Madeira off the beaten track

Madeira is a magical island, boasting gorgeous scenery, fabulous food, pristine natural beauty, and warm and a friendly character. It is no wonder this autonomous region of Portugal off the coast of Africa is becoming a bit of a tourist hot spot, but in comparison to other parts of Portugal, Madeira is still relatively less well-trodden. There are still so many beautiful things to see and do off the beaten track on the island. Here are a few to explore:

Achadas da Cruz

With soaring mountains and steep rocky cliffs, one of the best ways to explore Madeira is via cable car. The Achadas da Cruz cable car is one of the coolest on the island, as well as being the most reasonably priced.

Starting at a vertigo-inducing height, the car takes you down over the cliffs to the small village of Fajã da Quebrada Nova. This hidden gem was once only accessible by boat, and with the cable car claiming to be the steepest in Europe, few people dare make the journey, leaving this secret spot still relatively untouched.

Wander the coastline of this remote location and enjoy pebbled beaches lined with wildflowers.

Achadas da Cruz Madeira

Explore the tiny houses of the seemingly abandoned village built into the base of the mountain. After exploring the village, hop back in your cable car and press the self-operated button to take you back up to the top of the cliffs. 

Achadas da Cruz is located on the west of the island, only a 20-minute drive from Porto Moniz. The cable car runs from 8 am to 11:30 am and 12:30 pm to 7 pm every day, and costs €3 for a return ticket. 


Calhau da Lapa

calhau da lapa
If you are willing to make the journey, Calhau da Lapa is Madeira’s best beach for swimming. Surrounded by colourful volcanic cliffs, lush greenery, and the clearest waters of any bay on the island, this remote beach is becoming increasingly popular.

Climb down an impressive 700 steps and enjoy the gorgeous views as you make your way down to the secluded pebble beach where you will find a pier and a waterfall, as well as the unusual cave houses.

Guests can even opt to stay overnight in these unique accommodations. Remember that you will have to make your way back up those steps on your return so be prepared for the hike!

The beach can also be reached by private or rented boat for those not up to tackling the climb.

The turquoise waters invite swimmers, snorkelers, and fishermen who spend their days making the most of this pristine bay. In high season there is a small pop-up restaurant on the beach that serves deliciously fresh fish.

Calhau da Lapa is located on the south coast of the island, just a 20-minute drive from Funchal and access to the beach is free. 


Garganta Funda

Despite being the biggest waterfall in Madeira, Garganta Funda is one of the island’s hidden gems, and it can be hard to spot unless you know it is there. 

The waterfall is an impressive 140 metres, plunging down through the cliffs, surrounded by deep green vegetation and striking coastal views. Hike along the Levada Ponta do Pargo to the Ponta do Pargo cliff viewpoint or make this a pit stop during a west coast road trip.

Park at the small car park at the end of the paved road towards Pedregal Ponta do Pargo before walking down a small dirt trail for the best views.

garganta funda madeira

It is best to visit in the winter months to see the falls in their full glory. After plenty of rain, the water crashes powerfully down mossy cliff walls into the dark pool below. The scenery is incredible year-round, however, and it is well worth a visit in the summer months too. 

The falls are located on the west coast of the island in the Ponta do Pargo region, about a 1-hour drive from Funchal or a 30-minute drive from Porto Moniz.


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Poco dos Chefes

poco dos chefe
Hidden away in the valley of Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley), is a series of sparkling natural swimming pools named Poco dos Chefes. The pools were formed by a locally built dam, making the reservoirs deep enough to safely jump and dive in from the rocks. 

Take in the beautiful scenery of soaring mountains, deep green forests, and shimmering waters. It is an oasis of calm, and the perfect place to spend an afternoon in nature, enjoying the peace and silence.

After a refreshing swim, drive another 10 minutes up the mountain for lunch at the family-owned restaurant, Restaurante O Lagar Antiguiades. Enjoy traditional Madeiran cuisine and local wines for a fantastic price. 


Seixal Beach

Madeira is a volcanic and rocky island where pebble beaches are many and sand beaches are few. The soft, black sand of Seixal Beach is a stunning and unusual sight on the island. 

This small volcanic sand beach is nestled under magnificent green cliffs, and surrounded by a bright blue sea, providing a striking contrast of natural colours that adds to the surreal beauty of this place. 

Relax and spend an afternoon on the soft sand, as a welcome relief from the pebbles, and swim in the turquoise waters. There are showers and toilets in the harbour, and a café by the beach, making it a good place to spend a day with the family.

Seixal Beach madeira

Add to your day with a visit to the nearby Seixal Pools and discover an incredible collection of lava-rock tidal pools, caves, and arches, perfect for swimming and exploring.

Seixal Beach is on the beautiful north coast of the island and can be reached by car just 40 minutes from Funchal.

Madeira is full of wild and wonderful places to explore. From beautiful beaches and coves to lush jungles and crashing waterfalls, there are plenty of ways to go off the beaten track. After days of adventuring don’t forget to try out the local restaurants. The food in Madeira will blow you away just as much as the scenery. 



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