3 Days in Madeira: Ultimate 2024 Itinerary

Hikers traverse a scenic trail at São Lourenço, Madeira, with a striking sea stack rising from the ocean and rugged cliffs forming a dramatic backdrop. The varied terrain, from red soil to green shrubs, illustrates the diverse natural beauty encountered on a Madeira itinerary.

Planning an itinerary for 3 days in Madeira is an amazing start to your vacation! 

Madeira is a beautiful, Portuguese island located off Portugal’s Western coast.  It rests on the Atlantic Ocean just above Morocco.

I stand by it being one of my favorite places to visit in the entire world, because I have yet to find any other natural beauty so breathtaking no matter where I was on the island!

Spending 3 days in Madeira is like stepping into a living postcard, with its dramatic cliffs giving way to the expansive ocean, terraced vineyards, and lush greenery.

The best things to do during 3 days in Madeira are hiking the infamous Pico do Ariero, visiting the amazing Sao Lourenco, and taking a Best of the East OR Best of the West Tour (your choice).  More on that in this guide. 

Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, the island caters to every whim, offering exhilarating levada walks through ancient forests, as well as serene moments on pebbled beaches caressed by the Atlantic breeze.

Let’s get to it!  3 days in Madeira await. 

Day 1: Pico do Ariero to Pico Ruivo

Pico do Ariero is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in all of Madeira.

It stands at 1,818 meters above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the island’s rugged coastline.

I highly recommend Pico do Ariero earlier in your trip.  There is a possibility visibility could be distorted due to weather conditions, or the trails can be too unsafe to hike. 

With a wildcard like this, it’s best to plan for earlier on in the trip in case you need to move itinerary items around later!  Flexibility is key! 

You have three options when it comes to hiking Pico do Ariero:

  • Tour
  • Transportation Service
  • Rental Car

Book a Tour

Booking a guided tour to visit Pico do Ariero offers not just the convenience of transport, but also the expertise of a local guide who can enhance the experience with rich historical and ecological insights.

While exploring with a guide, travelers can focus solely on the stunning views and not worry about navigation or missing out on any hidden gems.

Tours typically include pick up and drop off from your accommodation, all necessary equipment for a safe hike, and often a traditional Madeiran meal.

Prices for these tours vary but expect to pay around $50-$100 per person.

Book a Transportation service (my recommendation)

I visited Pico do Ariero with a transportation service and highly recommend this option. 

As an avid hiker, I don’t like going on guided hikes.  I love exploring at my own pace.  (And I mean that in the least snobby way possible- out of all of my hiking buddies, I am at the slowest pace without fail). 

I just like experiencing what is around me slowly without hurry. 

The transportation service allowed me to let the organized ride service worry about the details, and I just had to show up.  It was a win-win. 

Rent a car

And the most flexible option, as always, is a rental car. 

But driving on Madeira can be scary (I did book a rental car for one day later in my trip, and it was!)  Make sure you dive into the top safety tips in advance due to winding roads along cliffs. 

Renting a car is expensive.  As a solo traveler, this is not something I would have been able to afford during my entire Madeira trip. 

To me, it made most sense to rent a car for days when booking tours or public transportation was not prevalent in the places I wanted to explore. 

Tip: You can also visit the Pico do Ariero viewpoint without completing the hike. 

The top view of the hike is shortly passed the parking lot on a viewing platform. Love when viewpoints are accessible to all. 

Day 2: West Island

Two of the most popular tours offered on Madeira Island are Best of the West and Best of the East. 

You will not have time for both tours during 3 days in Madeira. 

Note: This itinerary already highlights two of the stops that the East tour takes you to: Pico do Ariero and Sao Lourenco. 

Alternatively, you will have more flexibility with a car rental.  This would allow you to spend the night on the east or west coast as opposed to returning to Funchal by evening. 

The tours are a cheaper alternative, so the choice is yours.  Really, there’s no way to do it wrong in Madeira!

Best of the West

Some of the top things to do in Madeira’s West are:

  • Porto Moniz
  • Ribeira Janella (Viewpoint)
  • Cabo Girao

Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz is famous for its stunning saltwater pools.

They’re formed naturally from cooled volcanic waters and filled by the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

These pools are stunning places to swim and offer an unforgettable experience.

Personally, I regretted not renting a car to spend more than an hour here.  A whole day can easily be spent here, lounging amidst nature’s beauty and relishing in the delightful swimming experience.

However, with limited time, you can definitely stop here on almost any tour. 

Cabo Girao

Located just a short 20-minute drive from Funchal, Cabo Girao boasts an awe-inspiring and picturesque lookout point.

Standing on a transparent glass platform suspended approximately 2,000 feet above the vast Atlantic Ocean provides an exhilarating and adventurous experience.

Ribeira Janella

This beautiful viewpoint is on the west side of the island not far from Porto Moniz. 

Spend as long as you would like to enjoy the views at this rugged island. My tour made a stop here for about 15 minutes.

Day 3: São Lourenço OR Fanal Forest

It’s your final day!  Choose between the following top two activities in Madiera (or don’t choose and extend your trip with 4 days in Madeira!)

São Lourenço

São Lourenço is one of the best hikes in Madeira without a car!  It is easy to take public transportation from the Lido Promenade in Funchal, and it’s a super low-cost activity. 

The number 113 bus drops you off at the starting point of São Lourenço.  It’s a local bus, so plan for various stops along the journey. 

On the way back, we even transferred buses to a local station. 

São Lourenço is unique because it is different than many of the other best hikes in Madeira

Lush greenery is replaced with island vistas and roaring tides of the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s even a beach or two along the route (but get the local safety conditions before stopping here!) 

Fanal Forest

Fanal Forest is easily one of the most magical things you can do on Madeira Island. 

The only other time I felt like I was in a magical fairy forest was at Olympic National Park

You can hop on a guided tour or rent a car and make a visit here yourself using the Ultimate Guide to Fanal Forest.

The ancient trees of Fanal Forest rise majestically, shrouded often in a soft mist that gives it a dreamlike quality.  It’s no wonder this is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


As our three-day whirlwind tour of Madeira comes to a close, it’s clear we’ve dipped our toes into a thrilling blend of nature’s finest shows.

From Cabo Girao’s skywalk to the mythical Fanal Forest, there’s natural adventure at every turn. 

And then there’s the relaxation parts of your trip at Porto Moniz and enjoying the lovely waterfall of Ribeira Janella on the island’s west. 

What makes it even better is that there are tons of direct flights from both Lisbon and Porto, making it a doable extension to any Portugal itinerary.  (And if anyone asks, YES, Porto is also worth visiting!)

Madeira offers breathtaking views and captivating landscapes, making it a perfect destination for adventurous explorers who crave dramatic experiences and have a passion for wanderlust.

Spread the love

Related posts


As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).