Have you got a fear of heights? Do you love relaxing on the beautiful sandy beaches? Or maybe you hate hiking up the cliffs and mountains? If you answered all of these three questions “yes”, then I have bad news – Madeira is not a destination for you.
My personal feeling was that this island is a perfect mix of heaven and hell. On the one hand, depending on where you walk, you can admire interesting architecture, breathtaking views and feel the pleasant aroma of many different flowers and plants. On the other, as long as you don’t want to be just stuck in your rented room, you have to hike. And taking walks in the heat on the steep path almost always is truly exhausting unless your physical fitness is excellent. In this guide, we will answer “what to see in Madeira”. Also, we will share our photos, compare Madeira with other destinations and tell a bit about bus transport on the island. 🙂
What to see in Madeira? Our top 3
We spent on the Island just one week so although we tried to explore as many attractions as possible, we surely have to return there to discover omitted places. Nevertheless, we enjoyed all the locations we managed to visit. I will describe each of them shortly.
1. Cabo Girão Skywalk
Cabo Girão is a cliff elevated 1,900 ft. (580 m) above the sea level. On this cliff, you can enjoy a famous viewpoint and Skywalk – a glass platform which allows you to “feel the height”. The view is astonishing, and this place is worth a visit. In my opinion, there are two small disadvantages of this attraction. The first one is that on the glass platform there are little grey dots which makes quite difficult to take a good photo of the abyss. Another one is that the skywalk is rather small. If you have a fear of height, you surely won’t be disappointed. But if you are a height-enthusiast like me, you would probably expect this path to be a bit longer & more dangerous.
To get to Cabo Girão, you can catch a bus from Funchal (the way takes approx. 1 hour), or you can walk there from this city – it’s around 5 miles (9 km). Due to the difference in the altitude, take into account that a walk is quite exhausting. Regarding the price, when we visited this attraction, we weren’t charged anything. To be honest, we are not sure whether this viewpoint is free in general or we were just lucky.
2. Pico Ruivo
During our trip, we managed to reach the highest peak on Madeira called Pico Ruivo which is elevated 6109 ft. (1862 m). Although the path itself was fine, it was undeniably the most exhausting walk during this trip. We were hiking from Faja dos Cardos – the length of this route (to the peak and back) was 9 miles (16 km). It maybe does not sound so bad, but you have to take into account that the difference in elevation from the starting point to the peak is 1.3 km. In practice, it took us almost 5 hours to hike up and around 3 hours to go down. But the views were just awesome! Pico Ruivo was literally above the clouds, and on the route, there were numerous viewpoints. If you want to try this walk and reach the highest point on Island, remember the following tips. Firstly, take enough water with you. One bottle per person for this route is not sufficient so take at least two big bottles pp. Then, remember to cover your head and maybe your arms from the Sun. When we were walking, the weather was tropical. Also, don’t forget to take your mobile phone to be able to call someone in the case of emergency. And, finally, don’t reach starting point too late as you may end up just like us – being in a hurry to catch the last public bus instead of enjoying views as long as we wanted.
Vereda Da Ponta De Sao Lourenco
One day, we decided to visit the east part of the island, more exactly, the cliffs which were the part of the national park. The path involved discovering thin & long peninsula, and it was incredible! The whole distance was just 8 km, but during the route, there were numerous astonishing viewpoints. Also, compared to Pico Ruivo, the walk was not so exhausting so a trip to Ponta De Sao Lourenco would fit travellers with an average fitness. Finally, I have to admit that from the long distance the cliffs do not look encouragingly – when we were approaching them by bus, at the beginning we were quite disappointed as we thought that the walk would be boring. Nevertheless, once we arrived, it turned out that the path is full of surprises in the form of, for instance, impressive landscapes or beautiful gulfs. We recommend visiting this place. You can even swim in the little bay but (at least in June) the ocean was freezing. 🙂
What to see in Madeira?
A map with the summary of our recommendations
Madeira – can you feel there like in South America?
For us, actually a bit! It was quite surprising for me but if you want to get a little substitute of South America in Europe, visiting Madeira would be quite a good idea. Of course, the Island as a whole differs a lot from landscapes that you can see on another continent. Nevertheless, from a long distance, numerous houses located on the hills in Funchal looks a bit like Quito or La Paz. Also, a part of our path up to Pico Ruivo reminded us mountains in Peru (more precisely, the Machu Picchu area). In general, Madeira is really diverse in terms of the landscapes – once I even felt like I was in Wales. The photos below compare different places in Madeira with pictures taken in other parts in the world.
Madeira – bus transport
Taking into account all the experiences from holidays on Madeira, I can recommend this destination for anyone who loves hiking. The only issue that was annoying for me is a fact that we could not understand how buses on this Island works. Bus transport on Madeira is very chaotic and, often, we weren’t sure whether the bus would arrive or not. The stops were also poorly described. For instance, in the city centre of Funchal, there were numerous bus stops, and we always had to find the first stop of a given bus as we never were sure what route a particular bus is going to take. Two buses with the same number could go the same direction by taking two different ways. Also, once, there was a line 154 from Funchal to Cabo Girao, but when we arrived at the bus stop, it turned out that rather than a line it was a route operated by many buses. Finally, we get there by line 7 (two buses number 7 arrived at once, and only one of them went to Cabo Girao). Not to mention that some buses have names like colours, e.g. “a green line” but the bus itself was yellow which was a bit confusing. Or that sometimes we were informed that we have to change a bus and these changes appeared to be random. Now, as we survived and we are safe home, I have to admit that the bus transport on Madeira was also a kind of adventure. Have you got similar experiences or is it just us? This aspect of travelling in Portugal is nothing personal to people from Madeira who I found helpful, friendly and positive.
To sum up, Madeira is a wonderful place with lovely people and many locations to explore. We regret that we could not stay a bit longer, I recommend travelling to this Island for ten days. Have you been there? If yes, how would you answer the question “what to see in Madeira?”. We are happy to hear your travel stories. 🙂 Also, we encourage you to like our fan page on Facebook, here.