Madeira: Suggested Itinerary
Scenic mountainous landscapes, stunning wildlife and fabulous food
Day 1: Roll up in Funchal airport and check-in to your accommodation. Depending on your arrival time, spend today exploring the nearby Parque do Santo da Serra. This consists mostly of woodland, although you will also find deer and bird enclosures here. If you are staying here on a Sunday, you will have the opportunity to see a local market close to the church.
Day 2: Head east to the wild and windswept Ponta de São Lourenço. If you are feeling energetic you might like to take a short walk around the headland - the views are spectacular. Not far away is Caniçal, once the most famous whaling village on the island. This practice was outlawed in 1981 - nowadays the only reminders lie in the Museum of Whaling (Museu da Balaia). There’s plenty of nice fish restaurants here as one might expect. On the way back visit the first capital of Madeira, Machico, now the second biggest city in Madeira and one of the centres for boat building on the island.
Day 3: Poiso should be your first stop today. This means ‘resting place’ and was a traditional stop for travellers when journeying from the north to the south coast. For stunning views ascend above the clouds to Pico do Arieiro, the second highest peak on the island. Take the road to Ribeiro Frio, which has a pretty setting in a wooded valley. Here you may wish to visit the trout hatchery or continue downhill where you find a sign for the Balcões - this is a relatively short and level walk to the viewpoint where you have absolutely spectacular views across ravines and hillsides to Madeira’s peaks - Ruivo & Arieiro. Don’t forget a visit to Santana. Many consider Santana to be one of the most attractive villages on Madeira, due to its stunning location and its unusual houses, shaped like As.
Day 4: For a spot of fun in the area, visit the newly opened Madeira theme park in Santana. This has exhibitions of how Madeira was formed and the way of life in days gone by. Just past Achada do Teixeira, you may want to climb up to Madeira’s highest peak, Pico Ruivo. Or you can go to Pico das Pedras from where there is a short walk to Queimadas with its beautiful park in the middle of Laurisilva forest.
Day 5: Go west along the north coast via São Jorge, Boaventura and Ponta Delgada until you reach São Vicente. São Vicente’s old town is worth seeing. An unusual feature in this area are the Lava Caves, formed some 400,000 years ago thanks to a volcanic eruption but they were only discovered in 1855 and opened in 1997. Continuing along the north coast you will reach Seixal, the centre of the wine growing district. Before reaching Seixal you may want to take a slight diversion to Chão da Ribeira, a beautiful and unspoilt area. Then continue to Porto Moniz, well known for its natural sea pools formed in volcanic rock.
Day 6: continue along Paúl da Serra to Encumeada, a pass from where you may see both the north and south coast. Go south to Ribeira Brava. In the 15th century the town was an important stopping off point for those journeying to Funchal from the north and still remains a pleasant place to spend a few hours. You may wish to visit the Ethnographic Museum. Today you could also take the opportunity to drive along the south coast to visit the villages of Ponta do Sol (the main centre for banana production), Madalena do Mar, Calheta, Jardim do Mar (very picturesque) and Paul do Mar.
Day 7: Spend your last day in the lovely Funchal - a suprisingly compact city and has an abundance of sights to entertain the visitor. Also recommended is the cable car up to the beautiful little village of Monte from where you can toboggan (in a wicker basket) most of the way back down to Funchal. You will also find plenty of places here to refresh yourself and is truly a stunning end to your holiday.
Day 8: Time to say goodbye to the beautiful Madeira.