Here are our picks for Madeira Island's top, must-see natural landscapes and points of interest:
Sitting at an astonishing 1,862m (6,100ft) tall, Pico Ruivo is Madeira's highest peak. You can access the summit via the Achada do Teixeira trail, or by driving up the mountain to the tourist viewpoint. If you encounter this peak on a cloudy day, you'll have some truly magical photos of the steep mountaintop jutting up and through the clouds.
Pico do Arieiro
Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak of Madeira at 1,818m (5,964ft) high, and from there you get the most incredible panoramic views over the central mountains of the island. You can easily access this viewpoint by car or tour, but for those who seeking a trekking adventure there’s an amazing alternative: One of the most visually stunning hiking trails of the island starts here and ends in Pico Ruivo, so if you’re not afraid of heights go for it.
A popular lookout point located on Madeira's sunny south coast, the beautiful Cabo Girão boasts breathtaking views over Funchal, Câmara de Lobos and the Atlantic as far as the eye can see. Visitors can opt to enjoy the view from the suspended platform, or partake in a paragliding or base-jumping experience from Cabo Girão as your starting point!
Porto Moniz Swimming Pools
The natural saltwater swimming pools of Porto Moniz were formed by lava rock and are one of the most beautiful places to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the village of Porto Moniz on the northwestern side of Madeira Island, this popular spot was selected as one of the world's 52 best beaches by CNN Travel.
Volcanic Caves of São Vicente
Descend underground into an 890,000 year old lava tube, a result of the ‘’Paul da Serra’’ volcanic eruption, and get an up-close look at the raw beauty of the Earth’s interior. The Grutas (Volcanic Caves) of São Vicente were the first of its kind to open to the public in Portugal in 1996. The caves are divided into 3 distinct parts that you can visit: walk among its tunnels and discover the crystal waters of the underground lakes.
Located next to Seixal Harbor, the Praia do Seixal is the island's most popular beach for visitors and locals alike. One look at the stunning scenery of this beach and you'll understand why. The natural black sand beach is something straight out of a painting, with its crystal blue waters and green cliffs jutting up along the rocky coast. This unsupervised beach offers its visitors access to the toilet facilities, showers and the bar of Clube Naval do Seixal Pools, right next to it, which is a free access facility with a natural pool and sun loungers. Here you can rent kayaks and diving equipment.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
A beautiful tropical garden located in the heart of Funchal, with an area of 70,000m², the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is home to a huge collection of exotic plants and also to one of Portugal’s most important tile collections spread all over the garden describing moments of Portuguese historical significance. You'll find exotic flora and fauna from all across the globe, along with animals like swans, peacocks, ducks, chickens and even Koi fish. You’ll also come across two oriental-inspired gardens that are a reflection of the social, commercial and cultural relationship between Portugal and Japan at the time.
Madeira Botanical Garden
First opened in 1960, the beautiful Madeira Botanical Garden spans an area of 80,000m² and is home to a collection of over 2,000 exotic plants. Through its harmonious shapes and contrasting colors there are 5 different gardens to be visited and appreciated: endemic plants; arboretum; succulent; tropicals/medicines and Loiro Parque, where you can find some of the most exotic and rare birds. Walk among the colorful flowers of the garden, visit the on-site Museum of Natural History, hop aboard a cable car to Monte Parish and take in the wonderful views over the city of Funchal below.
Cascata dos Anjos
Playfully referred to as "Madeira’s famous car wash", the Cascata dos Anjos is a beautiful waterfall cascading right into the middle of the street. You can get there via a short drive through the old road between Ponta do Sol and Madalena do Mar (highway ER101). Well worth the visit even if it is just to take the famous photo under the waterfall!
Ponta de São Lourenço
The Eastern-most point of Madeira Island is said to have earned its name from one of the three discoverers of the island, who shouted "São Lourenço, that’s enough!" upon nearing the peninsula with his ship. The peninsula of Ponta de São Lourenço is of volcanic origin, and classified as a partial natural reserve. Enjoy beautiful views over the ocean to the nearby islets, and on a clear day, be sure to scan the horizon for the Desertas Islands which can be seen in the distance.
Véu da Noiva
Located between Seixal and São Vicente, the stunning Véu da Noiva viewpoint offers visitors picture-perfect, postcard-like views of the Véu da Noiva waterfall cascading from the tall green cliffs of the Northern coastline, straight down into the deep blue Atlantic. The waterfall and its viewpoint earned the name "Véu da Noiva" for the waterfall taking on the cascading shape of a bride's veil falling into the ocean.
Traditional Houses of Santana
Nestled on Madeira's beautiful North coast in the municipality of Santana, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you'll find the small village of Santana and its cute-as-a-button traditional houses. Built of natural stone and thatched with straw roofs, these small, colorful houses served as dwellings for local families for centuries. Although most local residents no longer live in these small houses and most of the traditional houses have since been modernized, you can still find a few in the area that have been maintained to preserve this unique heritage.
Ribeira da Janela Islets
You’ll find these three amazing rock formations emerging from the Atlantic ocean of the coast of Porto Moniz. Also known as "The Three Sisters", these islets were named for the unique shape resembling the opening of a window, or janela.
Curral das Freiras
The Curral das Freiras, otherwise known as "Nuns Valley", is a tiny little town located in the heart of Madeira Island, completely surrounded by steep mountains on all sides. The town earned its name for being a sanctuary and hiding place for the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara during pirate attacks. Nestled deep in the mountains of Madeira, this village is almost completely hidden from the outside and was nearly inaccessible during the 16th century. Visitors can head to the Eira do Serrado viewpoint for spectacular panoramic views over this village and the island's steep peaks and valleys.