How much does NomadHer recommend Madeira for solo female travelers?
(😩 Bad, 😊 Fine, 😍 Amazing)
Our score is : 😍 Amazing
Madeira island, a Portuguese archipelago is in the middle of the Atlantic. Its beautiful blue sea, warm weather, and various activities in nature have attracted tourists all the seasons. The temperatures are overall stable and warm throughout the year. It takes more or less 3 hours from all the main countries in Europe by flight. It is also known as the birthplace of the Portuguese famous football (soccer) player Cristiano Ronaldo. These days, Madeira is getting famous for Europe’s first Nomad village in Ponta Do Sol. In this ultimate guide about Madeira, you will learn and can draw the outline of your trip to Madeira island, Portugal.
Generally, Madeira is a safe destination for female solo travelers. Most locals are friendly, and open-minded to tourists. The weather is warm all season. so you can see the sunlight until 8 pm which makes you think it is still afternoon. The capital city of Maderia, Funchal, on the southern coast, is always crowded with full of travelers and locals. All in all, Madeira is safe but still, you are in a foreign country, it will be helpful to have common sense and keep an eye on your belongings all the time.
Madeira is a big island. So, It is divided into several regions. If you visit Madeira island at first, those are the places that you heard about a lot during your travel.
If travelers land at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, This is the area that they go to first. Funchal is the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is known for its harbor, vibrant local markets, Madeira wine cellars, peaceful gardens, and historical cathedral. That is why you can find lots of accommodations and a chance to meet locals here.
▪ Ponta do Sol
Ponta do Sol means the point of the sun in English. Like its name, you can see the beautiful sunset on Ponta do Sola’s pebble beach. It is a municipality on the southwestern coast of the island. it's a relaxing area for a short stroll and walks around the town. Ponta do Sol is famous for being Europe's first nomad village these days. Digital nomads who work remotely from all over Europe have come to this place to enjoy island life now.
▪ Porto Santo
While you look around sightseeing places in Funchal, you often see the big ferry departing from the harbor. That is the ferry to be run between Funchal and Porto Santo. Porto Santo is a small island next to Madeira and takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to go. It is known for its clean, warm waters and soft sandy beach which you can’t find on Madeira island. If you expect an action-packed adventure, this is not the one. Instead, if you want to relax and take it easy, this is the right place for you.
1️⃣ Vereda dos Balcões
You can start the hike at the village of Ribeiro Frio. The road will lead you to another magical point of view: The Balcões Belvedere.
👣 Distance: 2.5 kilometers
💪 Level of difficulty: Easy
2️⃣ Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo
Pico do Arieiro is the third-highest peak on the island of Madeira. When the weather is clear, you can enjoy an amazing view. And if the weather is more cloudy, you will find yourself above the clouds.
Pico Ruivo is the highest peak of Madeira, reaching 1861 meters above sea level.
The two peaks are connected together through a fabulous hike, where you will have the opportunity to admire exceptional panoramas and vertiginous cliffs. For your safety, recommend finding a hiking buddy in the NomadHer community who can go climbing together.
👣 Distance: 12 kilometers
💪 Level of difficulty: Difficult
3️⃣ Levada Walks
The Levada walks are narrow water channels, built by man over the centuries, for the irrigation of some places that were hard to reach on the island. It represents now 2500 km and a lot of different routes. We highly recommend you to try one, as it is one of the main attractions of Madeira! And nature lovers even say that you didn’t truly visit Madeira if you didn’t hike along the Levadas.
👣 Distance: You can find many trails and choose one depending on your preferences.
💪 Level of difficulty: Easy to difficult
💦 Water activities :
1️⃣ Dolphin and whale-watching tour
If you walk around the Praça do Povo and the Marina in Funchal, you will come across many boat tour agencies that can take you for a dolphin and whale watching tour. The cost starts at €25.
2️⃣ Boat tour
Tour in the Funchal Bay: You can take a boat for 3 to 4 hours to enjoy the bay of Funchal. Be ready to jump into the clear blue water of the ocean while the Portuguese sun heats your skin! ☀️
Sunset cruise: Is there a better way to enjoy a beautiful sunset than being on a boat? From yellow to pink, red, or even purple, your eyes will be amazed by this spectacle of mother nature. Some boat tours also include drinks on a DJ set to party after the sun goes down! 🥳
And if you want to go back in time, you can even enjoy a ride on a pirate ship! You will embark on board the replica of the ship that Christopher Colombus used during his famous excursion across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
3️⃣ Snorkeling & Diving
The Garajau Nature Reserve is the #1 spot to do snorkeling. This protected area, located on the south coast of the island, counts many diving centers where you will be able to book an excursion for diving/snorkeling and the equipment. Why not try to observe and photograph some aquatic species? 🤿 The cost starts at €35.
4️⃣ Natural pools of Porto Moniz
If you heard about Porto Moniz, you must have heard about the most famous attraction of the village: The natural pools. Volcanic rocks dive into the sea to form salt water swimming pools, and the place has been set up to make the experience even more pleasant. You can find, for example, a children’s swimming pool, a play area, bathrooms with changing rooms, and even a snack bar open during summer. This is one of the places that women travelers loved in NomadHer Madeira camp last time.
🍃 The places to see nature
Must-see gardens :
1️⃣ Monte Palace Tropical Gardens : They are the most famous gardens on the island, and for a good reason! As soon as you enter, you will be amazed by the oriental atmosphere. Between Buddhist sculptures and a Japanese wooden bridge, you will find an artificial lake surrounded by waterfalls and fountains. Don’t forget to visit the art exhibition in the Monte Palace Museum.
2️⃣ Botanical Gardens of Funchal : This garden is well-known for the 2,000 species of exotic plants of which it is composed. Have you ever had the chance to admire an orchid greenhouse or a flower bed with perfect geometry?
3️⃣ Palheiro Gardens : You find here a completely different atmosphere because the garden takes on the identity of an English garden. Palheiro is famous for its collection of Camellias, some of which are 200 years old!
🏖️ The places to enjoy beach :
1️⃣ Praia do Porto do Seixal
The natural beaches in Madeira, Praia do Porto do Seixal, are made of black sand due to the marine erosion of volcanic black rock. Here, mountains and waterfalls overlook the back.
2️⃣ Praia da Calheta
This beach was created artificially with white sand imported from Morocco. It is the main attraction of Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village located on the south coast of the island. You can do windsurfing, canoeing, or take a sun bath (A rental service for deck chairs and parasols is available).
3️⃣ Ponta do Sol
Ponta do Sol is known to have the best sunset on the island. It is a small beach with clear blue water, in a small cove between the slopes of the valley.
4️⃣ Ponta de Sao Lourenco
It is the only semi-desert environment on the island. You can find different beaches made of pebbles and black sand and superb landscapes.
🏛️ The places to have a cultural time :
1️⃣ Santana houses
You should absolutely go to Santana city center to observe the traditional houses of Madeira. They are small and colorful houses that were made of straw, from the cereal plantation, and wood.
And near those houses, you can find a fruit market open on weekends.
2️⃣ Museu CR7 : Cristiano Ronaldo museum
Did you know that the city of Funchal on Madeira Island, was the hometown of the famous football player Cristiano Ronaldo? And the Museu CR7 is a museum dedicated to his trophies!
Other places of interest :
1️⃣ Mercado Dos Lavradores (Local market)
Located in the historic district of Santa Maria in Funchal, the "workers' market" is one of the most famous markets in the city. It was built in the 20th century, harmonizing Art Deco and modernism. If you decide to go there, you will find the freshest and most exotic fruits and vegetables, and exuberant flowers (but the prices can be higher).
2️⃣ Teleféricos da Madeira (Funchal Cable Car or Mountain Cable Car)
To go from Funchal to Monte, you can use the Cable car over Cabo Girão. You will fly over the city and have a 360° panorama over the city of Funchal, the mountains, and the sea. Be ready to admire the blue of the ocean, the green of the mountains, and the ocher tones of Funchal all together! The round trip costs 18.00€ for an adult.
3️⃣ Carreiros do Monte (Toboggan ride from Monte)
Dating back to the early 19th century, the wicker sled was used as public transportation for the local residents who wanted to travel quickly from the village of Monte to the city of Funchal. Nowadays, if you like adrenaline, you can try this unforgettable experience! It costs 25.00€ for one adult, and 30.00€ for two (The ride is free for children under 5, accompanied by an adult).
Madeira island has some great restaurants around the island. From traditional local food to fresh seafood, vegan restaurants, but also sweet ice cream that makes you happy. If you want to experience real local food, then try espetada first! Here are the best restaurants recommended in this ultimate guide.
🍽️ Best restaurants in Madeira :
1️⃣ Doca do Cavacas
If you stay in the Funchal area and fan of seafood then Doca do Cavacas is worth visiting. This is run by a local family. You can enjoy fresh and authentic seafood at a reasonable price. If the weather is good, go out to eat on its fabulous terrace to enjoy a stunning sunset on the sea. There are many options that you can choose like seafood platter, limpets, grilled squid, fish skewer and etc. The average prices are around €15.
2️⃣ Prima Caju in Funchal
Prima Caju is a heaven of vegan food with a stylish and instagrammable interior. They provide lots of selections of healthy food like smoothie bowls, super tasty bowls with vegetables, chicken, or salmon with rice. Also, there is a pancake decorated with colorful fruits. If you enjoy your brunch in a cool atmosphere, recommend visiting Prima Caju.
3️⃣ Madeirinha Cafes in Funchal
If you look around in the center of Funchal, this is the perfect cafe you can find for lunch. They provide various kinds of salad bowls, hamburgers, toast, pie and so many dishes. You can feel full happily because they serve you a really big bowl of salad at a good price. Highly recommend trying chicken salad with passion fruit juice. The average prices are around €4.5
4️⃣ Restaurante Santo António in Camara de Lobos
If someone asks to pick only one that must try while traveling in Madeira, It is Espetada! Espetada is a traditional dish in Portuguese cuisine cooked with beef on skewers. Restaurante Santo António is a specialized place for Espetada and one of the best restaurants where you can taste the great quality of Espetada. It is away from Funchal city center so recommended to take a taxi. but it is worth visiting. The price is around €15.
5️⃣ Bar Sete Mares in Camara de Lobos
This is the place you can enjoy the cool vibe of Madeiran bar. It serves delicious fish food and local food that get along with Nikita cocktail, also famous for a local beverage.
🍲 Local food of Madeira :
1️⃣ Bolo do Caco
The “Bolo do Caco” bread is a popular and traditional bread of Madeira. You can try Bolo do Caco easily in most of the restaurants you visit. Made with wheat flour, homemade yeast, water, and salt, is baked on a basalt stone heated at a high temperature. This bread is served hot with garlic butter. If you visit Madeira, this is must-eat food that you can’t miss.
2️⃣ Pastel de nata
Pastel de nata is a crispy pastry filled with egg custard. You can easily find Pastel de nata in a cafe or bakery in Madeira. It is sweet and delicious which locals love. If you try one bite, you never stop until you finish it. Enjoy the sweetness of Madeira!
Espetada is a traditional and specialty dish in Portuguese cuisine. It is usually served with beef which is seasoned with salt and garlic and then hung vertically on a skewer. The skewer is placed over hot coals until the beef is cooked and then serve to you. You can feel the chewy and soft texture of beef.
4️⃣ Lapas and seafood
As an island in the middle of the ocean, Madeira is famous for various kinds of seafood. Among lots of seafood, Lapas (limpets) is the one you need to try at first. It is the must-try one. It is grilled with garlic and butter and eaten with a squeeze of lemon. When you try Lapas, recommends ordering Bolo do Caco, local bread with garlic butter.
🍹 Local drink of Madeira :
1️⃣ Nikita Cocktail
Nikita is a traditional drink on Madeira island made with pineapple ice cream or pineapple juice and white beer. It is originally from Câmara de Lobos, the fishing town in Madeira. There is a non-alcohol version of Nikita, which is sweet and delicious as well. Finding women travelers in the NomadHer community is one of the ways to enjoy Nikita!
Poncha is the representative local dring on Madeira island basically made with brandy cane sugar, honey, and juice of lemons. The most popular flavor is “Poncha with passion fruit flavor”. You will see many locals who order Poncha in restaurants with their meals. It could be a bit strong for people who are not used to drinking.
3️⃣ Brisa Maracujá
It was the first soft drink in the world based on pure passion fruit juice made in 1970. It is made with the juice of purple passion fruit and carbonated treated water. Passion fruit is used everywhere like ice cream, drinks, and snacks broadly. It is a national popular beverage all over Madeira even than Coke. If you visit Madeira, try this. You can get to know right away why locals love Brisa Maracujá.
4️⃣ Madeira wine
If you like wine, you can explore a variety taste of wines while traveling in Madeira. Madeira is a fortified wine that hails from the island, away from the coast of Morocco. From dry to sweet, it's mainly made with a handful of grape varieties, including Tinta Negra Mole, Sercial, Verdelho, Bual (also known as Boal), and Malvasia (Malmsey). You can join some wine tours that provide programs to learn more about it and do a wine tasting.
Madeira island is getting popular now and the weather is usually warm, so it attracts tourists all the year. So finding accommodation at a reasonable price is competitive. The hostel in normal condition starts at least €50 in Funchal, the downtown area of the island. So it will be a good way to find a travel companion through the NomadHer community to share a room and save travel budget.
If you plan to stay more than a few weeks, then recommend joining the Madeira digital nomad community. It is a large community of over 5000 digital nomads, you can find every information that you are looking for. For example, accommodation, activity, local events, tips & advice, and more. Most of the people who visited usually stay in Funchal. Because it is the main downtown area of the island so it has everything like good transportation, restaurants, local event,s and lots of people. If you like a peaceful and calm atmosphere but sometimes enjoy local festivals and events on Friday and weekends, recommend staying at Ponta do sol where there is a digital nomad village.
✈️ To get to the island
The island is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about 1000 km from mainland Portugal and 500 km from the coast of Morocco. Therefore, the best way to go to Madeira is to take a plane.
There is only one airport on the island, the Aeroporto Internacional da Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo, previously known as Aeroporto Santa-Catarina.
🏝️ On Madeira
If your plan is only around Funchal(the main area of the island) or nearby, the bus is popular transportation to take. The bus network is very good, fast and regular in Funchal. There are several places(Tabaco or ticket booth) where you can buy and recharge the bus card. But, If you go other regions far away from Funchal, then it will be difficult to reach your destination by bus.
2️⃣ By car
The easiest option to visit Madeira is to rent a car. Even if the public transport network is very good within the downtown area, we advise you to rent a car if you want to visit more isolated and hidden places or outside of Funchal to save your time.
3️⃣ Bolt & taxis
If you don’t want or can not rent a car, you can always use the taxis. We recommend you download Bolt (an application equivalent to Uber, broadly used in Portugal) to have cheaper taxi fares. As Madeira is a small island, there are not many Bolts. You may therefore have to wait a bit during peak hours.
Join other solo female travelers heading to Madeira and meet local women! Meet women travelers on NomadHer App and ask questions about traveling solo to Madeira, Portugal. You can join the NomadHer community by downloading the app. Also, You can see have a quick look at what’s going on right now by following @nomad_her
More about NomadHer :
NomadHer is an app for female globetrotters to encourage solo travelling safely. NomadHer has a vision of empowering women through travelling.
June 15, 2022
I believe in all of you NomadHers. Who knows, maybe the next step in your life to find your purpose is a solo trip! You never know what you may find out about yourself.
June 22, 2022
The fellow NomadHer SooMin worked as a digital nomad on Madeira island in the beginning of June, with the NomadHer team, sharing her experiences about the digital nomad life!
December 2, 2022
The best part of being a digital nomad is the ability to work everywhere with your laptop. This gives me a superpower that allows me to work and travel at the same time to live...