Top 10 Places on Madeira – Exploring the Garden of the Atlantic

by Greta Johannson

From Author

Embrace the wildlife and nature’s beauty with Greta Johannson, The Wildlife Wanderer, as she takes you on a tour of Madeira’s top 10 places. From the bustling city of Funchal to the majestic peaks of Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s charm is waiting to be explored. Uncover the attractions that offer unforgettable experiences for all.

Top 10 Places on Madeira – Exploring the Garden of the Atlantic

1) Pico do Arieiro - Sky-High Peaks
Standing at 1,818 meters, Pico do Arieiro is Madeira’s third-highest peak, and one of the top 10 places on Madeira that defies description. The drive to the summit is as thrilling as it is scenic. Once at the top, I embarked on the famous hike to Pico Ruivo, a challenging yet rewarding trek that traverses jagged ridges and cloud-kissed mountaintops. The sensation of walking above the clouds is surreal. The flora and fauna, unique to these heights, provide ample photographic opportunities. Warm clothing and proper hiking gear are essential, as the weather can be unpredictable. The on-site restaurant offers a cozy spot to relish the vistas while sipping a hot beverage. Even if hiking isn’t on your agenda, visiting Pico do Arieiro for sunrise or sunset is an experience that etches itself into memory
2) Funchal - Madeira's Bustling Capital
Funchal, Madeira’s capital, is a blend of urban elegance and old-world charm. As one of the top 10 places on Madeira, I spent several days exploring the city’s many facets. From the stunning Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption to the lively Mercado dos Lavradores, where vibrant colors and scents fill the air, Funchal is a sensory feast. Visiting the Madeira Botanical Garden, I was mesmerized by the collection of over 2,500 exotic plants. The local cuisine, particularly the famous black scabbard fish with banana, became one of my culinary highlights. Shopping for traditional Madeira embroidery and wine provided a delightful cultural insight. The nightlife, especially around the marina, buzzed with energy. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a food enthusiast, Funchal is brimming with attractions that cater to diverse interests.
3) Porto Moniz Natural Pools - Seaside Splendor
Porto Moniz, part of the top 10 places on Madeira, is a marvel of nature’s architecture. Here, ancient volcanic lava flows have created natural swimming pools by the Atlantic Ocean. Swimming in these crystal-clear pools, with waves occasionally breaking over the edges, was invigorating. I marveled at the contrast of the rugged black rocks against the azure sea. The pools are accessible and suitable for families, with lifeguards and facilities nearby. I found local restaurants offering fresh seafood, which added to the day’s enjoyment. For photography enthusiasts, sunrise and sunset at Porto Moniz present magical light effects. The area is also a starting point for various hiking routes, making it a versatile destination.
Porto Moniz Natural Pools, Portugal
Porto Moniz Natural Pools – Seaside Splendor
4) Monte Palace Tropical Garden - Horticultural Heaven
A visit to Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a transcendent experience that goes beyond the typical garden exploration. A part of the top 10 Madeira experiences, this horticultural wonderland spans 70,000 square meters and weaves together a rich tapestry of art, culture, and nature. The Japanese and Oriental gardens transported me to the Far East, while the Koi-filled ponds added an ethereal touch. Walking through themed sections like the African Passion, I was amazed by the intricate sculptures and rare plant species. The tile collection depicting Portugal’s historical events fascinated me. Engaging with multimedia exhibits at the Museum Centre, I learned about minerals and gems from various parts of the world. Guided tours are available, but wandering at your own pace allows for personal reflections and connections. Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a sanctuary for the mind and soul.
5) São Vicente Caves - Underground Wonders
São Vicente Caves, among the top 10 Madeira geological wonders, are a testament to the island’s volcanic origin. Entering these subterranean chambers felt like stepping into another realm. The guided tour provided insights into the formation of these lava tubes over 400,000 years ago. I was awed by the complex structures, including “lava stalactites” and sparkling mineral deposits. The accompanying Volcanism Center offered interactive displays that cater to all age groups. Outside the caves, the São Vicente village exudes quaint charm, with its picturesque church and lovely gardens. Combining a visit to the caves with exploration of the surrounding area allows for a rich cultural and geological understanding.
6) Camara de Lobos - Fishermen's Haven
Camara de Lobos, among the top 10 places on Madeira, encapsulates the charm of a traditional fishing village. I was enchanted by the colorful fishing boats bobbing in the harbor, rugged cliffs, and the ever-present aroma of freshly caught fish. This was the place that inspired Sir Winston Churchill’s paintings, and I too found artistic inspiration here. The village is famous for its “Poncha,” a local drink that I sampled with the friendly locals at a traditional bar. The Cabo Girão cliff viewpoint, located nearby, offers breathtaking perspectives. Camara de Lobos’s festivals, like the Cherry Festival, are lively events that showcase local traditions and flavors. Spending time in Camara de Lobos provides an authentic Madeiran experience.
Camara de Lobos, Portugal
Camara de Lobos – Fishermen’s Haven
7) Levada Walks - Wander Through Nature
Levadas, Madeira’s unique irrigation channels, serve as pathways through the island’s verdant landscapes. Embarking on the Levada Walks was a highlight among the top 10 Madeira experiences for me. These trails crisscross valleys, mountains, and forests, each offering unique vistas and terrain. One of my favorite walks was the Levada do Caldeirão Verde, where I wandered through tunnels and along steep cliffs, arriving at a stunning waterfall. The diversity of plant and bird life added to the sense of wonder. Some Levada Walks can be challenging, requiring appropriate footwear and caution. Guided walks provide additional insights into local ecology. Whether you choose a leisurely stroll or an adventurous trek, Levada Walks are a doorway to Madeira’s natural beauty.
8) Machico - Historic Charm
Machico, Madeira’s second-largest city, is a fusion of history, coastal beauty, and modern comforts. As I wandered through the old town, I could sense the echoes of the past, especially around the 15th-century church of Our Lady of the Conception. The sandy beach, a rarity on Madeira, was an excellent spot for relaxation and water activities. Exploring the Forte de São João Baptista, I was taken back to the days when it protected the bay from pirates. Machico’s festivals, particularly the 16th-century Market Reenactment, are lively affairs that celebrate Madeira’s cultural heritage. The surrounding mountains and Levadas offer further exploration opportunities. Machico’s blend of tradition and vibrancy makes it a must-visit.
9) Cabo Girão - Europe's Highest Cliff Skywalk
Cabo Girão, one of the top 10 Madeira viewpoints, provides vistas that are as exhilarating as they are vertiginous. Standing on a glass-floored platform 580 meters above the sea, I felt a thrilling sensation as I gazed down at the sheer drop. The panoramic views extend across the coastline and out to the ocean, offering photography opportunities at every turn. Nearby terraced fields, known as “Fajãs de Cabo Girão,” are accessible by a cable car, adding to the adventure. The site also serves as a starting point for hiking and Levada walks. Cabo Girão is accessible by car or bus, and visiting early in the day or during sunset can provide a more serene experience.
10) Santana - Traditional A-Frame Houses
Santana, a municipality in northeastern Madeira, is renowned for its charming A-frame houses that have become a symbol of the island’s rural heritage. Exploring Santana was like stepping into a storybook. These brightly colored, thatched-roof houses were used by local farmers and have been lovingly preserved. I learned about traditional Madeiran lifestyles at the local theme park, which showcases rural practices and crafts. The nearby Queimadas Forest Park, starting point for the Levada do Caldeirão Verde walk, beckoned with its lush landscapes. Santana’s annual 24-hour Folklore Festival was a vibrant display of dance, music, and costumes from various countries.


Madeira’s diverse landscape offers endless exploration opportunities, from high peaks and deep caves to lush gardens and coastal wonders. These top 10 places on Madeira provide a perfect starting point for an unforgettable journey. Whether it’s a serene garden walk, a daring mountain hike, a deep dive into history, or a culinary exploration, the island’s charm is sure to captivate every traveler. I hope my experiences and insights inspire you to discover your own Madeiran adventure.