7-Day Madeira Itinerary

A Seven-Day Journey through Madeira’s Heart

It’s no secret that here at Cultured Travel, we have a soft spot for Portugal and all that it has to offer. Today we’re taking you to the island of Madeira on a seven-day journey through its charming towns, lush landscapes and rich culture. From strolling vibrant markets, watching fishermen hauling in the day’s catch, or biting into a juicy passionfruit (for which Madeira is famous), your senses will be on overdrive as you’re immersed in the sights, sounds, and flavors of this enchanting Atlantic archipelago.

1 | Arriving in Style and Delving into the Old Town Charm

Your Madeira adventure begins with a warm welcome as you arrive in Funchal, the vibrant capital city. A VIP meet and greet ensures a swift and comfortable transition through immigration, setting the tone for the indulgent experiences ahead. Spend your first day meandering through the historic old town, a mosaic of cultural influences and architectural styles. 

The farmers market in Funchal, a feast for the senses, brims with an array of vibrant local produce and artisanal crafts that capture the essence of Madeira. As you meander through the bustling aisles, your senses will be greeted by the sweet aroma of ripe tropical fruits like passionfruit, and papaya, and the unique ‘anona’, known for its creamy texture. You’ll see stalls overflowing with colorful vegetables and exotic spices, while the air carries the tantalizing scent of freshly baked bread and local pastries, such as ‘bolo de mel’, a traditional Madeiran honey cake.

Conclude your day with a traditional dinner, immersing yourself in Madeira’s rich culinary heritage. A typical meal might start with ‘espada com banana’, a unique dish featuring scabbard fish with banana. For the main course, you could indulge in ‘espetada’, succulent beef skewers seasoned with garlic and bay leaves, grilled on laurel sticks and served with ‘bolo do caco’, a traditional flatbread. This culinary journey, rich in flavors and traditions, offers an authentic taste of Madeira and is a perfect close to your first day on this enchanting island.

Luxurious Stays in Madeira

During your stay, indulge in opulent accommodations that reflect the island’s charm and luxury. The Reid’s Palace, a Belmond Hotel, offers a blend of timeless elegance and modern comfort, with stunning ocean views and world-class amenities. Another exquisite option is the Savoy Palace, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, where sophistication meets contemporary luxury, surrounded by lush landscapes and panoramic sea views.

2 | A Day of Urban Exploration and Wine Tasting 

Today begins with a private visit to a local wine cellar. Here, you’ll delve into the storied tradition of Madeira wine, a fortified wine that has been produced on the island since the 15th century. The cellar, steeped in history, offers a sensory exploration of some of their finest wines, each telling a tale of the island’s unique terroir and wine-making heritage.

After lunch, you’ll continue to the Funchal Cathedral, officially known as Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. This cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, was completed in 1514 and stands as one of the few structures that have remained relatively unchanged since the early days of colonization. Next, you’ll find tranquility in Santa Catarina Park. This peaceful park offers a respite from the city’s hustle and is a perfect spot to enjoy panoramic views of Funchal harbor. Within its bounds, you’ll find the Chapel of Santa Catarina, a significant historical site dating back to the 15th century, representing the religious devotion of the island’s early settlers.

Your day concludes at the lush Botanical Garden, a green haven that spans over 35,000 square meters. Established in the 1960s, it’s home to a rich and diverse collection of plants from all over the world, including endemic species from Madeira. The garden not only serves as a center for conservation and education but also offers breathtaking views of the city below, making it a perfect end to a day filled with historical and natural wonders.

3 | East Madeira’s Coastal Splendors 

Today begins in the charming town of Machico. As the first settlement of the Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, Machico exudes historical significance and charm. Stroll through its quaint streets, where a mix of traditional and modern touches creates a vibrant atmosphere. The town, set in a picturesque bay against rolling green hills, is a perfect representation of Madeira’s past and present, offering insights into the island’s rich culture and daily life.

Your journey then leads to the dramatic landscapes of Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of Madeira. This nature reserve is a spectacle of stark cliffs, volcanic formations, and a rugged coastline offering some of the island’s most stunning views. A hike along its trails reveals panoramic vistas of the Atlantic, with ever-changing natural colors and diverse flora. Conclude the day by unwinding at Machico Beach, a serene spot with golden sands and calm waters. Here, you can soak in the sun or take a refreshing dip, perfectly capping off a day of exploration and discovery in East Madeira.

4 | A West Coast Journey by Sidecar

Experience the unique thrill of exploring Madeira’s West Coast from the sidecar of a classic motorcycle. Your journey begins with a ride through the modern areas of Funchal, leading to a quaint fishing village where the traditions of the sea come to life. The highlight of your trip is the awe-inspiring Skywalk on one of Europe’s highest sea cliffs, offering unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean and Madeira’s rugged terrain. The return trip on an old coastal road presents a spectacular blend of mountain and sea vistas.

After your adventurous morning on Madeira’s west coast, the afternoon offers a chance to explore Funchal at your own pace. A leisurely stroll down Santa Maria Street is a must, where art and culture come alive through its beautifully painted doors and vibrant street art, creating an open-air gallery atmosphere. For an alternative experience, consider visiting the CR7 Museum, dedicated to the life and career of Madeira’s football superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. Hungry? Don’t miss Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal’s bustling workers’ market. Here, you can browse through a variety of fresh produce, and sample some traditional Madeiran delicacies. 

5 | Into the Mountains and Along the Levadas

Embark on a journey to the heart of Madeira’s central mountains with a visit to Curral das Freiras, a charming village nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic peaks. Known as the “Nun’s Valley,” this secluded spot offers a glimpse into traditional Madeiran life and a serene escape from the outside world. The surrounding landscape is rich in history and natural beauty, making it a captivating start to your mountain adventure.

Continue your exploration by hiking one of Madeira’s iconic Levadas, the unique irrigation channels that crisscross the island. These trails unveil stunning landscapes, from lush forests and terraced fields to cascading waterfalls, catering to hikers of all levels. The day’s pinnacle is reaching Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third-highest peak, where breathtaking panoramic views await. At 1,818 meters high, you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring vista of the island and the vast Atlantic, so bring your camera!

6 | Northern Coast Adventures and Santana Visit

Immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of Madeira‘s North Coast with a full-day 4-wheel drive adventure. Your journey takes you through some of the most enchanting and less-traveled parts of Madeira, showcasing the island’s diverse landscapes and rich natural heritage. Your first stop is the “Laurisilva” forest—a UNESCO World Heritage site—offering a true escape into nature. The adventure continues as you descend to the Northern coast, discovering charming villages each with a story to tell. In Santana, marvel at the iconic thatched-roof houses, emblematic of Madeira’s rich cultural tapestry. These charming, triangular structures, with crisp white walls and striking red doors, offer an idyllic and photogenic glimpse into traditional island life. Your journey then leads to São Vicente, a town cradled in a lush valley, famed for its quaint streets and flourishing vineyards.

The journey isn’t complete without experiencing the Achadas da Cruz cable car, an exhilarating ride that offers stunning views of the cliffs and the vast Atlantic Ocean. This unique cable car descent takes you to one of the most remote and beautiful spots on the island, a serene haven far removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

Your Madeiran adventure concludes with a visit to the natural pools of Porto da Cruz, a mesmerizing coastal gem on the island’s North Coast. These unique sea-formed pools, nestled amidst dramatic volcanic rock formations, offer a refreshing escape and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty. Bathing in these crystal-clear waters, surrounded by the rugged landscape, is a serene experience, perfectly capturing the essence of Madeira’s untamed charm.

7 | Relaxation Before Departure

Your final day in Madeira is dedicated to relaxation and savoring the last moments of your journey. Indulge in a rejuvenating experience at the renowned Palheiro Spa, known for its luxurious treatments that blend local traditions with a touch of modernity. Alternatively, you might choose to explore any spots you may have missed (or want to revisit) in Funchal. This day offers a gentle closure to an unforgettable week, leaving you refreshed and enriched by the island’s wonders.

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