira 9300-010.

Valley of the Nuns

Although almost all tourist offices offer excursions to the Nuns Valley, it makes no sense to take a tour – you can go on your own by a regular bus, saving a lot of money. From Funchal it is convenient to get here by bus number 81, with a frequency of 1 hour departing from a stop at the funicular on the promenade Avenida do Mar. You need to go to the observation deck Eira do Serrado, in time it is about 30 minutes, a ticket costs 2.5 €.

It is from the Ayra do Serrado site that the most spectacular views of this natural attraction of Madeira open! After seeing the picturesque landscapes, you can go back in an hour, or you can go down the path and take a walk through the village, see beautiful houses, go to the cafe. And there, in the village, you can catch a bus going to Funchal – every cafe has a schedule.

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