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4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

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Are you wondering about all the incredible things you can see and do during a short 4 days in Madeira? I’m here to show you…

My Mum owns a timeshare out in Madeira via the Pestana Group and so I’m fortunate enough to have been to Madeira at least four times over the past twenty years. And yet I still have a strong desire to go back; this time taking my husband Scott along with me. I think that probably tells you a lot about just how incredible Madeira really is as a travel destination.

Anyway, it’s safe to say I’ve seen a lot of Madeira during those four trips, which has allowed me to come back here and show you all the very best bits – especially if you’ve only got 4 days to spare.

Psst! This itinerary is the first in a long line of Madeira travel blogs I plan to write over the next few months; subscribe now so you don’t miss them!

Bird of Paradise Flower in Madeira

4 Days in Madeira Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Nicknamed ‘the island of eternal spring’, Madeira is a stunning island within the Portuguese archipelago and is full of treasures for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to uncover. 

It’s a small island, which means spending 4 days in Madeira will give you a feel for what this Portuguese archipelago is all about while allowing you to see more than just the capital city of Funchal. 

However, if you were to ask me how many days in Madeira is best for your first visit then I’d say that you’ll probably want to spend at least a week there instead. This would allow you to explore the island at a slower pace while still saving time for relaxing in the sun.

But for when you really can only spend 4 days in Madeira, here’s how to make the most of it…

Read Next: When Is The Best Time To Visit Madeira?

Views of Porto Moniz from afar

Day 1: Funchal

Funchal is Madeira’s capital city and is probably where you’ll be staying while in Madeira as it’s convenient, close to the airport and a popular pickup point for Madeira tours and day trips around the island. 

I’d suggest spending a full day exploring the best bits of Funchal such as:

Santa Catarina Park

A stroll through Santa Catarina Park is a relaxing way to start your 4 days in Madeira itinerary.

It’s important to note that this is one of the largest parks in Madeira so you won’t be able to see all of it. 

But a slow stroll for around an hour will allow you to take in all the flora, fauna, fountains and views (we nearly got a full alliteration of ‘f’s there!) Dotted around the park are also plenty of benches and tree-covered nooks, so do take your time here.

Santa Catarina Park, Funchal, Madeira

Madeira Botanical Garden

You’ll need to drive or hop on a bus or in a taxi to get to the Madeira Botanical Garden from the centre of Funchal. Alternatively, you could also use the Funchal Cable Car, which includes a stop at the botanical gardens en route to Monte. 

Either way, a visit here is well worth the trip.

Madeira Botanical Garden

There are around 12 acres of gardens to explore so it warrants at least a couple of hours spent here. Alongside impressive landscaped gardens with sea views as their backdrop, you’ll also come across tropical fruit trees, sweeping lakes and even an aviary of exotic birds including cockatoos and parakeets.

Monte

From the gardens, either hop back in your car, bus or taxi or use the cable car to get to Monte in the suburbs of Funchal. 

Here you’ll find an interesting 18th century church (note that there are over 50 steps in front of the entrance!), as well as yet more incredible gardens

Monte Church, Madeira

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is home to beautiful areas to walk around at different levels; some of which are Japanese-inspired complete with stepping stones, arched bridges, ornate pagodas and torii gates. 

It’s a stunning place – and I’d wager that you’ll love it even more than the botanical gardens you saw earlier in the day.

Toboggan Ride

Monte is also where to come if you want to hop on a traditional Madeiran toboggan and squeal all the way down a steep and zigzagging hill while suicidal men jump on and off behind you to steer and stop the basket! It’s great fun but definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

Cable Car

Alternatively, a gentler and more relaxing way to leave Monte is via the cable car, which you can stay on all the way down to the main part of Funchal. The views from up here are beautiful and very green!

Views of Madeira from the Cable Car

Day 2: Best of the West Island Tour

One of the most relaxing ways to get around Madeira without a car is to join organised day tours. I like to use Get Your Guide to find tours like this.

As you’ve only got 4 days in Madeira, I’d recommend taking two full day tours; one to the western side of the island and the other to the eastern side. 

You’ll see a heck of a lot during each of them as well as some of the best (and most scenic!) parts of Madeira. 

Up first: the west and some of my favourite sights to see in Madeira! I really like this tour as it takes you to all kinds of places like:

Câmara de Lobos

This quaint fishing town is close to Funchal and often one of the first stops on a day tour to the western side of the island. The harbour here is quite active, so there’s lots of boat and dog… I mean people watching to be had.

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Cabo Girão

Cabo Girão is a famous clifftop viewpoint in Madeira. From here, you can see Funchal in the distance and how steep the drop is down to the coast.

Views from Cabo Girao

Ribeira Brava

Ribeira Brava is one of the many coastal villages you’ll explore during the tour. There’s a black sand beach here as well as high viewpoints you can enjoy too.

Pretty little waterfall in Madeira

Encumeada

Speaking of viewpoints, the ones from Encumeada are something else entirely. At over 1,000 metres high, you’ll likely be above the clouds. And if your tour guide gives you the option to follow part of the ‘levada’ walk here then be sure to take the opportunity for an unforgettable walk above the clouds.

São Vicente

Surrounded by eclipsing mountains and views out to the sea, São Vicente is a fabulous little town to wander around.

Porto Moniz

Your final stop on this tour (and might I add one of the best places to end with!) is Porto Moniz along the north side of the island. Here you can take in the sea views and see how the island was created by volcanoes. You can even swim in volcanic rock pools!

Madeira Porto Moniz

These particular rock formations are made from the uneven spreading of volcanic lava, which have then filled up with fresh sea water. These pools are very popular with locals and tourists alike and only cost a couple of Euros to dip your feet or swim in.

Even just a walk around the town of Porto Moniz itself will show you yet more formations carved from volcanic rock such as caves you can walk through and explore.

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Madeira Porto Moniz Volcano Caves

Day 3: Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour

Another must-do Madeira tour is to hop on a catamaran from Funchal Marina to go in search of whales and dolphins. 

What’s really incredible is that the dolphins seem to be so used to these tours that they actually swim alongside the catamaran scratching their backs across it!

Dolphin watching in Madeira

Most tours like this also give you time at the end to swim and snorkel in the Atlantic. It’ll probably be cold but a quick dip is always fun!

Check out Get Your Guide for various catamaran tours in Madeira and their prices >>

Day 4: Best of the East Island Tour

You’ve seen the best of the west of Madeira; now’s your chance to see all the best bits in the east.

Once again, check out Get Your Guide for various Madeira tours you can take. I love this one as it also includes a walk along part of the levadas. 

Here’s what else you’ll get the chance to see and do:

Camacha

Camacha is home to a large wicker factory where you can buy unique souvenirs and watch the artists making everything from wicker baskets to full-sized wild animals!

Camacha Wicker Factory, Madeira

Pico do Arieiro 

Pico do Arieiro is another of Madeira’s most famous viewpoints. Once again, you’ll probably find yourself above the clouds, this time looking across gorges and valleys from 1,818 metres up.

Views from the top of Pico do Arieiro, Madeira

Ribeiro Frio

Ribeiro Frio is a small village with another fabulous vista point. It’s also one of the most popular starting points for a levada walk. And if you’re lucky enough, your tour guide may even allow you some time to follow the levadas before hopping back on the coach. Not sure what a levada is? It’s a man-made channel created to carry water around the island to help with the irrigation of agricultural fields – and they’re a lot of fun to follow through the trees as you walk.

Walking along the levadas in Madeira

Santana

You’ve likely already heard about the triangular straw-topped houses that Madeirans used to live in. Now’s your chance to wander around an entire village of them and even see inside some!

Traditional straw huts in Santana, Madeira

Ponta de São Lourenço

If there’s enough time, then your tour guide will probably take you to Ponta de São Lourenço, which is the most easterly point of the island and home to stunning cliff top views across the sea.

Machico

Your final stop on a tour of the east of Madeira is likely to be Machico, which is home to a man-made sandy beach (one of only a handful in Madeira!) The beach is hugged by cliffs, which means you’ll be shielded from strong winds while you relax and watch the waves roll in. 

Is this Madeira itinerary not quite what you were after? We also offer custom travel planning services!

Funchal Marina

Where To Stay In Madeira

As you’ve only got 4 days in Madeira, you’re best staying within Funchal. It’ll be more convenient for taxis to the airport and for sightseeing – and it’s also the most common pick up point for tours around the island. 

As mentioned earlier, my Mum owns a timeshare in Madeira through the Pestana Group, which has allowed me to stay at the following hotels:

If you’re after sea views then I definitely recommend staying at Pestana Palms. But I also loved the privacy and picturesque grounds of Pestana Village while Pestana Grand is worth the 5-star luxury price tag if you can afford it.

Alternatively, other top-rated hotels in Funchal include:

Discover more hotels in Funchal on Booking.com >>
Or check out Hotels.com >>

How To Get To Madeira

Although Madeira is a common pitstop on various cruise and ferry journeys, you’ll likely be flying into Madeira for your 4 day trip. 

What you might not know is that Funchal Airport has one of the trickiest runways to land on in the world! It’s short, juts out over the sea and is prone to strong winds. 

This means that not every airline flies into Funchal as it requires the pilot to have a very specific set of skills. Popular airlines that fly to Madeira from the UK though include British Airways, easyjet, Jet2.com and TUI.

That said, as Madeira’s popularity grows, more and more airlines are adding Funchal to their destination list. There’s certainly a lot more choice of airlines today than when I went on my first trip to Madeira nearly twenty years ago. (Gosh, how time flies!)


Over to you now – I’d love to know what you think of this 4 day Madeira itinerary! Do you have any questions about your upcoming trip? Write me a note below; I always reply!

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Need help planning your trip to Madeira? We also offer custom travel planning services!

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