Our Madeira self-drive holiday is the best way to discover this stunning island in the Atlantic on your own. If you want to be independent and like driving, then we can highly recommend this trip. The infrastructure in Madeira is surprisingly good, and no longer do you have to drive along precariously narrow roads with steep drops, since they have built impressive tunnels that link the valleys.
It has also made the northern part of Madeira a lot more accessible. The dramatic coastal road from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz in the far northwest, with its high cliffs and waterfalls, is without a doubt one of the most spectacular and scenic drives in the world. There is no need to go all the way California, when you have a trip to this beautiful green island in the Atlantic on your doorstep!
The beauty of this Madeira self-drive road trip is that you can stop wherever you want, be it in little villages where you can mix and mingle with the locals over a cup of coffee, or when you’re passing a viewpoint, remote beach or lighthouse. We will organise all the accommodation for you, all you need to do is drive and enjoy your Madeira self-drive road trip.
It’s positively the best way to get to know Madeira and its islanders!
Fly from Gatwick on a direct flight to Funchal. One of our drivers will be waiting for you in the arrival hall and take you to your hotel in Funchal. Your hotel has a great restaurant the Morgadinha and if you arrive on a Friday, then you should definitely eat in as the Masterchef evening is an excellent way of eating different dishes prepared by four different chef.s The hotel has a Curry night on Wednesdays. You'll overnight in a twin room for the next two nights.
If you're only going to do one activity on the island then you shouldn't miss out on a Whale and Dolphin watching trip, which is why we have included this. It's only a short walk down hill to the whale watching office near the harbour. Here you'll first have a briefing, before you board your RIB, for a three hour trip. For lunch you could head to the old town where you will find many restaurants, or if you just want a quick snack you could go to the indoor market.
On a clear or sunny day, take a ride up on the cable car to the Monte Palace or Botanical gardens, which not only have the most amazing flowers, plants and trees, but also fantastic panoramic views of Funchal. Return to the centre either by cable car, or you could whizz down the narrow streets in a wicker sled, accompanied by two men who use their shoes to steer and slow down the sled.
In the morning your car will be delivered to your hotel, and we suggest you drive via towns like Santa Cruz and Machico to the spectacular peninsula of Sao Lourenco, which you may have seen when you landed. You can stretch your legs here and do an optional self-guided walk, along the dramatic rugged coasts. Or you could continue your drive and stop at the little seaside resort of Porto da Cruz to watch the surfers,, before finally arriving in Santana. Don't forget to turn on your lights when you're entering one of the many tunnels along the route. Overnight at Hotel Quinta do Furao in a twin room for two nights.
Santana is a great base do some walking in the mountains. If you want to stand on Madeira's highest peak, then you could drive to the car park at Achada do Teixeira, where you start your walk to Pico Ruivo (1862m). It takes around 3 to 4 hours. If you don't fancy walking then you could visit the Madeira Theme Park, a fantastic exhibition centre dedicated to the history, science and tradition of the Madeira Islands. You should definitely visit the quaint little Casas de Colmo - traditional thatched roofed houses, famous in that part of the island.
Follow the scenic coastal road and have lunch in the lovely little town of Sao Jorge. The little church is definitely worth a visit, or walk the coastal path down to the beach from the café overlooking the bay. Continue to the small village of Boaventura and stop along the way to buy some fresh fruit from the local farmers. Overnight at Solar de Boaventura in a twin room for one night.
Continue on the coastal road, which has plenty of fantastic photo stops to Sao Vicente. Beware some of the tunnels are very narrow and you may have to reverse. The hotel is just outside Sao Vicente. Overnight at Solar da Bica in a twin room for two nights
Free day. You could explore the area around the hotel or visit the fascinating lava tunnels at the Volcanism Centre in Sao Vicente. In the evening we recommend you go to the seafront to have dinner. We can highly recommend the Caravelha restaurant. Try the Lapas (limpets) or the Espetada Madeira (skewers with different types of grilled meat).
The next stretch along the coastal road is breathtakingly beautiful. Stop for lunch in the pretty village of Seixal, where you can visit the black sandy beach and see the impressive Veu da Noiva (Bridal Veil) waterfall from a distance. Continue along the road via the three rock formations of Ilheu da Ribeira da Janela (natural rock opening shaped like a window), to Porto Moniz. Overnight at Aqua Natura in a twin room with sea view for two nights
Relax at the natural swimming pools of lava rock Piscinas Naturais, where the huge waves constantly wash over basin (entrance is free). Or you could visit the aquarium, where there is the opportunity to do your first dive in the big tank and be surrounded by colourful tropical fish.
On the way to Ponta do Sol you could do the self-guided '25 Fontes levada walk' in the middle of the Paul da Serra plateau. This walk is very popular with daytrippers from Funchal so in order to avoid the crowds an early start is recommended. Continue your drive via Encumeada to the south coast and the lovely village of Ponta do Sol. Overnight at Hotal da Vila in a twin room with sea view for two nights.
You could either visit the sandy beach of Calheta (made from imported sand from Morocco) or have a day at leisure. You can use the facilities of the Estalegem da Ponta do Sol situated high on a cliff overlooking the bay, or relax and unwind on one of the many terraces in this picturesque little town.
Today's drive will take you via Cabo Girao (lookout point with a glass skywalk) via the pretty harbour town of Camara de Lobos (well known for its excellent wine) to your next hotel high up in the hills of Jardim da Serra. Overnight at Hotel Quinta da Serra in a superior room for two nights.
There is no need to leave your hotel today. The quinta's lush gardens (the hotel organises a guided tour) are wonderful and have seating areas ideal for you to relax with a book. The excellent restaurant prepares delicious international and organic cuisine prepared with local produce and own fruits and herbs from the hotel's organic garden.
Return to Funchal via the pretty village of Camera de Lobos and Cabo de Girao, where you can stand on the glass platform and look down one of Europe's highest sea cliffs. Spend you last evening at the Quintinha Sao Joao. In the evening the car hire company will pick up your car from the hotel.
Day at leisure until it's time for your transfer to the airport and your flight home.
Price Per Person
We can create a tailor-made holiday to suit your budget.
INCLUDED: International flight from LGW with a budget airline (guide price). Accommodation in twin share, en-suite rooms on a breakfast only basis, apart from Hotel Quinta da Serra where dinner is also included. Return airport transfers. Excursions as detailed in the itinerary. Car hire for 12 days (Renault Clio or similar - group B), including delivery and pick up from your accommodation. Cost includes SCDW (super collision damage waiver), one driver, SatNav, but no PAI (personal accident insurance) or fuel.
EXCLUDED: Meals not specified above and travel insurance. Additional excursions on free days
We include a great selection of all the best hotels we could sample for this bespoke trip.
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