This page contains a planned 12-day Madeira road trip itinerary, which follows the circumference of the island all around the coast. It takes in all of the main coastal towns in Madeira, plus some extra viewpoints too. I recommend checking my post the 20 Best Towns in Madeira for more information about each town in the itinerary. All of my Madeira itineraries start and finish in the city of Funchal.

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In this 12 day Madeira road trip itinerary, you could choose to stay over at each destination, or also return to Funchal in between stops. I recommend hiring a car from Discover Cars and picking your car up from Funchal airport when you arrive. I have also included a driving map below from Google.

About Madeira

Madeira is a beautiful Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s famous for its stunning natural scenery, tall mountains, lush forests, and colourful flowers. The main city, Funchal, is full of old buildings, busy markets, and lovely places to walk by the sea. Madeira also has wonderful food and lots of local wines to try.

I spent a week travelling around Madeira in summer 2023, cramming as much into 8 days as possible. This included travelling all around the island, sampling the local cuisine, going on levada walks and meeting the local people. I have published many posts about Madeira on this blog.

Further reading: Ultimate Madeira Travel Guide.

Quick summary of your 12 day Madeira road trip.

In brief, here is a list showing each day of your Madeira road trip. The links will take you straight to the specific day of your itinerary below.

Driving Map: Madeira road trip itinerary.

If you click on this Google map you can get detailed step-by-step driving instructions from Google. Click the blue star to add it to your maps.

Your 12 day Madeira road trip itinerary.

For each day of your Madeira itinerary, I have included suggestions for things to do and hotel booking links for each town, and I will include them all together at the bottom of the post as well. For accommodation, I always use Booking.com, which offers free reservations and free cancellations, so there is nothing to lose when booking your rooms.

Below is your 12-day Madeira road trip itinerary.

Day 1-2: Funchal.

Funchal is the lively capital of Madeira Island. It’s famous for its colourful streets, historic buildings, and bustling markets in the old town. Funchal also has beautiful botanical gardens, museums, and scenic viewpoints overlooking the ocean.

Monte, perched high above Funchal, is known for its serene botanical gardens, historic Monte Palace, and quirky toboggan rides down winding streets. Cabo Girão is one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and glass-floored viewpoint (you can also see this on day 11 of your itinerary).

Things to do in Funchal.

  • Arrive in Funchal, the vibrant capital city of Madeira, and check into your accommodation.
  • Spend two days exploring the historic city centre, including the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers’ Market), Santa Maria Street and Sé Cathedral.
  • Visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and explore its lush botanical gardens.
  • Take a cable car ride up to Monte for panoramic views of Funchal.
  • Visit the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte and the famous Monte Toboggan Run.
  • You could also drive to Cabo Girão, one of the highest sea cliffs in the world, for breathtaking views.
  • Enjoy local cuisine at restaurants in the city and explore the vibrant nightlife.
  • See my post 29 Amazing Things to do in Funchal for inspiration.

Where to stay in Funchal.

Day 3: Machico and Ponta de São Lourenço.

Machico, the first place Portuguese explorers landed, has a beautiful sandy beach and historic sites such as Forte de São João Batista.

Ponta de São Lourenço is the easternmost point of Madeira Island, Portugal. It’s a stunning peninsula known for its rugged cliffs, unique rock formations, and breathtaking coastal views.

Things to do in Machico and Ponta de São Lourenço.

  • Head to Machico, Madeira’s second-largest city, and spend time exploring its historic centre, including the Forte de São João Batista and beautiful beach.
  • Explore Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of Madeira Island, with its stunning coastal landscapes and hiking trails.
  • Head back to Machico for dinner in a local restaurant.
  • Stay overnight in Machico (or you could drive back to Funchal – about 40 minutes).

Where to stay in Machico.

Remember you can reserve and cancel rooms on Booking.com for free, so if you see something you like, grab it straight away to secure the price, even if you cancel later.

Day 4: Porto da Cruz and Santana.

Porto da Cruz is a charming village famous for its rum production, offering tours of the Engenho do Norte Rum Factory and opportunities to taste the local brew.

Santana is renowned for its iconic triangular-shaped houses, known as “palheiros,” which provide a glimpse into the island’s traditional architecture and rural way of life (there is a good guided tour of the traditional areas here).

Things to do in Porto da Cruz and Santana.

  • Drive to Porto da Cruz, a picturesque coastal village known for its scenic landscapes and traditional rum production.
  • Visit the Engenho do Norte Rum Factory for a guided tour and tasting session, learning about the island’s rum-making heritage.
  • Drive to Santana to see the traditional triangular-shaped houses known as “palheiros.”
  • Visit the Madeira Theme Park, a unique attraction offering insights into the island’s history, culture, and traditions through interactive exhibits and demonstrations.
  • Stay overnight in Santana, or head back to Funchal (about 45 minutes).

Where to stay in Santana.

Day 5: Santana and São Jorge.

São Jorge has a rugged coastline, dramatic cliffs, and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Today you can choose to spend more time in Santana, or head straight to São Jorge.

Things to do in Santana and São Jorge .

  • Continue exploring Santana in the morning.
  • Drive to São Jorge and explore its rugged coastline and scenic viewpoints.
  • Enjoy a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant in São Jorge.
  • You could stay overnight in São Jorge, or nip back to Santana and stay there (more accommodation options) or return back to Funchal (about an hour’s drive).

Where to stay in São Jorge.

Further reading: 25 Unique & Amazing Things to do on Madeira Island.

Day 6: São Vicente and Seixal.

São Vicente is known for its volcanic caves, and has a picturesque setting amidst lush green hillsides and flowing streams. Seixal has a tranquil black sand beach, framed by towering cliffs and lush vegetation. Seixal feels like a secluded secret paradise, the sort of place that only locals know about!

Things to do in Seixal and São Vicente.

  • Drive to São Vicente and explore its volcanic caves at the São Vicente Caves and Volcanism Centre.
  • Visit the Ethnographic and Wine Museum of Madeira in São Vicente, to learn about the island’s cultural heritage and wine production.
  • Drive to Seixal, and relax on its black sand beach with stunning views of the surrounding cliffs.
  • Stay overnight in Seixal, or head to Porto Moniz (your next stop) for accommodation, or drive back to Funchal (about an hour’s drive).
A mountainside with houses and vineyards in the background.
Sao Vicente, Madeira

Where to stay in Seixal.

Further reading: Food in Madeira: What to Eat and Drink on Madeira Island

Day 7: Porto Moniz and Levada Grande.

Porto Moniz is famed for its natural volcanic pools, formed by ancient lava flows meeting the Atlantic Ocean, providing visitors with a unique and refreshing bathing experience amidst breathtaking coastal scenery.

Levadas are small water channels built for irrigation on the island of Madeira. They are often built along the mountainsides and can go for long distances. They are great walking trails because they offer stunning views of the island’s forests and scenery.

Things to do in Porto Moniz and Levada Grande

  • Drive to Porto Moniz and visit its famous natural swimming pools formed by volcanic rock.
  • Explore the Porto Moniz Natural History Museum to learn about the region’s geological and natural heritage.
  • For levada walks, you could hike Levada da Riberia Janela which starts in Porto Moniz, but be aware it is rated ‘hard’ due to the number of slippery dark tunnels involved.
  • Levada Moinho is also nearby (also called Levada Grande). I wrote a guide to walking the levadas Moinho and Nova, but my guide starts in a different place, so you will need to check your locations first.
  • Other levada trails include the Levada do Caldeirão Verde, Levada das 25 Fontes, and Levada do Risco. See my post 16 best levada walks in Madeira for my information.
  • Afterwards, you could head back to Porto Moniz to have dinner and relax, or if you are travelling to Funchal, it’s about 1 hour and 15 minutes on the road.

Where to stay in Porto Moniz.

  • Popular hotels in Porto Moniz include Aqua Natura, with stunning views of the Atlantic. There are volcanic seawater pools, a sauna, Jacuzzi, birdwatching and Levada walks.
  • For something a bit different, try Madeira Paradise Glamping in Porto Moniz, with a shared kitchen and outdoor fireplace.
  • See all accommodation in Porto Moniz on Booking.com.
  • Remember to reserve your property early to lock in the price.

Day 8: Ponta do Pargo and Paul do Mar

Perched on Madeira’s western coast, Ponta do Pargo is home to rugged cliffs, a famous lighthouse, and stunning ocean views. Paul do Mar is a quaint fishing village renowned for its laid-back vibe, cliffs, and excellent surfing conditions.

Things to do in Ponta do Pargo and Paul do Mar.

  • Visit Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse for panoramic views. Take some time to explore the lighthouse grounds and learn about its history.
  • Explore Ponta do Pargo Viewpoint for more stunning scenery.
  • You could hike the Levada Nova Trail , which starts near here. Read about my experience on the Levada Nova trail.
  • Drive to Paul do Mar, a charming fishing village, and relax on its beach or enjoy water sports activities.
  • Drive back to Ponta do Pargo in the evening to catch the sunset at the lighthouse.
  • You could stay in Ponta do Pargo, or return to Funchal (about 1 hour’s drive).

Where to stay in Ponta do Pargo.

Day 9: Jardim do Mar and Calheta.

Calheta and Jardim do Mar are two beautiful coastal villages. Calheta is known for its golden sandy beach and picturesque marina, offering water sports activities or exploring the surrounding hillsides dotted with banana plantations and vineyards.

Jardim do Mar is known for its colourful flowers and traditional houses, and it’s a great spot for surfing or just strolling along the coast.

Things to do in Calheta and Jardim do Mar.

  • Drive to Jardim do Mar, a picturesque village known for its surfing and scenic landscapes.
  • Visit Calheta and explore its marina, where you can take a boat tour or go swimming and snorkelling.
  • Visit the Casa das Mudas Arts Center to admire contemporary art exhibitions and enjoy panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Calheta. You may want to stay here two nights, especially if you are staying at the Savoy Saccharum (it’s amazing).

Further Reading: 18 Great Things to do in Calheta.

Where to stay in Calheta.

Day 10: Ponto do Sol and Ribeira Brava

Ponta do Sol is a tranquil coastal village renowned for its picturesque beaches, charming atmosphere, and breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean. True to its name, Ponta do Sol is the sunniest spot on the island. Ribeira Brava, translated as ‘Wild River’, is known for its picturesque river that flows through the town centre, creating a scenic backdrop against the backdrop of lush hillsides.

Things to do in Ponta do Sol and Ribeira Brava.

  • Drive to Ponta do Sol, where you can relax on Ponta do Sol Beach and take a stroll along the scenic promenade.
  • Visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz to explore its historic architecture.
  • Explore the historic streets of Ribeira Brava, and visit the Church of São Bento to see its beautiful azulejos and Baroque design.
  • The Ethnographic Museum is worth a visit to learn about the town’s history.
  • Wander through the local market to sample fresh produce and browse handmade crafts.
  • Relax on Ribeira Brava Beach or take a dip in the ocean.
  • Stay in Ribeira Brava, or drive back to Funchal (30 minutes drive).

Where to stay in Ribeira Brava and Ponto do Sol.

Day 11: Câmara do Lobos and Cabo Girão

At 580 metres high, Cabo Girão is not only the highest sea cliff in Europe, but the second highest in the world. As you ascend the winding trail, you’ll encounter stunning scenery at every turn

Câmara de Lobos is a charming fishing village with colourful boats. Of all the towns in Madeira, Câmara de Lobos was beloved by none other than Sir Winston Churchill, who painted its picturesque landscapes as a way to relax. It was a little cloudy when I visited (as you can see in my photo below) but still beautiful.

Things to do in Câmara do Lobos and Cabo Girão.

  • Drive to Cabo Girão and marvel at the stunning views over the Atlantic ocean.
  • Walk on the glass-floored viewing platform for a thrilling experience.
  • Enjoy a drink or snack at the cliffside cafe – the shops and cafes here are really nice. There is a good opportunity to buy some Madeiran honey cake!
  • Drive to the fishing village of Câmara do Lobos and wander through the charming streets.
  • Explore the harbour area and watch traditional fishing boats.
  • Visit the Pico da Torre viewpoint for panoramic views.
  • Enjoy local cuisine at waterfront restaurants.
  • You could stay in Câmara do Lobos, or drive back to Funchal (20 minute drive).

Where to stay in Câmara do Lobos

Day 12: Departure from Funchal

Today is your last day, and it is time to make your way back to Funchal airport. You could easily condense this itinerary into 10 days, if you have less time. You may also like to substitute other places in Madeira into your itinerary – see below for ideas.

Further reading: 20 Gifts and Souvenirs to Buy From Madeira.

Other places to visit on Madeira island.

This itinerary takes you all round the coast of Madeira, but if you fancy heading a bit further inland, you could consider some of these places:

  1. Pico do Arieiro: One of the highest peaks on Madeira Island, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  2. Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley): A secluded village nestled in a deep valley surrounded by towering cliffs, accessible via winding mountain roads.
  3. Pico Ruivo: The highest peak on Madeira Island, offering challenging hiking trails and stunning vistas of the island’s rugged landscape.
  4. Paul da Serra: A high plateau region with rolling hills, scenic viewpoints, and opportunities for leisurely walks amidst the island’s natural beauty.
  5. Ribeiro Frio: A forested area in the heart of Madeira, home to the Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the starting point for several levada walks.
  6. Santo da Serra: A tranquil village known for its picturesque church, beautiful gardens, and the famous Madeira Flower Festival held annually in spring.

These are just a few examples of other places on Madeira Island that you may consider exploring, depending on your interests and the duration of your stay. Most of these places feature in my 27 Amazing and Unique Things to do in Madeira post.

Quick hotel links for your Madeira road trip.

Here are your hotel booking links again, all in one place for convenience. These links will get you the best rate on Booking.com today. Feel free to use them just for checking prices, even if you are not ready to book anything yet.

Book hotels in Funchal | Book hotels in Ribeira Brava | Book hotels in Calheta | Book Savoy Saccharum Hotel | Book hotels in Jardim do Mar | Book hotels in Porto Moniz | Book hotels in São Vicente | Book hotels in Seixal | Book hotels in Santana | Book hotels in Sao Jorge | Book hotels near Ponta de São Lourenço | Book hotels in Machico | Book hotels in Porto da Cruz | See all hotels in Madeira.

Hotels by map.

If you prefer to see hotels by location, use this map to see where the hotels are in each region. If you click the map, it will take you to Booking.com where you can check availability.

Booking.com

More itineraries for Madeira.

My 7 day itinerary for Madeira East features Funchal, Santana, São Jorge, Ponta de São Lourenço, Machico, Porto da Cruz, and a levada walk of your choosing.

My 7 day itinerary for Madeira West features Funchal, Cabo Girão, Ribeira Brava, Ponta do Sol, Calheta, Jardim do Mar, Paul do Mar, Porto Moniz, São Vicente, Seixal and a levada walk of your choosing.

Booking.com

Tours in Madeira.

Here are some tours you might like to incorporate into your Madeira road trip.

1. Sunrise Self-Guided Hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo: To save you the hassle of organising transport, the trip includes hotel pickup, then drop-off at Pico do Arieiro, and pickup from Achada do Teixeira once you’ve finished the hike.

2. Full-Day Madeira North West Coast Safari from Funchal: Take the scenic route between Ribeira Brava and Porto Moniz in an open-top safari vehicle; enjoy spectacular views of the Cabo Girão sea cliffs, Veu da Noiva waterfall, and the Paul da Serra plateau.

3. East of Madeira | Full Day 4×4 Tour: Travelling by 4WD, venture off-road and escape the crowds as you drive the Pico do Areiro mountain roads, stop in villages such as Ribeiro Frio and Faial, and visit a traditional A-frame house in Santana.

4. Half-Day Wine Tour in Madeira: Wonderful wine trail through the Laurissilva forest with wine and tapas included.

5. Private Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour in Madeira: 2- to 4-hour private charter by motor yacht. Snorkel and spot marine life including whales and dolphins. Light refreshments and a glass of sparkling wine included.

View all Madeira tours on Viator here. You can reserve tours immediately without paying anything up front, and cancel for free. Viator is a TripAdvisor company, so you know you will get a good service.

Travel advice for your Madeira trip.

For travel advice for Madeira, please see my main Madeira travel guide post. This page contains everything you need to know about Madeira, including things to do, what to see, local cuisine, safety considerations, transportation, best time to visit, cultural etiquette and more.

In the meantime, here are some quick travel tips for Madeira, Portugal:

Practical tips for Madeira.

Health and Safety:

  1. Medical Services: Madeira has quality medical facilities, but travel insurance is crucial to cover any unexpected health issues.
  2. Sun Protection: The sun can be strong in Madeira. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from sunburn.
  3. Terrain Awareness: The island’s terrain can be steep and challenging. Wear appropriate footwear and be cautious when walking in hilly areas.

Transportation:

  1. Driving: If you plan to rent a car in Madeira, note that Madeira’s roads can be narrow and winding. Drive cautiously, and be aware of steep drops in some areas.
  2. Public Transportation: Madeira’s bus system is reliable for getting around. Be sure to check the bus schedules in advance.
  3. Taxis: Taxis are safe and regulated. Ensure the meter is running or agree on a fare before starting the ride.

Money and Communication:

  1. Currency: The currency used in Madeira is the Euro (€).
  2. ATMs: ATMs are widely available, especially in tourist areas. Inform your bank before travelling to ensure your cards work abroad.
  3. Language: Portuguese is the official language of Madeira. While many locals in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic Portuguese phrases can enhance your experience. This Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary is excellent (Amazon link).

Outdoor Activities:

  1. Levada Walks: If you plan to hike the levadas, wear sturdy shoes, carry water, and check the weather forecast. Some walks can be challenging.
  2. Swimming: While there are natural pools and beaches, always follow safety signs and guidelines when swimming in the ocean.
  3. Madeira tourist card: Consider purchasing a Funchal City Card, which provides discounted access to various attractions and unlimited use of public transportation. You can buy these from tourism offices.

Emergency Contacts:

  • Emergency Services: Dial 112 for police, medical, or fire emergencies.

Environmental Considerations:

  1. Responsible Tourism: Respect the island’s natural beauty by not littering and following designated paths.
  2. Conservation: Be cautious around delicate ecosystems, especially in natural parks and reserves.

Further reading: Ultimate Madeira Travel Guide.

FAQs about your Madeira road trip.

Q: How long should I plan for a road trip in Madeira? 

A: I recommend planning for 7 days to fully explore Madeira Island at a leisurely pace and experience its diverse landscapes, attractions, and activities. Madeira Travel Guide.

Q: Is it necessary to rent a car for a Madeira road trip? 

A: While it’s not strictly necessary, renting a car provides flexibility and convenience for exploring Madeira Island, especially if you want to access remote areas and scenic viewpoints that may not be easily accessible by public transportation. I recommend hiring a car from Discover Cars and picking your car up from Funchal airport when you arrive. I have also included a driving map above from Google.

Q: What are some must-visit destinations during a Madeira road trip? 

A: Must-visit destinations include the capital city of Funchal, the scenic coastal towns of Porto Moniz and Ponta do Sol, the picturesque villages of Santana and Jardim do Mar, and natural attractions such as levada walks and volcanic caves.

Further reading: The 20 best towns in Madeira (and where to stay in each one)

Q: What activities can I enjoy during a Madeira road trip? 

A: You can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking along levada trails, exploring volcanic caves, swimming in natural pools, visiting botanical gardens and museums, and indulging in local cuisine and wine tasting experiences.

Further reading: 25 Unique & Amazing Things to do on Madeira Island.

Q: What should I pack for a road trip in Madeira? 

A: Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, lightweight clothing suitable for warm weather, sunscreen, a hat, a reusable water bottle, a camera, and any necessary medications. Additionally, if you plan to hike, consider packing a daypack with snacks, a first aid kit, and a map or GPS device.

Q: When is the best time to embark on a Madeira road trip? 

A: The best time to visit Madeira for a road trip is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) months when the weather is mild, and the landscapes are lush and vibrant. However, Madeira enjoys a subtropical climate year-round, so road trips can be enjoyable at any time of the year.

Further reading: The Best Time to visit Madeira Island, Portugal.

Q: Are there any specific driving regulations or rules I should be aware of in Madeira? 

A: In Madeira, drive on the right-hand side of the road, and be mindful of narrow and winding mountain roads, particularly in rural areas. Speed limits are generally well-marked and enforced, and seat belts are mandatory for all passengers. It’s also important to be cautious of pedestrians and wildlife, especially in rural and mountainous areas.

Q: How should I plan my accommodation for a Madeira road trip? 

A: Consider booking a mix of accommodations, including hotels, guesthouses, rural cottages, and apartments, to experience different aspects of Madeiran hospitality. It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure availability and secure the best rates. See all accommodations in Madeira.

Further reading: The 14 Best Hotels in Madeira, Portugal.

Q: Are there any toll roads in Madeira, and how do I pay for them? 

A: No, there are no toll roads in Madeira. The main roads and highways on the island are free to use. However, be prepared for some steep and winding roads, particularly in mountainous areas, which may require extra caution while driving.

Q: Is it possible to explore Madeira without a car? 

A: While having a car provides flexibility and convenience for exploring Madeira, it is possible to get around the island using public transportation, such as buses and taxis. However, public transportation may be less frequent, especially in rural areas, and may limit your ability to access remote attractions and scenic viewpoints. I recommend hiring a car from Discover Cars and picking your car up from Funchal airport when you arrive. I have also included a driving map below from Google.

Further reading: 20 Gifts and Souvenirs to Buy From Madeira.

Below is a list of some of my Madeira travel guides which may interest you.

Madeira Quick Links.

Here are some links you might find helpful when planning your Madeira road trip.

12 day Madeira road trip Itinerary – pin for later.

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Travelling soon? Check my 20 Must-Have Travel Essentials post before you go.

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