There are so many day trips and tours on Madeira Island. From island excursions to other activities, there are many must-sees on Madeira. It might be hard to choose the right day trips and tours on Madeira for your holiday or 7-day itinerary. Ideally, you stay longer than a week on this amazing flower island, so you can visit all the sights of the island, but most people from Europe go for a 7-day trip to Madeira. Click here if you’re looking for more practical travel information for a Madeira holiday.
Pre-book activities & excursions to the best sights on Madeira for your holiday
In this post, I will give you an idea about the day trips, island tours, activities, excursions and Levada walks on Madeira Island so you will visit the best sights of the island. I also include links so you can pre-book those day trips and tours before you arrive on Madeira. I do receive a small commission through those links, but this post is based on my personal experience. I’m sponsored orso in any way.
The best day trips & tours for a week on Madeira island
Because personal interests may vary, I give you an overview of the best day trips and tours, so you can create your own Madeira Island itinerary for a week or longer! I include the tours and excursions you absolutely must do, and can’t miss, on Madeira Island. I did not rent a car, but all day trips and tours in this post can be done with or without renting a car on Madeira Island. I will also give you some bonus tips for if you’re a scuba diver!
No time for sightseeing during my first holiday to Madeira!
Madeira Island is very close to me, because I’m living on the Canary Islands. There is a direct flight between the two archipelagos (ad), of less than 1,5 hours. I first went on a 5-day holiday to Madeira Island, but I decided to go scuba diving on Porto Island. I booked a return boat ferry from Madeira to Porto Santo Island, so I got to spend my first and last day on Madeira.
Although I only got some vibes of Funchal, I felt this strong urge to go back and see more of the island. You can read more about Porto Santo Island at the end of this post.
During my stay for 10 days on Madeira I finally got to do some day trips and tours
Half a year later, I returned to Madeira Island for about 10 days. I created my own Madeira Island itinerary for a bit longer than 7 days, which included the Madeira West tour, Madeira East tour and nun’s valley on a half a day tour. I did two levada walks, the 25 fountains of Rabaçal and the mountain hike to the highest peak of Madeira, from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. If you book anything through the links provided in this post, I receive a small commission.
Then I came back for a month to explore Madeira Island
I also visited the Botanical Gardens and did a Funchal city walk, before taking off to the Azores Islands. After the Azores, I returned to Madeira and stayed for a month. The third time I did even more day trips, tours, excursions and levada walks. I traveled Madeira without renting a car. You can find a link to all my other posts about Madeira here. But I strongly recommend to check out this post full of practical travel information for Madeira Island.
Day trips & tours that you must do for seeing the best sights of Madeira
So, with all those day trips, tours and levada walks, I now have a good impression of the must-dos to include in your Madeira Island 7-day itinerary! There are so many different levada walks and island tours, that it’s hard to choose. If you like to rent a car during your holiday on Madeira Island, you might still use the recommendations in this post to do those day trips and tours on Madeira at your own pace.
Sightseeing and excursions on Madeira Island without a rental car
I did all the things on Madeira without a car. I booked the day trips, island tours and levada walks that most tour companies offer, and I’ll include the links where you can book them (ad). You can do the same day trip excursions, tours and levada walks by yourself with a rental car, but keep in mind that not all levada walks are circular, so for those levada hikes, you need to organize transport back to the starting point.
What day trips and island tours should I do to see the best sights of Madeira?
If you’re planning to travel to the Madeira archipelago, I suggest including the below in your Madeira Island 7-day itinerary. Once again, you can book those day trips and tours on Madeira with tour companies for a very reasonable price. But if you prefer to rent a car, you can go to most of the same sights on Madeira by yourself
Day Trips & Tours to see the best sights of Madeira and to include in your 7-day itinerary:
- 2 days to do two full-day trip island tours to see Madeira, do both the Madeira West Tour and the Madeira East Tour . With those two tours, you’ll see most highlights and gain a good overall impression of Madeira Island
- 2 days to do two Levada walks in different areas of Madeira Island for a variety of landscapes. do one hike in the Laurisilva forest, like the 25 fountains of Rabaçcal or Caldeirao Verde. And combine this one with a Levada walk between the mountain peaks or an easier levada hike through farmlands.
- 1 day to visit the Botanical Gardens and Monte Palace Garden in Funchal
- 1 day to combine a half-day tour of nun’s valley with a Funchal city walk and include a walk through Funchal’s old town, or go wine tasting in Funchal
- 1 day: free to choose! You can go on a boat excursion, go dolphin and whale watching by Catamaran, go for another levada walk, do a full day Madeira wine tour, go shopping in Funchal or just relax and absorb some sunshine.
(All above links are ads, I receive a small commission on your purchase)
Extra tip for scuba divers going on a holiday to Madeira
Scuba diving is nice on Madeira! You can go scuba diving by either doing a one-day beginner’s experience, or guided dives in the Funchal eco-park (ads) for certified divers. You can also dive the Afonso Cerqueira Wreck (ad) if you’re an experienced diver. Don’t wait till your last day and keep your no-flight time after diving in mind. As an ex dive instructor who has been working all around the world, I did enjoy scuba diving in Madeira!
Madeira West Tour is one of the most beautiful day trips on Madeira island
They say that the Madeira West Tour (ad) is the most beautiful day trip of Madeira, and I absolutely recommend to do this excursion during your hoilday on Madeira. You visit the charming fishing village of Camara de Lobos, drive through the beautiful Encumeada pass, stop at Sao Vicente and see the natural pools in Porto Moñiz, amongst much more. You also stop at amazing viewpoints during the Madeira Island West tour. You will be amazed to see such a variety of landscapes and how the microclimate changes throughout the day.
What to bring on the Madeira Island West Tour day trip?
Don’t forget to bring a jacket because it can be much colder in the mountains, and swimwear so you can soak in a natural pool in Porto Moñiz after your lunch break. Also, bring some hiking boots or shoes, if you like to do the short levada walk during this tour. Here is a little video about the west tour of Madeira Island to give you a good impression.
Do the Madeira East tour for seeing the best sights on the other side of the island
I really liked the day trip called Madeira East Tour (ad) too, and I especially enjoyed the visit to Santana. The lovely village, with its famous A-framed houses and flowers everywhere, is something truly special to see and experience. Also, the stop at the entrance point for the Ribeira Frio levada walk, the visit to an old rum factory and the view over Sao Lourenço are all interesting things to see on Madeira.
You also stop in Garajau where you can imagine yourself in Brasil due to the huge Jesus statue. Both day trips together, the West and East tour, give you a good overall impression of Madeira island.
A tip for the excursion Madeira Island East Tour
The day tour of Madeira Island East offers some truly amazing photo opportunities. Don’t forget to charge your cellphone or bring a nice camera, you don’t want to end up without being able to make some really nice pictures. Here is a little video of the east tour.
The Levada Walk to the 25 fountains of Rabaçal is a full day trip tour on Madeira
There are so many different Levada hikes to choose from, but I recommend doing one levada hike through the Laurisilva forest, like the 25 fountains of Rabaçal levada walk (ad). It is a circular route, so you can also go there with a rental car. This Levada hike goes right through the laurel forest and includes lots of waterfalls (that’s where the name 25 fountains comes from).
What to bring to the 25 fountains Levada walk on Madeira
You can go for a swim close to the waterfall during your lunch break, so bring your swimwear and a towel. Also, bring a jacket or raincoat, since it can be a bit colder or rainy up there. Book this levada walk (ad) well in advance, because it’s the most populair Levada hike on Madeira Island and sometimes this day trip is fully booked, especially in the high season. Here is a video about the 25 fountains of Rabaçal levada hike.
Do Caldeirao Verde Levada walk if the 25 fountains of Rabaçal Levada hike is fully booked
The Levada walk at the 25 Fountains is one of the most popular Levada walks and can be fully booked, especially in the high season. If this is the case, I would instead choose to do the Caldeirao Verde Levada walk (ad), which also includes a waterfall. I’m still creating new videos for the hikes I did after I came back from the Azores islands, so don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel or sign up for the mailing list if you like to stay up-to-date.
Second levada walk: the mountain hike to the highest peak of Madeira Island
I would plan the second Levada walk on a different part of the island, for a variety in landscape. I really enjoyed the adventure of hiking to the highest peak of Madeira, the Levada walk from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (ad). This hike might not be for everyone. It is classified as a hike for experienced hikers, or as a challenging walk. It contains many stairs and includes 4600 steps.
I name it, just in case you want to keep your sour muscles in mind, for planning more day trips and excursion on Madeira 🙂 The hike goes along steep drop-offs, although there are lines where you can hold on to.
What should I bring on the Levada walk from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo?
You do need to wear shoes with a good grip and also take clothes for sun protection, as well as for cold and rain. Because the weather on Madeira is always a surprise, no matter what time of the year it is. Also, you pass through some tunnels so if you go by yourself, bring a waterproof torch (it can be wet in the tunnels) or you might like to read more about getting an affordable, waterproof Blackview phone.
Is the levada hike to Pico Ruivo a circular route?
Keep in mind that this hike has a different starting and ending point. If you’re planning on going there by rental car, you need to organize the transport back to the starting point. But if you’re a confident hiker, I would absolutely do this amazing mountain walk to the highest peak of Madeira. Here is a video about my hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo:
An easier Levada walk to add to your Madeira Island 7-day itinerary
If you don’t like the challenge of hiking to the highest peak of Madeira, there are many other Levada walks on Madeira, that can be booked as a day trip or tour. Especially the so-called easier levada hikes, like the one to Paradise Valley. (ad). You can also do a hike to Sao Lourenço, in the East point of Madeira (ad) make sure to bring lots of sun protection for this one!
If you’re not a keen hiker, there are many other day trips & tours on Madeira to choose from
Of course, if you’re not much into hiking, you can also swap the Levada walks for something I mention in the day `free to choose`, in the above 7-day itinerary. It’s hard to create a strict Madeira Island 7-day travel scheme. Interests vary and therefore I like to give you some options. Madeira Island has so much to offer. You might be even more adventurous and like to go canyoning on Madeira Island.(ad)
The Madeira Botanical Gardens in Funchal & Monte Palace Garden Park
Personally, and depending on the availability of the excursions, I would alternate the hiking day trips with the island tours. This way, you keep some variety in your Madeira itinerary. Keep in mind that you also walk quite a lot during the visit to the Botanical Gardens and during the Funchal city walk. I did both the Madeira Botanical Garden and Monte Palace garden on one day. You can read more about visiting the garden parks of Madeira island in this post.
The garden parks in Funchal on Madeira
Both garden parks are big, I walked more than 10 km on this day (although I needed to pass the Botanical Gardens for a second time to catch the bus back at the entrance gate down, read more here). I recommend doing both garden parks in Funchal, because they both are beautiful but different.
However, you might only want to do one park and combine it with a Funchal tour by tuk-tuk (ad), or the half-day Nun’s valley tour (ad). Here is a video about the Botanical Gardens and Monte Palace Garden on Madeira Island:
Half day trips and walking tours through Funchal on Madeira
I would absolutely schedule some time in Funchal for your Madeira Island itinerary. The different parts of Funchal include the charming old town (ad) full of art, small old streets and cozy restaurants. Sao Martinho, the more touristy and fancy part, has luxury hotels, a shopping center and the Lido promenade with a bathing complex. There are museums, old buildings, cathedrals and churches in the city center of Funchal. Don’t forget to stroll around the harbor area where huge cruise ships are laying in the port. Also, visit the charming little city park and Santa Catarina Park.
A word about the farmer’s market in Funchal
If your time is limited, definitely walk through the old town part of Funchal (ad), also called ‘Zona Velha’, and soak up some culture. In regards to the farmers’ market, a local guide told me that the fruits are overpriced there. She said that if you like to support the local farmers of Madeira, it’s much better to buy fruits from the little fruit stalls which can be found all around town. The farmers’ market is still nice for a visit though! There is a fish market as well, and lots of flowers.
Where to find information for the bus times and schedules to explore Funchal?
Looking at the fact that the routes, timetables and prices of the Funchal busses change at times, I decided not to include this information. I recommend going to one of the tourist information stalls close to the harbor or in Funchal city and picking up an information leaflet. You can also get a Funchal city map from the tourist information office and plan your own Funchal city walk (ad).
Discover Funchal by sightseeing tour bus, tuk-tuk or tukxi
There are different busses to do sightseeing tours in Funchal. This bus works like a hop-on, hop-off system, and it takes you to different parts of Funchal, including places like Câmara de Lobos and Cabo Girao. Although you will visit those places during the Madeira Island West tour. You can also discover Funchal by tuk-tuk, or tukxi.
I receive a small commission on all links above. You can also explore Funchal at your own pace. Here is a video of my Funchal city walk. SSubscribe to Splashpacker YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss my upcoming videos 🙂
Half day trips & tours to Nun’s Valley: Curral das Freiras is a must-see on Madeira Island!
Nun’s Valley is located about 12 km from Funchal, and most tour companies include pick-up and drop-off for this tour from Garajau too. It’s a very low-cost tour (ad), the price goes from €25,- in 2023. The valley of the nuns, also called Curral das Freiras, is only half a day trip (ad).
You can combine an excursion to the valley of the nun’s with more sightseeing in Funchal
If you go in the morning, you will be picked up at 9 AM and dropped off around 2 PM. This tour is easy to combine with doing more sightseeing in Funchal, a city walk, or a visit to one of the botanical garden parks. Here is a little video of Nun’s Valley:
How many days do I need to see all the best sights of Madeira?
This article focuses on the most beautiful day trips and tours for seeing the best sights if you’re only staying for a week. However, you can stay much longer in Madeira and see much more of the island. In addition to all the day trips and excursions to the most beautiful sights in this post, Madeira offers a variety of things to do if you want to stay longer.
Day trips & tours for staying longer than 7 days on Madeira Island
If you have more than 7 days on Madeira Island, you will not get bored. In fact, if you have the time and the possibility to stay longer, I would absolutely do so! Canyoning, an adventurous activity that is gaining more popularity, is possible on Madeira (ad) and you can also go dolphin & whale watching on a catamaran boat trip from Funchal (ad). No matter if you like to create a Madeira Island itinerary for 10 days, 14 days, or a month, you will not run out of things to do! If you are a beach lover and have more than 7 days on Madeira, I would pay a visit to Porto Santo Island.
Visit Porto Santo Island during your Madeira holiday
Porto Santo Island is a little island of about 42 km2, located at a 2,5 hours-ferry boat ride from Madeira Island. It is known for its beautiful beaches, especially because there are not many white beaches on Madeira Island. I first fell in love with Porto Santo Island due to the friendliness of the local people. I stayed in the Hotel Porto Santo & Spa (ad) and had a very nice stay there. There are lots of spas and health centers on Porto Santo island. It is said that the sand of Porto Santo Island has healing powers. Find your hotel in the search below, or click here to book it on Booking (ad)
Save some CO2-emission and catch the ferry to Porto Santo Island
If you can stretch your Madeira Island 7-day itinerary a bit, I would definitely visit this lovely island for some relaxation on the beach and in the spas. You can do a little island tour, walk around, do watersports, or go scuba diving. You can fly from Funchal to Porto Santo, but I would keep the environment in mind and just catch the ferry. With a restaurant and cinema on board, you can just chill out, save some CO2 emissions and nitrogen oxides, and enjoy the boat ride. On the way back to Madeira, I also caught an amazing sunset from the ferry.
Extra tip for scuba divers going for a holiday to Madeira Island
Porto Santo Island offers beautiful unspoiled scuba diving. There are two wrecks to dive and you will be amazed by the grouper, called Ginja (see the video below). But you can also do some nice scuba diving on Madeira Island (ad), including the dive site of the Alfonso Cerqueira wreck (ad), as mentioned in the above suggestion of your Madeira Island 7-day itinerary. In Garajau, you can dive with the groupers and discover the cutest little scuba dive center in a cave. There are different dive centers in Funchal, there is one in Caniço and Calheta and there are more to be found around the island.
Conclusion for day trips & tours to the best sights of Madeira Island
I hope this post has given you a good idea about what day trips and tours to include in your Madeira Island itinerary. I’m currently writing a blog post with practical travel information for a Madeira Island holiday, and I recommend checking it out. It is full of tips on where to stay, finding your best flight deal, if you should rent a car, and seasons on Madeira. Subscribe to my channel below to get notified when this post is available. Or click here for an overview of all Madeira posts.
My personal experience of doing all those day trips and tours Madeira Island
For more personal impressions, you can check out a personal travel blog post about my first days in Funchal and visit to the Botanical Gardens. Here you can read more about the mountain hike to the highest point of Madeira, and the Madeira Island West tour. I’m still working on a follow-up personal blog post to that one with my stay in Garajau, hiking the 25 fountains, doing the Madeira East tour and Nun’s Valley. Next up are the Azores islands!
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Safe travels, happy bubbles & enjoy Madeira Island!!