Madeira, a part of Portugal, is a compact island that can be discovered in a week. The island has a lot to offer: warm sunny weather, beautiful landscapes, great food and drinks, and a lot of activities. 55 km (34 miles) long Madeira Island has a width of 22 km (14 miles) and a coastline of about 144 km (90 miles). Its highest point, Ruivo Peak, rises 1,861 metres (96,106 feet) above sea level. Because of the privileged geographical position and mountainous relief, it has a mild climate. So why go to Madeira? In my opinion, it’s because of amazing landscapes, stunning views, and exceptional Levada walks. Madeira is a mountainous island, and if you, like me, come from a flat country, it’s better to enjoy tours of local travel agencies in full instead of renting a car. So here is my advice for a one-week Madeira itinerary without a car.
Day 1. Funchal
Before you see Funchal, visit a local travel agency to set your whole trip up. When it’s done, you are ready to see Funchal. My first choice was going up by cable car to Monte. My second choice was to visit Tropical gardens. Afterwards, I saw Our Lady of Monte Church. Then I had a ride of about 2 km (1.2 miles) on the toboggan, an exceptional experience of Funchal. After quite a long walk to the city centre, I suggest not missing the street art on de Santa Maria Street and taking the opportunity to visit at least one fortress of the city. Visit the Cathedral and Farmers market as well. It may be too much for one day, so visit some of these sites the next morning.
Day 2. Funchal and catamaran tour
In the morning, visit the sights of Funchal you missed on your first day. In the afternoon, take a catamaran dolphin watching tour. Despite me not being able to spot any dolphins, the tour was worth it because of the great views of Madeira Island from the ocean.
Day 3. West tour
Take the West tour visiting Cabo Girão, the second highest sea cliff in the world and the highest sea cliff in Europe. Afterwards, see Ribeira Brava and head north, up through the valleys of Serra D'Agua. Then see São Vicente, one of the most predominant villages on the northern coast of Madeira. The next stop is at the beautiful village of Porto Moniz, where you can admire the amazing volcanic swimming pools. After that, you will see Madeira's highest plateau with all its spectacular panoramas before going back to Funchal.
Day 4 Levada tour
Levadas are narrow irrigation channels that supply water from North to South of Madeira. There are footpaths next to the channels. Levadas in Madeira are about 3,000 km (1,864 miles) long, and about 300 km (186 miles) are walkable. If you have just one day for Levada walk, take the opportunity to go on Rabacal Risco, 25 Fontes full day walk. Just remember to have some light with you for getting through the tunnel and be prepared for crowds as it’s the most popular Levada walk in Madeira.
Day 5. East tour
The first stop of the tour is Terreiro da Luta. Then head to the mountain Pico do Arieiro. At an altitude of 1,818 metres (5,965 feet), it’s the third highest peak on the island and has breathtaking views. Have a lunch in Santana that is characterised by its small thatched triangular houses. After that, go to Ponta de São Lourenço, situated in the eastern part of the island; this is the place where you can admire a fantastic combination of rocks and sea. The last town on this trip is Machico. The town offers a stunning view of the bay and the golden sandy beach.
Day 6. Full or half-day Levada tour
My choice was Maroços/Mimosa Valley half-day levada walk. On this walk, you get magnificent views over the Valley of Machico where the Portuguese sailors landed on the island for the first time. Along this trail, you will also see farmlands with vegetable gardens and fruit trees mixed with exotic flowers along the way.Use your afternoon to visit some more places in Funchal.
Day 7. Half-day Nuns Valley tour
The first stop of this tour is at Pico dos Barcelos viewpoint, located at 355 metres (1,165 feet) above sea level. From this splendid location, you will experience a 360o view of Funchal. The next stop is Eira do Serrado viewpoint, located at an elevation of 1,095 metres (3,593 feet). From there, you have a stunning view from Curral das Freiras (Nuns Valley) and the majestic mountain of the central massif that surrounds it. The next stop is the picturesque village of Curral das Freiras (Nuns Valley). In the end, there is a short break in Câmara de Lobos. The beautiful fishing village is known for its magnificent bay with colourful fishing boats. Here you may try some local drinks, like poncha or Madeira Wine. I recommend taking more time to explore Câmara de Lobos and maybe having lunch there. Then just return to Funchal by public bus.
The island is quite small and the tours offered by different travel companies are very much alike. You can book tours around Madeira on the internet or in person on arrival. When planning your tours, just be mindful that some of them are only offered on specific days of the week; check with the tour office in advance to avoid disappointment. I visited the travel company office on the day of my arrival and booked all the tours for my trip there. I used Lido Tours for most of the tours I had and was satisfied with their service. They also sold me a dolphin watching tour done by WMT Madeira. I booked the Nuns Valley tour from the Happy Tours travel agency. What to expect from the tour? Well, a driver is a guide. If you do walking tours, then you have a driver and a guide. Group size usually is from 5 to 15 persons and the price for a day tour is about 25 euros and a half-day tour from 15 euros at the time of publishing. Day bus ticket in Funchal is 5 euros.
Disclaimer. I paid in full for all tours described in this article.
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Author: Anita Sāne
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