Madeira – The 15 most beautiful sights & photo spots (Portugal)

Categories: Travel reports, Europe, Portugal

Madeira has been on our bucket list for a long time and we didn’t think we would visit this island in 2020. Due to the Corona pandemic, travel is only possible to a limited extent this year and we were unfortunately unable to travel to our actual desired destinations due to restrictions and border closures. There are currently (as of November 2020) only a few countries that are classified as “non-risk areas” by the Robert Koch Institute. After researching something on the Internet, our choice was made very quickly in Madeira. Among other things, because we have found a very good package offer with an excellent price-performance ratio. And after we had clicked the booking button, it was only 3 days until the departure. We have never booked a holiday so spontaneously 🙂

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Things to know about Madeira

Madeira is an island of volcanic origin located in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa. The 57 km long and 22 km wide island belongs to Portugal and thus also to the territory of the European Union. The island is home to 250,000 Madeirers. Madeira forms the archipelago of Madeira with the neighbouring island of Porto Santo and two other uninhabited islands.

The flower island of Madeira is a true paradise for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts: a 1,300 km long, well-developed network of hiking trails is waiting to be explored. It greens and blooms all year round; there is a mild climate all year round. At our time at the end of November we had spring-like temperatures up to 22 degrees; in the mountains it was much colder – here even the first snow has fallen. Due to the steep cliffs and high mountains, Madeira has a dense network of tunnels consisting of about 180 tunnels. Some of them are very modern, some even date back to the 16th century.

Since 1999, the lush laurel forest on the north coast of Madeira has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still covers about 20% of the island’s surface. What is very interesting is that Madeira was once one of the largest banana exporters in Europe. Until the TIME when the EU has amended the size regulations for bananas and the bananas from Madeira have ceased to comply with this EU standard.

With TUIfly from Frankfurt to Funchal – Our first flight with baby

We were a bit excited before the flight, because for the first time we flew three on holiday. How does the security check work with a 4-month-old baby? Do we have to drop off the stroller at the check-in counter or at the gate? Will the little mouse sleep during the four-hour flight? And how can we compensate for the pressure of the ears? All the questions we asked ourselves before the flight. And then everything went quite smoothly. We left our stroller quite relaxed directly at the gate, then were able to get on the plane first and take our seats. Although the TUIfly plane was only about 75% full on the out-of-flight, we unfortunately didn’t get a whole row for us. That was a great pity. We were all the more pleased that we had a number for us on the return flight and even received an upgrade to the category “Comfort-Seat”. On both flights, our little one slept a lot; we managed to balance the pressure quite well with a pacifier. The four hours flight actually passed like in flight and we were happy when we landed again. We found the announcement on the return flight “Boarding completed: 162 passengers and 1 baby are on board.” 🙂

At the time of our trip Madeira was not an RKI risk area, i.e. we did not have to be quarantined after our return to Germany. For the entry to Madeira a negative PCR test was required (which can also be done free of charge on site at the airport) as well as a Traveller registration on the page madeirasafe.com. We have already had our PCR test carried out in advance at Frankfurt Airport at our own expense to ensure that if we have a positive result, we do not have to go to a 14-day quarantine in Madeira. All the latest information for Madeira visitors can be found on the Visit Madeirapage.

Our car rental for Madeira

As with (almost) all our holidays, we booked our rental car over billiger-mietwagen.de, because everything went smoothly with our previous rental car bookings via this portal. For our week-long holiday in Madeira, we have a total of 93 EUR for a car rental car of the compact class with automatic. An insanely good value for money!

Our tip: The prices for a rental car are even cheaper if you don’t take an automatic circuit. But we can only recommend it, because the sits in Madeira can really be very steep and narrow!

At Madeira Airport we were picked up by a Centauro car rental company and taken to the car rental station 10 minutes away. There we received our Fiat-Kombi and were positively surprised, because it was relatively new and very spacious. We have a picture of our car here. In the run-up to the event we had booked a baby carrier for 56 EUR. After we had stowed our suitcases, our adventure Madeira could start 🙂

The Hotel Ba’a Azul

Our week-long Madeira holiday was a package offer from a tour operator, so we booked the flight and the hotel together – at a price of 334 EUR per person. An unbeatable offer! At the hotel, we had chosen the Azul Castle, located in Funchal, which can be reached in 25 minutes from the airport. The very positive hotel reviews in various internet portals and Facebook groups, which we had read before, did not disappoint us: our room with sea view was clean, spacious & comfortable, the breakfast buffet was great, the Corona hygiene measures were implemented excellently and the staff were all super friendly. An absolute recommendation of the heart!

Madeira – The 15 most beautiful sights & photo spots

For a week we explored the island with our rental car and discovered beautiful corners: impressive mountain worlds, great landscapes, extraordinary waterfalls, breathtaking views, spectacular coasts, refreshing natural pools, magical sunsets, bizarre rock formations, beautiful gardens & parks, one of the highest cliffs in Europe, numerous hiking trails, an incredible number of rainbows and a mystical cloud forest.

The capital Funchal

Funchal is the capital of Madeira and has about 112,000 inhabitants. For exploring the city, we parked our car in the Parking Plaza CR7 (link in Google Maps) at the port and ran from there into the city. We were able to visit the most important sights in a few hours.

In front of the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum at the harbour we discovered a statue of Cristiano Ronaldo, the most famous son and resident of the island. The footballer was born in Madeira and is revered there: the airport bears his name, there is a Christiano Ronaldo museum, a CR7 hotel and this statue at the port. From the harbour, we strolled along the promenade, passing the Palace of Sao Loureno, the city’s first fortress from the 16th century. From here we went through the old town, past the cathedral of Funchal over the town hall square to the Mercado dos Lavradores, a historic two-storey market hall from 1940. There were all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and seafood. From here it is a few minutes to the bright yellow fortress of Sao Tiago, which is located directly on the shore and is accessible free of charge.

After exploring the city centre, we took the car to the Botanical Garden, which is located just outside the VR1 motorway. Luckily we were able to park right in front of the main entrance and then explored the park within 1.5 hours. The park was opened in 1960, costs 6 EUR entrance fee per person and houses 2,000 exotic plants and a small bird park on a total area of 35,000 m2. The highlight of the park is the large flowerbed pattern in green and red colors, which we really liked.

In the district of Monte is the Catholic Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Monte, which was built in 1741. It is very interesting that the emperor and King Charles of Austria-Hungary, who was beatified in 2004, is buried here.

Just a few meters from the church, there is the mountain station of the famous basket sledders. A ride on such a basket sled is one of Madeira’s most popular tourist attractions. When we were there, unfortunately everything was closed – probably due to the Corona pandemic. Usually you glide here with the two-seater basket sled “Carros de Cesto” at a fast pace (up to 48km/h) down the narrow, winding roads to Livramento. The journey is 2 km long and takes about 10 minutes. The basket sleds are driven by two men, traditionally dressed in white linen clothing and a straw hat, who use the rubber soles of their boots as brakes. Certainly an exciting experience!

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Next to the Botanical Garden there is another tropical garden in Madeira: the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. The main entrance is located directly at the top station of the Funchal-Monte cable car; there is a free parking space a few meters below the entrance. For an entrance fee of EUR 12.50 per person, you have access to the 70,000 m2 site, which contains many exotic plants, art objects, minerals and one of Portugal’s most important tile collections. We particularly liked the two orienteering gardens at Monte Palace, which were equipped with many Chinese and Japanese elements. In addition, the large, middle lake is a very nice photo motif.

The statue of Cristo Rei in Garajau

When you think of a Cristo statue, the well-known Cristo statue in Rio de Janeiro usually comes to mind first. We didn’t even know that there was one of these statues in Madeira before our trip. The 14-metre-high statue has been located east of Funchal since 1927 and looks down on the Atlantic Ocean from a viewing platform. On the platform there are some benches, so that you can watch the sunset or let your view over the ocean to Funchal wander.

The Cabo Giro Skywalk – one of the highest cliffs in Europe

The Cabo Giro is located about 13 kilometres west of Funchal. The observation deck can be reached within 20 minutes from the centre of Funchal by car. Cabo Giro is the name of one of the highest cliffs in Europe. The highlight here since 2012 is a freely accessible skywalk made of glass, which is located 580 meters above sea level. From the glass platform you have a fantastic view of the ocean, Madeira’s coastline and the surrounding nature.

The Pico do Arieiro & the Stairway to Heaven

We were particularly impressed by the majestic mountains of Madeira. On the very first day of our trip we visited the third highest mountain of Madeira, the Pico do Arieiro at an altitude of 1,818 meters. Thanks to its good infrastructure links with direct parking and a cafeteria with souvenir shop, it is the most visited mountain in Madeira. From the car park it is only a few minutes walk to the radar station and the summit. We really liked the view from Pico do Arieiro: In perfect weather we had a very good view and could admire the surrounding mountains and peaks.

From Pico do Ariero, a very popular hiking trail runs around the Pico das Torres (1,851 meters) to The Pico Ruivo, the highest peak of the island at 1,862 meters. The hike lasts 2.5 to 3.5 hours and is intended to offer breathtaking views. A highlight here are certainly the “Stairway to Heaven“, steps of stone that run up to the summit and look as if they are going to the sky. We didn’t do this (strenuous) hike, because it was a bit too daring for us with a 4 month old baby.

Santana – Old Houses & the Parque Florestal das Queimadas

One of our love photographs of Madeira is located in the village of Santana, which is located in the northeast of the island. Here are five replicas of traditional thatched country houses (“Casas de Colmo”) in memory of the local heritage. The red-white-blue painted triangular houses were formerly built from regional materials and covered with thatch or straw. Families once lived in such Santana houses, but today only a few of the houses are inhabited. In the replica cottages you can buy regional products today. We found the flower house particularly beautiful, because before that a huge splendor of colorful flowers bloomed – perfect for a great souvenir photo.

About 10 minutes by car from the Santana Houses, the Parque Florestal das Queimadasis located in the middle of the laurel forest Laurissilva , which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It leads a relatively lonely but asphalted road through the forest until you arrive at a parking lot. Here you will find the thatched, old shelter queimadas and another large, thatched house. The car park is the starting point for various walks along the Levadas, e.B. for the hike PR 9 Levada do Caldeiro Verde. The levadas are artificial irrigation systems through which the water is directed from the precipitation-rich regions in the north and in the centre to the agricultural areas in the drier south.

The Crane Viewpoint & the Eagle Rock

In the northeast of the island we found a beautiful viewpoint just off the VR1 expressway: the Crane Viewpoint. It offers spectacular views of the east coast of Madeira with steep cliffs, rugged rocks and the roaring Atlantic Ocean. Particularly impressive is the 590-metre-high Eagle Rock, which is one of Madeira’s landmarks with its rocky face steeply sloping to the Atlantic Ocean.

The waterfall “Cascata dos Anjos” on the old coastal road ER 101

The most extraordinary waterfall we have ever seen on our travels is definitely the “Cascata dos Anjos” in Madeira. The waterfall falls over a rock face onto the old coastal road ER 101 and is an absolutely ingenious natural spectacle and photo motif. Since the road is not busy, we were able to take some nice photos in peace. Not only did our rental car get a car wash, but we also got a free shower 😉

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The waterfall on the old coastal road in Madeira

The lighthouse of Ponta do Pargo & the waterfall Garganta Funda

Another very beautiful waterfall is the Garganta Funda, which is located in the west of Madeira. You can’t drive directly to this waterfall, but you put it down at the end of a cul-de-sac and walk from there for about 10 minutes until you reach a lookout point. We were here again (as in many other places) completely alone and could enjoy the view of the gigantic waterfall, which is supposed to have a height of 140 meters, in peace. The scenery reminded us of Hawaii a bit: a beautiful waterfall, lush green vegetation and pleasant climate 🙂

The 14-metre-high lighthouse of Ponta do Pargo is about a 10-minute drive from the waterfall. It was commissioned in 1922 and is located at the western tip of the island at an altitude of 290 metres. From here you have a beautiful view of the cliffs, the coastline and the rushing ocean.

The natural swimming pools in Porto Moniz

Little refreshment pleasing? Then you should not miss the magnificent natural swimming pools in Porto Moniz, which are located on the north coast of Madeira. On the one hand, there is a kind of public swimming pool with showers and changing rooms: here you can go swimming in the natural saltwater swimming pool for just 1.50 EUR per person. These are embedded in volcanic rocks and are regularly “flooded” by seawater. On the other hand, there are also natural pools a few meters further away, where you can go for a swim and which do not cost admission. The water temperature here at the end of November was 19 degrees – so quite fresh 😉

The ruins of St. George & the rocks Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela

On the north coast we – besides Porto Moniz – have reached other beautiful sights. About 3 kilometers from Porto Moniz, a few meters off the coast is the rock formation Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela, which gives a very nice photo motif. If you drive the ve2 road further east, you pass the Miradouro do Véu da Noivaviewpoint just after Seixal , from which you have an unbelievably great view of the Véu da Noiva waterfall and the old coastal road ER 101. Since the old road is no longer passable at this section, one unfortunately does not get closer to the waterfall.

Another beautiful photo spot and small hiking trail we found in the area around Sao Jorge. Here you will find the ruins of St. George as well as a beautiful hiking trail right on the ocean. Luckily it hadn’t rained at the time, so we could walk it along a bit.

The Cloud Forest Florestal Fanal

There was actually a day during our trip when we deliberately wanted some worse weather, because we wanted to visit the cloud forest. And for that we had wanted rain and good fog. What are we to say … we were actually not disappointed 😉 The Cloud Forest is located in the Fanal region in the north-west of the island and is part of the large UNESCO laurel forest area in Madeira. We had parked our car directly at the posto Florestal Fanal forest house and explored the area from here. At the beginning we met a few animal forest dwellers, who grazed quite relaxed on the meadows. The fog was nicely deep and there was a bit of sneelled, so that the forest looked really mystical. We took a short walk through a part of the forest and then quickly returned to the car, because the weather became a bit uncomfortable.

The Peninsula of Ponta de Sao Loureno

Before our trip we had picked out some nice hikes, which we wanted to do (at least partially). One of them was on the pontife peninsula of Sao Loureno (PR 8 Vereda da Ponta de Sao Loureno). We tried twice to start a hike, but unfortunately every time the weather made a dent in our bill. It rained a lot and a strong wind blew, a short time later the clouds pulled off and blue skies appeared – and in about 10 minutes change. This was too risky for us with a small baby, because the hike on the peninsula to the easternmost tip takes several hours back and forth.

The Nunn Tal Curral das Freiras and the viewpoint Eira do Serrado

A good half hour from Funchal, is located in the heart of the island nestled between mountain slopes the Nuns Valley Curral das Freiras. The small village is located at an altitude of 633 meters and looks as if it is completely cut off from the outside world. A single (very modern) road leads to the place, which seems very sleepy. In the past, the valley was inhabited by nomads and shepherds; Towards the end of the 15th century, the land became the property of the nuns of the monastery of Santa Clara – hence the name Nonnental. There is not so much to see in the place itself. Much more exciting and rewarding is the eira do Serrado viewpoint,from which you have a fantastic view of Madeira’s mountains and the Nuns Valley. We were really lucky during our visit, because there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky.

Hike to The Viewpoint Miradouro dos Balcées

We found one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Madeira in Ribeiro Frio. From the small village begins the 1.5 km long, very simple hike “PR11 Vereda dos Balcées” along a levada and various endemic plant species to the viewpoint “Miradouro dos Balcées“. From the observation deck we had a magnificent view of the Landscape of Madeira: green valleys, laurel forest where the eye can see and majestic mountains. At first we had a very good view, so we could see the central mountain range with the Pico do Areeiro, the Pico do Gato, the Pico das Torres and the Pico Ruivo. Gradually the sky moved and we started our way back.

A map with all sights & photo spots in Madeira

On the following GoogleMyMaps map we have mapped all the important sights and photo spots we visited during our week-long trip to the island.

Madeira, Map, Attractions, Attractions, Photospots, Map

Overall, we were really excited about the island of Madeira. Despite its manageable size with a length of 57 km and a width of 22, the island is very versatile and there is a lot to experience ❤

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