When Is the Best Time
Madeira is a hiker's paradise; where you can climb the mountains, the Levadas, and waterfalls. Its unique landscape with dramatic cliffs and mountainous topography is breathtaking. Already the arrival at the main airport in Funchal is an experience because of the extreme wind gusts. Pilots need additional training before they are allowed to land on this island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Madeira is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Europe. IMO one of the 10 MUST-SEE places in the world. This island can even compete with Kauai, Hawaii. The north is lush green, the south sunny and dry, and the heart is mountainous. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, all different. You never get bored here. The sea is crystal blue and clear. The residents are lovely and attentive, and life is affordable in Madeira. We spent more than a month on this exceptional island, and even this was not enough.
Madeira is a popular destination for holidaymakers, with an estimated 1.5 million visitors annually. The driest season is the busiest season, from May to September. Read my full guide and get every question answered for Madeira. Find the best Instagram Spots, Levada Hikes, Beaches, and Natural Pools. A table of content is added to easily find what you are looking for. All pictures in this guide were taken by me.
Madeira Weather and Crowds
Madeira is situated north of the Canary Islands. It is always a few degrees colder here. The climate is similar; the north experiences more clouds, mist, and rain than the south because of the primarily existing northeasterly winds. These winds cause a high swell in the north, the reason for natural and human-made pools. However, the north is rich in lush vegetation, old grown trees on steep hills which were not burnt down by the first settlers. We love the dramatic wild coast of the north with its sheer cliffs; it reminds me of Kauai, a Hawaiian Island. The south is drier, even pleasant in the winter.
It is a pleasantly mild climate throughout the year, close to the coast. It rarely gets hot here. During winter, snow occurs on the highest mountains like Pico Ruivo, the highest mountain, and Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest on more than 1800m elevations. Overall, Madeira experiences a microclimate almost everywhere. Our house is on 600m elevation located.
It is a little colder here, sometimes cloudier even the wind is different compared to the coast. I read in several guides that Funchal is the driest place on this island because of the high mountain range. I can't entirely agree. After two long term stays in Madeira, I can definitely say the sunniest area lies southwest from Ribeira Brava to Paul do Mar. Madeira is rich in water; therefore, always bring a rain jacket or an umbrella to explore the inland.
The sea is a bit colder for swimming in spring and end of winter around 18°C, pleasant in summer and autumn around 23°C. So bring your goggles for snorkelling the sea is full of big and colourful fish.
The best time to visit Madeira regarding crowds and weather are spring and fall from March to June and September to November. If you wish to swim and sunbathe sea temperatures are fine from May onwards. The winter is the quietest time.
There are slight differences in the temperature in spring ranging from 16-21°C during the day. April is one of the wettest months, but overall, rarely for days. It also depends on the area you are in. March and April are less busy except Eastern. The sea temperature in March and April is between 18-19°C and reaches 20°C in May. The entire island is in bloom in the mountains until June. The yellow gorse and the “Proud of Madeira” are in bloom on the slopes.
Summer is the peak season, especially in July and August, like elsewhere due to the school holidays. Temperatures range from 22-27°C throughout the summer and can top 30°C with easterly winds along the south coast. 2021 was one of the warmest summers ever with temps above 30°C in August and September.
These winds transport the heat and sand from the Sahara. This Sahara sand causes such spectacular sunsets, as you can see above. Usually, it is dry, but rain can still occur in the mountains. However, the weather is unpredictable; we experienced rain showers and rainbows in mid-June. First rain showers mid to end of September. The sea is pleasant on average around 23°C.
Autumn is much warmer than spring. Day temps range from 19-24°C. Increasing rainfall, especially in November. However, it rarely rains for days. It is more likely for half a day or a quick shower. Sea temperature is still around 20°C. Autumn is less busy; popular hikes are a bit quieter now.
Temperatures remain pleasant, ranging on average between 16-20°C. The weather is a little more unpredictable, with a higher chance of rain. In our favourite tavern, I got told that the winter can be as nice as the summer, but quieter. Sea temps drop below 20°C. Fewer sunshine hours in the winter, roughly from 8 am to 6 pm. The winter is quite popular for visitors from the colder parts of Europe to enjoy the pleasant “eternal spring”.
Do you mainly look for beaches in Madeira? Check out my additional article 7 Best Madeira Beaches
Whale and Dolphin Watching Madeira
Madeira is an excellent spot for whale and dolphin watching, and it is almost guaranteed to spot cetaceans on these tours. Usually, you always spot at least one dolphin species and whales with a bit of luck.
The best time to see whales and dolphins around Madeira is from September to January, when whales migrate. Anyhow, these trips are fantastic throughout the year.
The resident cetaceans, the sperm whale, different dolphin species, and pilot whales are most common to see. Actually, pilot whales belong to the dolphin family.
Pilot whales are the second biggest dolphin species after the orca whales. They are very social and live in huge pods. One pilot whale, usually a female matriarch, leads the pod swimming in front, and the others follow her. They are 4-8 m long and beautiful to watch. They are nocturnal, diving up to 800 m deep for their preferred prey squid and resting on the surface during the day. The reason pilot whales are frequently spotted.
These dolphins occur close to the coast. As the pilot whales, only half of the brain and one eye is resting while the other part is awake and active to continue breathing. These dolphins have a length of 2-4 m. They live up to 50 years in the wild, while captured dolphins don't live that long.
These whales are most common to spot; all other whale species are rare. There is a resident population in Madeira and also around the Azores. Sperm whales are the most giant toothed whales with the largest brain. They are easy to spot due to their high blow at the sea's surface.
They just come up for breathing roughly for eight minutes before diving again up to 3000 m deep. They have a long lifespan of up to 80 years. Males are much bigger, up to 20 m and females 12 m.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
Madeira is a volcanic island, the top of a shield volcano located northwest of Africa. It is an autonomous region of Portugal. It takes 1.5 hours to get from Lisbon on a direct flight to the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport (FNC) in Funchal, Madeira.
Do you mainly look for beaches in Madeira? Check out my additional article 7 Best Madeira Beaches
It was difficult to inhabit and cultivate the island in former times, and you know why after your arrival on this blooming, beautiful, green island. The sheer cliffs made a landing by boat almost impossible. The reason Porto Santo, the little sister island, was inhabited first. Madeira translated means wood, timber which grows here in abundance, especially laurel forests and eucalyptus. However, the entire island was once covered with forests, especially laurel. The first settlers burnt down a huge part in lower elevations. The island is steep up and down, almost not flat. It is fertile soil, the reason for excellent food and wine.
The infrastructure, especially the tunnel constructions, are amazing. On my first visit to this island, it took much more time to get from Funchal to the south or west. Nowadays you can always drive straight forward through many tunnels reaching all places between half an hour and an hour. On the picture above are the old R101 and in the back the new road with kilometres of long tunnels.
I never saw this sign before. It allows driving 10 km/h faster than the existing speed limit during good weather conditions.
Most fascinating are the “Levadas”; a irrigation system spread across the entire island with more than 800km. The water runs in a gentle flow with a slight incline from the mountains and sources down to the residents. According to UNESCO, this system was introduced by the first settlers in the first quarter of the 15th century.
With the Levada system, the farmers could cultivate the land, which is terraced until today. In former times Madeira became the capital for sugar cane in Europe. Sugar cane plantations still exist, and sugar influences the culture of Madeira. It is used for the national drink “Poncha”.
Madeira is most famous for the many walks along these so-called “Levadas”. Most of these trails are on higher elevations leading through lush forests rather jungle. The forests reminded me of Tasmania and New Zealand with huge fern trees.
Due to the high elevation and the proximity to the mountains, it frequently rains. I added five of my favourite “Levada Hikes” and the location in this article. Our wonderful house here in Madeira was our home from home, which we still miss.
5 Fantastic Levada Hikes and Waterfalls
The vegetation along the Levadas on higher elevations in the National Park of Madeira are remnant laurel forests or laurisilva. These forests have a huge impact on the entire ecosystem. Most of the laurel in Madeira is primary forest, and Madeira has the largest concentration worldwide, the reason for its protection by UNESCO. There are different types of laurel trees. You can find such forests only in Madeira, in the Azores, and in the Canary Islands.
- Levada das 25 Fontes PR6 & Levada do Risco PR6.1
Return hike 10km – 4h included lunch break – roughly 500m altitude difference. This is the most popular hike on Madeira, located in the Paul da Serra. I agree these two water channel hikes are breathtaking. Start early latest at 9.30, to enjoy the trail, especially the 25 sources in the end and the spectacular scenery for yourselves or with very few people. I arrived shortly after 9 am. My car was the fifth in the parking area. When I returned, roughly one hundred cars, busses, taxis, and shuttles were standing there.
The beginning of the trail is a bit boring; a paved road is leading down to Casa Rabacal for roughly 25 minutes. Here starts the real trailhead. Both Levada tracks are well marked with signs. The lichens at the trees are evidence of the occurring mist, clouds, and rain. The waterfall at the end of Levada do Risco is just another 1.2 km hike one way. In former times the Levada trail continued leading behind the waterfall. You can see the former path to the left. Nowadays, the trail is closed with a grid. This Levada path is wide and easy to walk, even with a buggy.
The descent continues on steps to the 25 sources. It takes 2.5 km to get to the stunning highlight. The trail narrows, lots of sources and streams are leading into this Levada. It is a mystic atmosphere walking through the thick forest. When you reach the end of this track, you see an incredible pool and dripping water from everywhere. None of my pictures can show the real magic and beauty of this place. Overall it is a moderate hike with several staircases. Also, children can walk this trail, and they will love all the water everywhere on this track. For people with health issues or a lower fitness level, there is a shuttle offered from the parking down to Casa Rabacal, the trailhead of the Levadas. Return price 3€ and one shuttle service 2€. This means one hour less walking.
Parking for Levada 25 Fontes and Risco Google Maps Link
- Levada dos Cedros PR 14
One way 7 km – 2h – 250m altitude difference It is a breathtaking Levada trail leading through fascinating nature, lush forest with trees full of lichens. Lichens are the first sign of a high amount of mist and rain. We started the trail at the highest point on 1.090 m elevation. First, the trail leads down for more than a kilometre, mostly on steps. When we reached the Levada, a waterfall to the left in the distance got my attention.
Of course, I wanted a closer look and started climbing over wet and slippery rocks. My left foot with hiking boot ended up in the water. This was the beginning of an exceptional wet day. From now on, the Levada makes a slight incline only, and the trail is easy to walk. However, some parts are exposed, nothing for people with vertigo. After half of the trail, it started raining and later pouring. I can’t remember; I was that much soaked from the rain in my entire life before. Nevertheless, we enjoyed this fantastic hike and the spectacular nature.
Parking on higher elevation: Fanal (Google Maps Link)
Parking on lower elevation: Curral Falso (Google Maps Link)
You like to experience at least one fantastic Levada, but you can't manage the longer return hikes? An alternative is to organize a taxi shuttle, park your car at the end of the Levada and take a taxi to the beginning.
Officially the Levada is closed for safety reasons. One of the safety fences is damaged at an exposed part of the trail. We saw several hikers on this Levada trail. Anyway, I don't want to encourage you to hike here.
Levada do Caldeirao Verde PR 9 + Caldeirao do Inferno
Return hike to Caldeirao waterfall 13 km plus Inferno 17.5 km - 3.5-4h/5-6h - 4+7tunnels torch essential!
I highly recommend this Levada Hike, and the Caldeirao do Inferno, especially when staying in the north. It took me 1.20 hours from Arco do Calheta to get here. This is definitely a wet day hike with 11 tunnels, plenty of waterfalls, spectacular views, a real adventure. It starts in the Queimadas Forst Park, which is already worth visiting with its ancient huge trees.
The first waterfall along the Levada trail is already promising, and it gets better all the time. Read my entire trail description of the most beautiful Levada and Waterfall Hike in Madeira.
- Levada do Rei PR 18
Return Hike 10.5 km - 3 h - no elevation gain
This is an easy hike through the gorgeous lush forest. The entire trail offers beautiful wild scenery with fern rees at the beginning. The walk is almost flat, just some steps to reach the Levada suitable for families with children.
The dense vegetation provides lots of shade and spectacular views of the tree-covered hills. Laurel trees grow next to the Levada. The scent of laurel and eucalyptus is in the air.
Some parts of the Levada are exposed therefore equipped with safety fences. It is a small track, but luckily remote located, not overrun even during Sundays. The trail is wet and muddy in sections. In December 2020 rain caused landslides and destruction. However, the Levada is accessible again.
After roughly three kilometres, there is a little overgrown trail to the right, some 200 m long This not marked and maintained track requires climbing to get to the hidden waterfall.
This short detour is great fun but a bit challenging. You definitely get dirty during the climb. Soon after reaching the Levada again, a short tunnel appears. A torch is not needed.
Shortly before you reach the endpoint Ribeiro Bonito you come across this waterfall. A rain jacket or umbrella and waterproof shoes are essential to pass this stunning part of the track. Overall a fantastic Levada hike in fascinating nature, which you share with few other people even during weekends. Levada do Rei parking Google Maps
- Levada do Moinho to Levada Nova
Circular Trail - 9 km - 2.5 h - 230m altitude difference - tunnel 205m
This is more a beginner tour very easy to walk. It took us just 2 hours in the evening. If you have plenty of time available or the forecast for the island of Madeira is rainy, this circular trail is an alternative located in the drier south between Ponta do Sol and Ribeira Brava. We combined these two Levadas, but we liked the landscape of Levada Nova on higher elevation much more. We chose Levada Moinho in Lombada for our start. It is a flat, mostly open track with a little shade only, for almost one hour. Shortly before the staircase, the trail changes to more wilderness. The steep steps to the right lead up to Levada Nova. This Levada part is a little wetter and more spectacular. The circular Levada trail leads through thick laurel forest, especially on the way back.
The laurel cent accompanies you on this hike. Despite the poor weather forecast for Madeira, we had pleasant weather. Some parts are fenced for safety reasons like here, but some aren't.
As on most of the Levada trails, you have to deal with exposed and narrow parts. Shortly after the curve, we already reached Lombada village on a higher elevation. Attached is a map from the circular trail at the end of my article. There isn't any hiking map or information board provided at the trailheads.
Best Sunrises - Sunsets - Outlooks
I go more for the sunsets because I am not an early riser, especially not late spring and early summer. However, some are worth getting up in the middle of the night.
This is a short hike of 15 minutes to Pico Vermelho's outlook from the trailhead and narrow parking in the village. Google Maps Link for Caminho Pico Vermelho e Capela
Many of the "Miradouros" outlooks offer spectacular sunrises or sunsets. Of course, there are more than mentioned here. These are the ones that are worth doing IMO. I checked out more than I added; some spots in the south offer a breathtaking sunset in the winter only. We experienced some of the most stunning sunsets in the southwest and west on higher elevations. Check out the sunrise/sunset time and arrive at least 10 minutes before. Bear in mind up in the mountains rather earlier.
Sunrise from Bica da Cana
This is the most spectacular sunrise of all and utterly worth getting up early, even in June. Bica da Cana is located in the Paúl da Serra at a 1.620 m elevation. It is a 10 minutes walk to the outlook and picnic area. We had the entire scenery for ourselves. Temperatures are significantly lower than at the coast. It was 8°C at 6.30 am in summer. Next to the gate and sign are a few parking spots, but rarely full. Combine the magical sunrise with the most popular and beautiful Levada das 25 Fontes, just a 10-minute drive away.
However, this outlook offers spectacular views of the highest mountains of Madeira; Pico das Torres, Pico Arieiro, and Pico Ruivo throughout the day, but weather, means cloud depending. It is frequently cloudy in the heart of Madiera. The clouds roll in already before midday. Nevertheless, we experienced twice stable weather for a couple of days with very few clouds. Check the weather forecast and Pico Arieiro webcam before you drive up to Bica da Cana. Parking: Google Maps Link
Sunrise on Pico Arieiro
To watch this breathtaking sunrise, you have to stay close to Funchal. It is half an hour drive from the capital city to 1.800 m elevation. This sunrise is breathtaking, often above the clouds. I got this picture provided by Oskar. He'd shown me his time-laps to convince me to get up early. However, the sunset from here is the most spectacular of all!
Sunset on Pico Arieiro
This is the most breathtaking sunset of all in Madeira. To watch such a stunning sunset, there has to be a clear blue sky during the day. It wasn't busy at all, still not much known to most of the visitors.
What an awesome sundowner in such an impressive landscape. Don't think twice and give it a try. Very well done is the access to this fantastic view, even wheelchair accessible! Check out the Webcam at Pico Arieiro to get an indication if the mountains are covered in clouds or if you may get a chance for such a breathtaking sunset.
Sunset from the Miradouro do Fio (Google Maps Link)
This outlook close to Lighthouse Ponta do Pargo is breathtaking during the day and evening. From here you can see the waterfall and the hike "Vereda do Pesqueiro". Next to the "Miradouro" is a very nice restaurant. More about this place in my waterfall chapter.
Sunset from Miradouro das Cabanas (Google Maps Link)
The outlook is located in the north. It is quite a ride from the south, but worth the effort. Combine the sunset with one of the Levada Hikes like Levada do Rei. There are lots of excellent restaurants like the Aereo Cafe. The view from here is spectacular. We came here twice and we were utterly amazed by the beauty of this place.
Miradouro Trigo de Negreiros ou Moledos (Google Maps)
On our way back to our rental house, the sky turned to amazing colours, and we just checked out Google for the next outlook. This was one of the most breathtaking sunsets here in Madeira. Unfortunately, the tripod was not in the trunk of the car. However, if you stay in the south, watch some of the most stunning sunsets from higher elevations.
Cabo Girao Skywalk in the south
Cabo Girao is located in the south, 20 minutes drive from Funchal. It may not suit people with a fear of heights walking above the glass floor with a 580 meters deep view of the tall vertical cliff and the sea. Cabo Girao is 589 m high, and the skywalk is a little below. Cabo Girao is the highest cliff in Europe and it is utterly safe to walk here.
You get an amazing view of Funchal and the surroundings. There is a cafe and souvenir shop. Plenty of parking for buses but not for cars during the day. We came shortly before they close in the evening when most visitors already left this highlight on their tour. Opening Hours: 8 am until 7 pm. Free admission, but it looks like a fee will be requested in the future. Gates are installed to enter the area.
Miradouro de São Cristovão in the north (Google Maps)
This is a privately owned outlook by the restaurant São Cristovão. The landscape is breathtaking here and on the opposite is a steep trail and the wild coast. It takes just 10 minutes by car to get to the other side. We had an excellent lunch at the restaurant. The portions are too big. Take a starter and share one meal.
Miradouro Lombo do Mouro - Paul da Serra (Google Maps)
You can't miss this outstanding outlook to the highest mountains in the Paul da Serra along ER 105. The sunlight in the morning is terrible for a good shot, but the clouds roll in before midday. It is rare, and it would be boring to experience the mountain range without these clouds.
5 Things to Do in Funchal
Funchal, the capital city of Madeira is a vibrant city built at the slopes with a steep incline. The historic part of Funchal is on sea level and Monte more than 1000 meters above. Roughly 45% of the residents live in Funchal. The entire population in Madeira is less than 300.000.
- Funchal Farmers and Fish Market
First I start with my Top Tip where to park the car. There are several garages around most of them small, narrow, and hot. Just one gets fresh air and is a little bigger. I add the Google Maps Link to this convenient parking garage within 150 m walking distance. The market is called in Portuguese "Mercado dos Lavradores" which means farmers market. The fishmonger described this tuna small; the price 300 € for each. The fish market has much more on offer on Fridays and Saturdays. It is busier during these days, but worth seeing.
I always buy my tuna at it this guy. He already knows me pretty well. He is having excellent quality. The price for one kg of tuna meat 10€ the reason we ate tuna several times weekly. I also bought a parrotfish prepared for the oven. I can't say it aloud, but it was delicious 10€ for two adults.
The black scabbard fish "peixe espada preto" is a speciality in Madeira. This deep-sea fish is found in a depth of 800-1200 m. The average length is 90 cm. A Must-Visit is the fish and farmers market in Funchal.
Take the Cable Car to Monte
Enjoy the fantastic panorama of entire Funchal from the cable car. You start on sea level going to the top on 1.025m elevation. The ride takes 12-15 minutes to the cable car end. I definitely recommend this tour on a sunny day. The return ticket is 16€ for adults and 8€ for children, one way 11€ and 5,50€. You will definitely look down all the time admiring how the houses were built on steep hills and edges. Visit the Monte Palace Garden when you arrive. What most people do is, take the cable car up to catch the "Carreiros do Monte" toboggan sledge ride back down. The cable car is not operating during strong winds. Open from 10 am to 6 pm.
There is a second cable car ride from there to the Botanical Garden. The Botanical Garden is a must and one of my "places to go" in Funchal.
Carreiros do Monte - Toboggan Ride
That is a unique experience with an old tradition dating back to the early 19th century. The sledges were introduced for public transport from Monte 1000 m above sea level down to Funchal. Take the cable car up to Monte and the thrilling ride down halfway to Funchal with the two "Carreiros" in the back. For the rest of the drive, walk back or simply take a taxi already waiting for guests. Just negotiate the price before. The price of 10 € for two pictures of the Toboggan Ride is a bit pricy IMO. Booking the Toboggan Ride
Botanical Garden in Funchal
You get to this exceptional Botanical Garden either by car, bus or take two cable cars, first to Monte and then a second one. There are only a few parking spaces next to the entrance. Despite the season, it is always worth visiting the garden with more than 3000 different plant species from all over the world. Like the entire Madeira also the Botanical Garden is steep in sections. Visiting the park may be challenging for people with mobility issues. There are restrooms and a cafe inside the garden.
Opening Hours: 9 am - 6 pm
Miradouro Pico dos Barcelos
Enjoy the amazing view from Pico dos Barcelos to Funchal. Usually, the sunlight is best in the afternoon. The outlook is located in the parish of Santo Antonio 355 m above sea level.
Opening Hours always from 8 am.
Closure at 10 pm in winter, 12 pm in summer, but always at 8 pm on Sundays.
Exploring Funchal by car is challenging and parking, too. I met Fabio and his Tuk Tuk. This is a convenient way to see all the interesting sights of Funchal in one day. He knows a lot about his hometown. Learn all you want to know about Funchal and Madeira during a ride with Fabio. Get in contact with him either via Instagram or send him a message. +351 933 771 892
This is my top tip for an excellent day in Funchal from my own experience.
Highest Mountains in Madeira - PR1
It is frequently cloudy or even rainy in higher elevations in Madeira. We were fortunate enjoying a blue sky without any clouds for almost a week twice. The most popular and spectacular hike is leading from Pico do Arieiro (1816m) to Pico Ruivo (1862m).
The return hike is 12.2 km long. There was another trail, a circular option, a bit longer, but it doesn’t exist any longer.
This hiking trail is challenging for those who are not used to climbing mountains. The entire track took me less than 4 hours, but I live in the mountains. I climb to the summits weekly. If you don't have any knee issues, you should do this exceptional hike. It is a leg burner but worth the effort. Calculate roughly 6 hours, including several breaks.
I would describe this trail as strenuous, climbing down for 3.5 km then up until you reach Pico Ruivo and back vice versa. It is brutal, and even I had aching calves the next day. Although we travelled to Madeira during Covid19, this trail was busy during mid-week. It must be crazy in the peak season in summer.
Many hikers came from Poland. They love this island and they are glad about the affordable prices. I met Oskar from Warsaw on this track. We had the same pace and walked back together. What you definitely need for this hike is a torch. Madeira is fascinating with its tunnels not only on the roads on hiking tracks as well.
The hike leads through several long and dark tunnels. You climb lots of steps and staircases. This demanding trail offers everything in one day. Even if you stay here for a week only, this trail is a Must-Do! If you do this hike with a clear blue sky; watch the sunset afterwards. You won't regret it. Overall one of the most spectacular ones.
Top Tip for Pico Arieiro: You never know how the weather will be 1800 m above sea level. Check the webcam of Pico Arieiro first and drive the long and steep road to the summit on a less cloudy day. Webcam Pico Arieiro
Sao Lourenco Peninsula PR 8 in the East
This is another Must-Do hike through geological history. The trail takes roughly 3-4 hours, is 8 km long offering breathtaking views. Although often mentioned the hike takes 2-3 hours I can't agree. It is an awesome day trip with half an hour drive from Funchal. We were located close to Ponta de Sol more than one hour drive. There are several beaches and swim spots along the trail. However, it is often windy and a jacket is needed.
Due to the exposed location, you never know how the weather will be on the peninsula. It changes quickly, a wind and rain jacket is needed. Sao Lourenco peninsula is also a popular hike and it gets crazy here during midday. There is plenty of parking shortly before the trailhead, but still not enough in the peak season. There is a van offering beverages, ice cream, snacks, and the only available restroom.
Bring plenty of water for this track without any shade you definitely get thirsty. At the end of the track is a high priced cafe; a beer for 5€. If you don't consume any; the restroom fee 1€.
The entire trail is well-maintained the first 200 meters or so cobbled paved leading into a gravel path. Nevertheless, the entire trail is leading up and downhill but easily to walk and even suitable with children and dogs.
The trail traverses the peninsula offering exceptional views of the untamed ocean in the north and the smooth sea in the south.
You witness the volcanic erosions from millions of years ago along the trail. It is a breathtaking colour explosion on the rugged coastline track. Some areas are quite exposed but always equipped with railings.
You can't miss the path. There are scenic outlooks and beaches on this hiking path.
The trail ends after a steep climb to Pico/Miradouro do Furado. You can't walk furthermore. The path after the outlook is not maintained, steep, and the ocean is at the end.
Overall plan at least 4-5 hours for photo stops, to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and definitely bring a picnic. Wear proper shoes for the gravel, dusty, and slippery trail. Some people went swimming at one of the picturesque spots. The peninsula hike is one of the most popular ones. Nevertheless, to dodge the crowds, either come early or start your hike after midday. It is seldom too hot in Madeira and the pro the crowds thin out the later it gets. We started the hike after 2 pm lots of people had already left and nearby parking was available.
Madeira is not a dry island like Gran Canaria. Water is everywhere, so it does not surprise to find lots of waterfalls on the entire island. Some of these waterfalls exist in the wetter season between October to May only. Of course, there are more than these six waterfalls. All my described Levada hikes offer breathtaking views to beautiful waterfalls either during the hike or they are the highlight at the end of the trail.
- Vereda do Pesqueiro Google Maps Trailhead link
When exploring the island by car, try to stop at the outlooks; “Miradouro”. Usually, you get a spectacular view. Our first outlook was the “Miradouro do Fio” close to the lighthouse at Ponta do Pargo in the west of Madeira. The view from here to the sheer cliffs is breathtaking.
We saw a waterfall in the distance, and after a delicious lunch at the restaurant next to the “miradouro”, I hiked down to the bottom. This hike is not busy also not during weekends. The waterfall occurs in the wetter season just now in spring. The track to the beach and the bottom of the waterfall is called “Vereda do Pesqueiro”. The return trail is roughly 4 km long. It took me 1.15h down and just 45 minutes up. Shortly before I reached the beach, I became wet from the spray. Water is dropping down the entire cliff.
If you prefer circular trails, you can start nearby the outlook Miradouro do Fio to get down to the beach and waterfall when you reach the beach walk to the east (left). Shortly before the waterfall, the trail is leading up. This trail is exposed and not suitable for people with vertigo in some parts. We always use Locus Map Pro for hiking. More about this mapping app in my tips and gear section.
There are caves at the beach, and it seems some guys are living in this secluded place.
- Garganta Funda
This waterfall is just a 5 minutes drive north of Miradouro do Fio or Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse in the western part. The parking can be found easily signs are indicating how to get there. The car park is small maximum space for three cars. From here, it is a nice short walk less than 10 minutes to the outlook.
- Anjos Ponta do Sol Google Maps Link Anjos
This is a famous Instagram spot and car wash for the locals on the old R101 in the south. It gets crazy here during the day; people are queuing for their best shot under the waterfall in a bikini or short trousers.
However, for your perfect shot, visit Anjos, which means Angel Waterfall, after midday for the perfect sunlight. The waterfall is in the shade in the morning.
- Cascata da Agua D'Alto Parking (Google Maps Links)
Actually, an old Levada hike that does not exist officially any longer. It is a short return hike of 3 km, almost without incline. At the end of this little overgrown path, plunges one of the most stunning waterfalls down to your feet.
This is one of the hidden gems and not much frequented in the north close to Santana.
We parked our car to the right and walked for roughly 200m around one curve until we reached this house. Walk down the steps and turn right.
You immediately reach the old path and Levada. Follow the path next to the water channel. Only once, there is a short descent and ascent.
The trail is a bit muddy in some parts, a bit exposed but overall easy to hike.
The vegetation and forest along the trail with huge fern trees are amazing. Also, fruits grow here along the trail from the gardens. When we got the first glimpse of this tall waterfall, we were already fascinated. At the bottom of the fall is a pool great for a bath. Usually, the waterfall exists in the wetter season only.
- Agua D'Alto and the old R101 in the north
This waterfall has the same name as the one before but is less spectacular. Many cars stop here coming from Sao Vicente. The reason I mention this waterfall is the old R101 to the right in the back of the picture. This old R101 is not accessible for cars any longer because of rockfalls. I don't want to encourage you to walk here. It is at your own risk! We couldn't resist getting a glimpse of the wild coast.
The road leads through several tunnels. The vegetation in the tunnels, because of the dripping water everywhere, is fascinating also on the rock walls outside. Colourful epiphytes are spread on the rocks.
There was a hiking trail leading up to Encuemeda but not maintained any longer. However, lots of rocks ion all seizes laying around.
- Miradouro Veu da Noiva
In former times the old R101 was leading behind the waterfall. Nowadays, the road is closed for safety reasons, and a tunnel was built instead. There is plenty of parking just 100 m up, a snack bar, and restrooms. It is a picturesque stop on the road in the north. Depending on the season, it is a trickle in the summer and much bigger in the winter.
7 Must Things to Do and Instagram Spots in Madeira
There is so much to see and do on this exceptional island a couple of weeks are needed to get an idea of the beauty. These are my "7 Must-Do and See Places" in Madeira which are easily visited in one week. All these 7 spots can be visited for free. No entrance fee or parking is charged.
- Sunset on Pico Arieiro
Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (details see above) and the icing on the cake is the sunset above the clouds.
Stairway to Heaven - PR1 Vereda do Arieiro (Google Maps)
Pico Arieiro is a Must-Do place in Madeira. The weather is changeable in this high elevation and it is usually much colder. My top tip for this famous spot is just half an hour walk from the parking; check out the webcam before you drive all the way up to the top. You never know how the weather and cloud situation will be. For the perfect light of such a shot, the afternoon sun is the best time of the day. Webcam Pico Arieiro
Ruins of St. George (Google Maps)
This is another picturesque spot not much visited in the north of Madeira. A hike is leading along the exposed coastline to Ponta de Sao Jorge.
Praia da Ribeira da Janela (Google Maps)
It is a rocky beach and utterly fascinating. Behind me is a huge and impressive rock formation showing an interesting pattern of the volcanic explosion millions of years ago.
Breathtaking Sunrise from Bica da Cana (Google Maps Parking)
This sunrise is worth getting up early. However, I recommend this one if you stay in the south of Madeira. You are almost alone when watching this unique sunrise. I got touched when I watched how the sun rises above the clouds in utter quietness. It is rare to experience such a stunning moment with very few other early risers. The five of us were blown away by this spectacle of mother nature.
- Anjos Ponta do Sol (Google Maps)
It gets crazy at this waterfall and people are queuing for their Instagram shots. On the other hand, cars pass by on this old narrow road to get their car washed or just to drive through this unique waterfall. Definitely, a spot you shouldn't miss on your vacation. Avoid weekends which are the worst. You get the best light for unforgettable shots after midday - early afternoon.
- Piscinas Natural in Seixal (Google Maps)
These are three pools in an outstanding location. You can watch the untamed ocean while swimming safely in one of the pools. We drove to the pools several times for swimming and it always looked like in this picture never crowded. Parking on top in Seixal and a five minutes walk to the pools. Nevertheless, don't get too close to the edge especially not at high tide. Waves can crash with enormous power against the pool wall.
Food Specialities in Madeira
We are foodies, the reason we usually try to choose destinations with delicious food. On Madeira Island, the quality of meals, the fruits, the fish, everything is excellent. IMO prices are low for the quality you get. Most restaurants offer black scabbard fish, the one I already mentioned at the Funchal fish market, codfish (bacalhau), swordfish, and tuna.
You can get fresh codfish - bacalhau or dried and salted bacalhau in the supermarkets. You can smell the fish already long before. You like to know more about the 1000 years old history of this dry and salted fish? Here you can get the detailed story of bacalhau.
A few times, I saw tuna belly on the menu and tried it once. It is described as a delicatesy, the most flavoured part of the tuna, beloved for sushi. I have to confess delicious but heavy the fattest part of the tuna.
A typical meat dish that originates from Madeira is the "Espetadas" meat (beef, pork, or chicken) skewers. Markus already tried lots of beef skewers.
In the north, we got the very best Beef Espetada provided. We were the last guests late on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the chef explained to us how typical Espetadas have to be done. He did not use just the laurel leaves, it is a laurel skewer. The meat got salted with sea salt.
This was the best and tastiest. We definitely have to eat this together again. The entire location and view were spectacular. The staff is super friendly, and lots of parking is available, and you can also pass by on a short hike at the coast. You get these awesome Espetadas at the "Aereo Cafe" close to Santana. Google Maps Link This is not an ad, just my recommendation!
The typical Madeiran starter is "Bolo do Caco". This is pita bread coated with butter and garlic fresh out of the oven or pan. We always order this starter.
Our favourite restaurant is called "A Taberna Madalena Do Mar" (Google Maps Link), located next to the sea. The small village Madalena Do Mar is a short drive from Ponta do Sol and Calheta.
We ate here already several times and left the tavern always satisfied. We tried a lot from the menu. However, Markus often ends up with the "polvo" (octopus) sandwich. I recommend the typical mussels called "ameijoas" prepared à la Maison.
Another Portuguese speciality are the "Lapas" or limpets in English. You eat them with lemon, similar to oysters. I am already addicted to lapas. They are excellent here.
Shortly before we left Madeira, we visited Paul do Mar situated at sea. A steep winding road and several old tunnels are leading to this laid back fishermen village. We enjoyed the sea breeze and probably found the best bar of all for grilled Lapas; Bar O ideal Google Maps
As always, we checked the Google recommendation rating; 4.7 and famous for white sangria convinced us immediately.
The lemon slices on top of the lapas are essential, otherwise not as tasty. To give you an idea of the meal prices in Madeira, 8 € for two for the Lapas, Bole de Caco 2,5 - 3 € and 1 l Sangria for 8-10 €. This was the only restaurant we found offering polvo salad - octopus salad. Common is "Polvo a Lagareiro",; octopus with vegetables, garlic, potatoes, and lots of olive oil.
A very typical starter in Portugal and Madeira is the "Sopa de Legumes". It is thicker and tastes completely different. The reason is the Cho Cho, a green fruit actually. It tastes between cucumber and potatoes. My aunt married a Portuguese. She is living in Lisbon for 60 years already. She told me the trick for her vegetable soups.
Typical for Portugal and so for Madeira is the "Pastel de Nata" to the left. It is a flaky pastry filled with custard made of cream (nata), egg yolks, sugar, flour, and lemon zest. In Portugal, you frequently get cinnamon for it offered. Most people heat them up for a few seconds. To the right is a passionfruit tart. Due to the availability of these fruits, many desserts from passion fruit pudding to cake, or liqueur are on offer on the menu.
Probably the best bakery in Madeira is situated pretty hidden in the north close to Porto Moniz. We got the most delicious Pastel de Nata, samosas (finger food snacks filled with chicken or bacalhau), excellent bread, and cookies amazingly cheap here.
They supply cafes and shops all over the island. If you are close to Porto Moniz, definitely make a stop at this shop. The bakery is open from 7 am until 11 pm daily. Google Maps Link
In most restaurants, you can order a cocktail called Nikita. We shared one, and I would rather call it a desert if ordered without alcohol. The ingredients for Nikita are pineapple juice smashed with vanilla ice cream, fresh pineapple, and sugar. For the Portuguese, it has to be sweet. If it comes with alcohol, it is either white wine or beer or both. Another speciality on Madeira is "Poncha", made from white rum, honey, and lemon juice. Some restaurants offer Poncha with lemon and orange juice, some with passionfruit what we like most.
I don't earn anything with these recommendations in my guide, nor was any of our meals for free. This is simply my opinion after several visits. Of course, there are more excellent restaurants in Madeira.
Due to the fertile soil and mild climate, excellent grapes are grown here on the island. Madeira is well-known for exceptional wine for more than 500 years already. Growing grapes on the terraced slopes is challenging and all manual labour. If you want to know more about this typical wine from Madeira and you like to try some of the best Madeira wines, you definitely should make a booking.
We had an excellent tour and tasting at Barbeito Madeira Wine More to come soon in an extra article.
Rental Cars on Narrow Streets or Taxi Service
Our house was further up, but parking in front meant driving up to the end before you can turn the car. My rental car was a Fiat Panda; excellent to drive through the narrow, winding roads. Driving was challenging the first day, but I quickly adjusted to the steep roads, often more than a 30% incline. Now it is really fun to speed up to get to the top. Overall I drove almost 3.000 km in five weeks.
For a more relaxed vacation, chose a location where restaurants and the sea are within walking distance. Many taxis are available in Madeira, offering all sights and locations in a round trip for fixed prices. I met several couples on my hikes who used the taxi service during their stay. You frequently find taxi business cards at the end of a hiking trail. To get an idea, I added a picture below to see all available places and prices from Calheta. I recommend choosing one service for the entire time to negotiate a better price for your holidays.
Where to Stay - Rental Houses
If you prefer a greener, wilder coast which is less busy, stay in the north. The south is drier, warmer, and sunnier but not as spectacular. We chose the south for swimming in the evening on our workcation.
We rented a house in Arco da Calheta 600 m above sea level for more than a month. The sunsets from this elevation are breathtaking almost every evening.
All houses and gardens were connected to the Levada channel next to our house. I loved the sound of the thundering water on our steep street. One of the neighbours explained they all grow their own veggies and potatoes.
He was so kindly brought us salad, veggies, potatoes, and eggs from his garden. What they do not need gets sold on the farmers market in Prazeres and elsewhere on weekends. Opposite our house was an apple tree plantation. The farmer explained their watering technique in detail.
The local community is taking care of each Levada. Twice a month, the retired farmer waters his plantation; the annual fee is 20€ which is a fair price he mentioned.
For a better understanding, I added descriptions for all pictures below.