Madeira Attractions: Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 900 km from the African coast and 600 km from the European coast. It consists of four islands: Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas (have a look at our boat tour to desertas island), and Selvagens. Madeira is the largest and most populous island, with around 270 thousand inhabitants and an area of 741 km2. A charming tourist destination that offers a diversity of landscapes, climates, cultures, and experiences.
In this article, we will present some of the must-see attractions in Madeira, so you can enjoy each of these wonders and provide you with some tips to make the most of your trip.
10 Key Madeira Attractions to Explore
1. Madeira Botanical Garden
The Madeira Botanical Garden is one of the most visited places on the island, and it’s not hard to see why. Situated in Quinta do Bom Sucesso, about 3 km from the centre of Funchal, this garden covers an area of 8 hectares and houses over 2000 species of plants from around the world. Furthermore, you can find everything from orchids to cacti to exotic trees, all in a setting of colours, aromas, and shapes.
The Madeira Botanical Garden is a true paradise for nature lovers, who can stroll through the various sections of the garden. Additionally, they can admire the panoramic view over Funchal Bay, the city’s amphitheatre, and the surrounding mountains.
2. Madeira Levadas
The Madeira Levadas are one of the most characteristic and fascinating elements of the island. Levadas are irrigation channels that have been constructed since the 15th century to transport water from springs and rainfall in the high and humid areas to the low and dry regions where land was cultivated. Extending for about 2500 km across the island, the Levadas allow for the exploration of Madeiran nature and culture.
Madeira Levadas are a major attraction for hiking enthusiasts, offering trails of varying difficulty, duration, and beauty. Furthermore, some of the most popular Levadas include Levada do Caldeirão Verde, Levada das 25 Fontes, Levada do Rei, Levada do Alecrim, and Levada do Moinho. These Levadas lead to stunning landscapes, featuring waterfalls, viewpoints, forests, and villages.
The Madeira Levadas also provide a means to discover the island’s fauna and flora, particularly the Laurisilva forest, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
3. Funchal City
The city of Funchal has a lot to offer its visitors, who can take a tour of its points of interest, such as the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers’ Market), the Zona Velha (Old Town), Avenida do Mar (Avenue by the Sea), the Cathedral, the Museum of Sacred Art, the Museum of Quinta das Cruzes, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Municipal Garden, the Santa Luzia Garden, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, and Santa Catarina Park.
Funchal is also a place to enjoy restaurants and cultural experiences, reflecting the diversity and quality of Madeiran cuisine and art. Some of the typical dishes of the island include espetada (grilled skewered meat), bolo do caco (a type of bread), tomato soup, black scabbardfish, tuna, limpets, chestnuts, fried corn, poncha (a traditional alcoholic drink), and honey cake. Also, some of the cultural events that liven up the city include Carnival, the Flower Festival, the Atlantic Festival, the Wine Festival, the Columbus Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Film Festival, and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
4. Dolphin and Whale Watching
Madeira is one of the best destinations in Europe for observing dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. The deep and crystal-clear waters around the island are home to more than 20 species of cetaceans that can be spotted throughout the year.
Various local companies offer boat tours dedicated to dolphin and whale watching. Visitors have the opportunity to cruise through turquoise waters, guided by experts who share insights into marine life and ensure a safe and respectful experience with the animals. Schedule your tour now with Bonita da Madeira!
5. Pico do Arieiro
Pico do Arieiro is one of the highest peaks in Madeira, standing at an altitude of 1818 meters. It is one of the most spectacular locations on the island, offering panoramic views of the mountains, clouds, sea, and neighbouring islands. Also, Pico do Arieiro is accessible by road and features a viewpoint, a café, a souvenir shop, and a radar station.
The summit of Pico do Arieiro is a preferred destination for hikers who can embark on one of the most challenging and rewarding trails on the island: the connection between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, the highest point in Madeira at 1862 meters. This trail covers approximately 12 km (round trip), takes about 4 hours, and is considered difficult due to steep ascents and descents.
One of the best ways to reach the peak is by car you can rent a car with 7m rent a car here.
6. São Vicente Caves
São Vicente Caves are one of Madeira’s hidden treasures, revealing the volcanic origin of the island. The São Vicente Caves were formed approximately 890 thousand years ago when a volcanic eruption expelled molten lava that flowed down the slope to the sea. Over time, the lava solidified on the surface but continued to flow inside, creating underground galleries.
Discovered in 1885, the São Vicente Caves were only opened to the public in 1996 after a cleaning and adaptation process. Nowadays, visitors can explore around 1000 meters of passages during a 30-minute guided tour, which explains the geological formation, fauna, and flora of the caves.
7. Formosa Beach
Formosa Beach is the largest beach in Madeira, stretching approximately 2 km. It is a pebble beach located on the west side of Funchal, between the São Martinho parish and the town of Câmara de Lobos. Formosa Beach has a special charm, combining natural beauty with proximity to the city.
Formosa Beach offers a variety of activities and experiences that appeal to all tastes and ages. In addition to the beach, visitors can take a stroll along the promenade, connecting Formosa Beach to Lido Beach and Ponta Gorda Beach, covering a distance of about 4 km, allowing for the enjoyment of the landscape and the lively atmosphere. Visitors can also explore the bathing complex at Doca do Cavacas, featuring natural pools, or the Lido bathing complex, which offers saltwater pools and a playground.
8. Porto Moniz and the Natural Pools
Porto Moniz is a village that has much more to offer its visitors, allowing them to explore its history, culture, and gastronomy. Moreover, some of the points of interest in the village include the Madeira Aquarium, the Living Science Center, São João Baptista Fort, the Main Church, the Whaler’s Museum, the Santa Viewpoint, the Véu da Noiva Viewpoint, and the Ribeiro da Janela Viewpoint. Additionally, some typical dishes of the village include bolo do caco (a type of bread), black scabbardfish, tuna, octopus, limpets, honey cake, and Madeira wine.
The natural pools of Porto Moniz are among the most visited places on the island, offering a unique bathing and leisure experience. The natural pools also provide support facilities such as changing rooms, showers, lifeguard services, parking, bars, and restaurants.
9. Porto Santo
The Madeira archipelago in Portugal houses the paradisiacal tourist destination, Porto Santo. Renowned for its extensive and fantastic beach of fine golden sand, Porto Santo stands in stark contrast to the rocky beaches of the island of Madeira. The island also boasts a rich history and culture, as it was once the residence of Christopher Columbus, the famous explorer who discovered America. Offering visitors an experience of tranquillity, relaxation, and beauty, Porto Santo features a mild climate throughout the year and lush natural surroundings. The island provides various activities and attractions, including golf, diving, hiking, museums, festivals, and gastronomy. Undoubtedly, Porto Santo is a retreat of golden sands and blue waters that captivates all who visit.
Desertas Islands are a group of three uninhabited islands that are part of the Madeira archipelago. These islands have a total area of 14 km2 and a maximum altitude of 479 meters, forming an untouched natural paradise that harbours unique and protected fauna and flora.
The Desertas Islands are among the most remote and wild locations in Madeira, providing an adventurous experience and a close encounter with nature, accessible by boat. Designated as a natural reserve, the main attraction of the Desertas Islands is the colony of monk seals, the most endangered marine mammal species in Europe. In addition to monk seals, the islands are also the habitat for other species such as the Madeiran lizard, Madeiran storm petrel, Cory’s shearwater, yellow-legged gull, common wood pigeon, and the Berthelot’s pipit.
Embarking on this journey through the top 10 attractions of Madeira, we unveil the natural and cultural treasures that make this island a truly unique destination. Madeira, with its majestic mountains, winding Levadas, cosmopolitan city, and captivating beaches, extends an invitation to exploration and enchantment.
Each attraction in Madeira is a singular piece in the dazzling mosaic that constitutes this archipelago. By exploring these destinations, we not only witness the grandeur of nature but also immerse ourselves in the cultural richness that shapes the Madeiran identity. May this journey inspire new adventures, sparking the desire to explore every corner of this Portuguese gem. Board this discovery, for Madeira awaits, ready to captivate the hearts of those who venture into its realms.