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Madeira

12 Can’t-Miss Places to Visit in Madeira

There are a lot of beautiful islands to explore in this world, but the Portuguese island of Madeira remains a hidden gem and cruiser paradise thanks to all it has to offer! From the vibrant city of Funchal where the cruise ships dock, to the rocky cliffs of Ponta de São Lourenço and the beach of nearby Porto Santo island, there’s countless places to explore when visiting this spectacular part of the world. 

If you’re cruising to Madeira or visiting the island on an extended stay, here are 12 of the can’t-miss places to visit when you arrive!

Miradouro das Neves (São Gonçalo)

To the East of Funchal, the Neves viewpoint is one of the most popular spots to take in the view. Overlooking Funchal Bay, the viewpoint boasts 360-degree views of Funchal’s downtown. Only about a 15 minute drive from the cruise port, the viewpoint should be a stop for any cruiser or visitor to the island. 

Funchal Port, view from Miradouro de São Gonçalo

Mercado dos Lavradores

A popular meeting place for locals, the Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal’s downtown farmer’s market, is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the unique culture of the island. The market features local fruits, vegetables, fish, flowers and more, all sourced from around the island. It’s a great place to enjoy some of the island’s most popular cuisine like grilled beef skewers called espetada or a circular flatbread called Bolo do Caco.

Mercado dos Lavradores

Monte Palace Tropical Garden and Carreiros do Monte

Exotic plant lovers will not want to skip Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal, a museum with a huge collection of plant life and art pieces for visitors to enjoy. There is also a gemstone collection with more than 1,000 pieces to view. The Carreiros do Monte are wicker sleds mounted by two runners who bring guests on a ride through the many streets of the Monte region just Northeast of Funchal.

Carreiros do Monte

Cabo Girão

For adventure-seekers, the skywalk of Cabo Girão is a must-see when visiting Madeira. Rising 580 meters above sea level, the glass skywalk is suspended over the cliff face, making for a thrilling experience! The spot is popular for hiking as well as paragliding from the very top of the cliffs. It’s one of the best places on the island for a really cool photo opportunity!

Curral das Freiras

Located in the heart of the island, Curral das Freiras is set in a mountain valley with peaks towering thousands of feet above. Known in English as the ‘Valley of the Nuns’, the history of this village is just as rich as the culture visitors can immerse themselves in. Isolated from the rest of the island via the mountains, visitors should make sure to visit during the annual Chestnut Festival. 

Balcões – Ribeiro Frio

Another small village in the middle of the island, Ribeiro Frio is home to the famous Balcões viewpoint hike offering spectacular views of the Ribeira da Metade Valley. The region is a natural park and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike thanks to beautiful hiking trails of varying difficulty.

 

Balcões – Ribeiro Frio - Madeira
Balcões – Ribeiro Frio | Photo: Francisco Correia

Santana Houses

No trip to Madeira is complete without seeing one of the most unique features of the island’s history. Santana houses are traditional Madeira dwellings known for their triangular shape, straw roofs and many colors painted on the outside of the home. You can find the homes in Santana, a town on the island’s Northeast section about a 45 minute drive from Funchal.

Santana House, Madeira
Santana House | Photo: Francisco Correia

Ponta de São Lourenço and Baía D’Abra

Found on the island’s Easternmost end, Ponta de São Lourenço is known for its towering seaside cliffs. It’s also home to the Baía d´Abra Viewpoint, which offers a unique look at the cliff sides and how they’ve eroded over the years of the ocean’s surf and wind. The region is also home to a number of seabird colonies, specifically the largest colony of Caspian Gulls on the island.

Porto Moniz

Tucked away in the Northwest corner of Madeira, Porto Moniz is a small, seaside village with some very unique geographical features to enjoy. The highlight of the village is naturally-forming seawater pools along the coast created by ancient lava flows. The seawater flows into them naturally when the tide comes in and they make for a great swimming spot on a hot day! The pools of Porto Moniz are about an hour drive from the cruise port.

Miradouro da Portela – Porto Santo

Another viewpoint worth exploring, but this time on the nearby island of Porto Santo, Miradouro da Portela offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountainside and sea. There are multiple hikes in the area of varying difficulty so everyone can experience this magnificent view of the entire length of the island and the harbor.

Miradouro da Portela, Madeira
Miradouro da Portela | Photo: Jackson Groves

Miradouro das Flores  – Porto Santo

Also found on neighboring Porto Santo, Miradouro das Flores on the Southern tip of the island, is a fabulous lookout point with stunning views of the island and Porto Santo beach. It takes between two and three hours to reach Porto Santo by ferry from Madeira and is a must for those who love spending the day on secluded beaches!

Porto Santo Beach

Speaking of the beach, no trip to Porto Santo is complete without visiting Porto Santo Beach, the most popular and picturesque beach on the island. More than five miles long and with golden sand along the island’s Southern coast, Porto Santo Beach is the perfect place to spend a day catching some rays while watching the turquoise waves roll in!

Porto Santo Beach

So, have we convinced you to visit Madeira yet? Whether you love hiking, exploring new cultures, eating great food or spending the day at a spectacular beach, there’s something on the archipelago of Madeira for everyone.

The next time you’re booking a cruise, why not choose one with this amazing island on the itinerary? You’re going to fall in love with cruising to Madeira and we can’t wait to hear all about it!

Let us know your comments!

Evan Gove is the SEO & Content Manager for Porthole Cruise and Travel's digital department. He covers cruise industry news and writes ship reviews for porthole.com. You can also catch him as a guest on the YouTube series Cruise Control with Bill Panoff. Follow his tweets and posts about the cruise industry from Porthole Cruise and Travel's social media accounts.