Famous for its dramatic volcanic landscapes, Madeira is paradise for hikers and photographers. In order to get a real sense of the island's scenery, here are 8 incredible viewpoints to enjoy on your trip to Madeira, all of which have free parking and only 2 of which have entry fees to visit. The vast majority of these viewpoints are a very short walk from the car park, except Ponta de Sao Lourenco (an easy 8km out and back trail) and Pico Ruivo (a strenuous 14km return hike with some tough climbs).
1. Pico do Areeiro's Miradouro do Ninho da Manta or Eagle's Nest:
At 1818m above sea level, Pico do Areeiro is the 3rd highest peak on Madeira. It's famous viewpoint provides dramatic 360° views over the surrounding mountains, usually above a sea of clouds. The viewing platform is only 10 minutes walk or so from the (free) 1 hour car park, if this is full or you want to park for longer to do the hike to Pico Ruivo (PR1), there is another much larger carpark (also free) about 800m further downhill.
2. Eira do Serrado (Curral das Freiras):
Standing at an elevation of 1,095 m, the viewing platform of Eira do Serrado has a panoramic view of the Shangri La-esque village of Curral das Freiras, nestled far below in the Valley of the Nuns and surrounded by epic mountains. Park for free outside the giftshop and follow a short footpath to the viewpoint.
Found at the end of the Vereda dos Balcões (PR 11), this is one of the easiest hikes on Madeira. Only 1.5km each way, it's about half an hour's flat walk alongside a levada and through ancient Laurissilva woodland to the Balcoes viewing platform. From here, you'll get epic views across the Ribeira da Metade valley to the island's central peaks of Pico do Areeiro, Pico das Torres and Pico Ruivo. Park on the road in Ribeiro Frio and walk downhill past the trout fisheries to find the trailhead.
4. Cabo Girao:
The Cabo Girao Skywalk juts out over the highest cliffs in Europe, a dizzying 589m above the Atlantic ocean and has amazing views out to sea and along the coastline. This glass floor observation deck is a 20 minute drive from Funchal, and while parking is free, there is a €1.50 entry fee to the Skywalk.
We'd recommend visiting after 6pm to avoid the tour groups as the glass floor isn't huge (it's open until 8pm), so tack Cabo Girao onto the end of a day exploring Funchal. For more things to do in Funchal, check out our blog: 10 amazing things to do in Funchal.
5. Ponta de Sao Lourenco:
While the whole trail along the Ponta de Sao Lourenco peninsula is beautiful, with gorgeous views of the Atlantic, volcanic cliffs, interesting rock formations and crystal clear blue bays, the highlight is right at the end: Miradouro Ponta do Furado. This final (surprisingly steep) hill gives way to a wonderful view across the tail end of the peninsula stretching out into the ocean.
Ponta de Sao Lourenco is completely different to the rest of Madeira. While the island's lush green craggy interior reminded us of Kauai, this peninsula is more like Lanzarote: barren and rocky; a dramatic orange landscape that looked like Mars!
PR8 is one of the most popular hiking trails in Madeira, arrive early before 8:30am to get a parking space at the trailhead and to beat the heat and crowds! The trail is very exposed, so bring sun cream, a hat and plenty of water and snacks. It's about 4km each way and apart from the final climb to the viewpoint, PR8 is relatively flat with a few gentle undulations.
6. Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse:
Located on the island’s westernmost cape, 312m above the ocean, the stunning viewpoint in front of Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse gazes out across the Atlantic and along Madeira's rugged coastal cliffs. Park for free on the road beside the lighthouse, but if you want to come here to watch the sunset, arrive early to get a space! It's one of the most popular places to watch the sunset on Madeira!
7. Pico Ruivo summit - Sitting at 1862m this is the highest peak on the island, and while the summit itself is often hidden in cloud, if you're lucky and the weather is clear you can see all the way to Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Unlike the other viewpoints on this list, if you want to get to Pico Ruivo you need to hike. 7km each way from the Pico do Areeiro car park, PR1 is one of the most spectacular hikes on the island.
Even if the summit at the end is in cloud, the trail is worth it for staggering views down into valleys, winding through 5 tunnels (bring headtorch!) and slopes covered with purple Echium and yellow Broom. This is a tough hike with some very steep ascents at both ends, so bring lunch and snacks, lots of water and we found hiking poles very useful. Start early at 8am to beat the tour groups!
8. Botanical Garden of Madeira - if you're after a capital view (sorry...), Funchal's Botanical Garden has several lookout spots that take in the red roofed city below, contrasted against the blue of the Atlantic. Our favourite is best viewed standing on the edge of the cactus garden near the greenhouse, where you can look across the colourful red and yellow Choreographed Garden to the city below.
Madeira Botanical Garden is open from 9:00 - 18:00, tickets are €7.50 for adults , € 3.00 for 6 - 12 year olds ( under 6 free). We parked for free on the road by the garden's cable car terminal.
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