We have handpicked top 5 things to do in Madeira for you. With your car hire in Madeira, you can move around quickly and easily, since the roads are good and signed well. There are no traffic jams, just avoid Funchal in the rush hours.
Ponta de São Lourenço
If you want to start your vacation with some of the best views from the cliffs, we recommend you walk the path on Ponta de São Lourenço. It is the easternmost part of the Island of Madeira. If you visit it in Autumn and take your car hire in Madeira to the end of the road ER109 where you can park your car, you’ll be able to view the cape in beautiful red, brown, black and golden colours. The terrain is full of rocks and the patch to the high peak Pico do Furado takes around an hour depending on your hiking condition. We recommend you take a lot of water since there is no shadow on the way and the sun can be strong. During your walk you can enjoy the breath-taking views from the cliffs, the waves on the sea and the fauna, being birds, insects, and many small lizards. You can even make your way down to the sea and take a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
Serra de Agua panoramic road
After the sunny walk on the west, the next best thing to do in Madeira is to take a ride with your car hire on the Serra de Agua panoramic road. Drive up to Vereda de Areeiro were the most beautiful footpath to the second highest peak Pico de Areeiro to the highest peak of Madeira, Pico Ruivo, begins. The walk is around 3,3 hours (one way) and the trail is not one of the easiest on the island, but most say it’s one of the most beautiful ones. Stunning views, the path which involves tunnels, steep ascents and descents and fabulous views on the surrounding mountains are worth the effort. If this is too much for you, you can enjoy the view from Pico de Areeiro and when driving back downturn right on the road to Cural das Freiras. The road is new and well maintained but drive slowly since is it very narrow for two cars to meet. Heading east you will encounter great views on the mountains, Funchal and the ocean. There are many places to stop the car to make you the perfect Instagram photo. The road finishes in Cural das Freiras and you drive to Funchal to enjoy your evening.
Pico Ruivo – the highest peak of the Island of Madeira (1862m)
For all of us with less hiking experience, there is another way to visit the highest peak Pico Ruivo. The third best thing to do in Madeira is to drive your car hire from Funchal to Achada do Teixeira where you can start the 2,8 km or approximately 1,30h (one-way) trail. You will ascent 300m. The trail climbs along the ridge that separates the cliffs of Faial and those of Santana, and so allows for an excellent view to the left of the Ribeira Seca valley, and Pico do Areeiro in the background.
Nevertheless, this is the easiest path to the top of the island, dress warm and take an anorak or wind-stopper, since the winds can be strong, and the weather can change rapidly. If the top is covered with a sea of clouds, it might be good to wait sometime in one of the shelters, since the climate can suddenly change, and you’ll have the perfect view. This area is part of the European network of important areas - Natura 2000 - and is known as the central mountain massif which is characterized by herbaceous and bush vegetation that is well-adapted to big temperature variations.
To relax your feet a bit, drive your car hire in Funchal to the Cabo Girão skywalk. There is a large car park next to the skywalk. If you continue from the car park another 500m you can also visit the Santuario de Nossa Senhora de Fatima (Fatima shrine). While the Skywalk is always open, be aware that it gets very busy during the peak tourist season. We propose you visit it in the quieter months if possible and catch the sunset. Below the skywalk, you can see the farmers terraced fields on the narrow shore below the rocks. There are few local cable cars going down to the shore if you would like to see the rugged shore up close.
Levada Ribeira da Janela
Madeira is full of levadas, which offer a unique and unforgettable experience in extraordinary pure nature. A levada is an irrigation channel and there are 222km of Levadass on Madeira. They were created to bring water from the humid north part of the island to the dry south. Nowadays you can explore Madeira on the long hikes by the levadas in the Laurissilva forest. As per our opinion one of the loveliest - but also for experienced hikers - walks is by the levada Ribeira da Janela. It begins in Porto Monis and goes along the valley of Riberia da Janela. Since you go back the same route (13km round trip), the walk will take you around 4-5 hours, even though the path is flat. You pass through tunnels, which can be slippery (so take care to have good hiking shoes and a headlamp) but offer another different experience and enjoy fantastic views on waterfalls.
Madeira is a small island, but full of green lush nature and if you want to enjoy it the most, one week is not enough. We propose you return more often since there will always be undiscovered paths and nature walks waiting for you. Don’t forget to bring your sun cream, hiking shoes and take your car hire throughout the island.