Madeira is a fairly small island, so you can see at least some of the key highlights on a short break (if you’re in a rush). But to experience Madeira fully, we think it’s best to have at least a week or ideally 10 days.
Of course, every traveller and every trip is different, so there are no hard-and-fast rules.
Perhaps you’re interested only in sightseeing, maybe you can’t wait to go hiking in the mountains, or maybe you just want to relax by the pool for at least some of your time in Madeira. All that and more is possible, but it always depends on how much time you have…
Read on for a more nuanced answer as to how long you might stay in Madeira based on your interests and time available.
3 days in Madeira
If sightseeing is your main goal, then consider 3 days the minimum for an incomplete but still meaningful impression of Madeira. This won’t truly let you slow down and soak in the atmosphere nor will it leave time for spontaneous discoveries, but it’s enough to get acquainted with the island.
You can plan a punchy and varied trip that includes some of the coolest sights — just expect it to be quite action-packed if you want to cover it all!
We suggest the following:
- 1 day to explore the capital, Funchal
- 1 day for the east of the island (such as with this tour)
- 1 day for sightseeing in the west (like with this “best of the west” tour).
You may wonder if 3 days in Madeira is too short, and to be perfectly honest, it is quite short. We only suggest this if, say, you only have a long weekend break available, or maybe you’re thinking of combining a trip to continental Portugal with a short trip to the island.
Don’t miss our 3 days in Madeira itinerary for some more specific ideas.
1 week in Madeira
1 week is an ideal minimum time if you want to cover all the basic sightseeing and have several days in which you can spend your time hiking or relaxing around the water.
Madeira is infamous for its excellent hikes. Due to the varied geography and microclimates, it’s definitely worth doing a couple of different ones. For instance, the levada hikes through lush laurel forests are quite a world apart from the craggy arid coastline of São Lourenço.
It’s not difficult at all to fill 7 days in Madeira with sightseeing and activities. It’s a great minimum time for having the feeling of a somewhat ‘complete’ holiday in Madeira.
You can find much more inspiration in our 1 week Madeira itinerary.
10 to 14 days in Madeira
We’ve seen messages in travel forums asking if two weeks in Madeira is too long. As far as we’re concerned, it’s actually the perfect amount of time — and of course, some would still say it’s not enough!
Being self-confessed travel freaks and also loving a great hike, we were not yet satiated after our first week in Madeira several years ago. The days flew by and even after 10 days we were still left with a list of travel ideas for when we’d come back.
With around 14 days you can explore the capital, stay a few days each in some charming villages, hike or swim in different locations, and have some days left to relax.
2 weeks is great for an unhurried trip where you can go on some road trips, discover different parts of the island, and have enough time for some fun activities such as dolphin- or whale-watching, canyoning, or surfing.
Although the island is relatively small geographically, there is a real depth to it in terms of interest that will easily let you fill up two weeks, especially if you enjoy nature.
How many days for Porto Santo?
Madeira is actually not just one island but a small archipelago. Whether you want to get off the main island depends on how much time you really have.
It takes 3 hours by ferry from Funchal to reach, or about 25 minutes by plane (though do consider the time spent getting to the airport and boarding).
The small island of Porto Santo is only about 6% the size of the main island. Porto Santo is home to just an airstrip, a small town, and some beach resorts.
There isn’t much to do there except to relax, but it does have one thing that the main island doesn’t have: a very spacious and entirely natural sandy beach.
Because it takes a while to get to, we’d suggest adding Porto Santo to your itinerary if you have at least 10 days on your trip. You could still consider it if you have fewer days, but you may have to sacrifice some cool sights and hikes on the main island to add your beach time in Porto Santo.
Long-term stays in Madeira
Of course, you can stay in Madeira for as long as your heart desires — and, if you’re not from within the EU, for as long as your visa allows.
Madeira has become increasingly popular for long stays, especially ever since the covid-19 pandemic put it on the radar for digital nomads and remote workers.
A local initiative called the Nomad Village began in the southern village of Ponta do Sol, offering assistance to digital nomads with finding accommodation as well as free coworking facilities. It was a huge success and the idea spread to other locations. There are now several vibrant remote working communities on the island, including in the gorgeous village of Jardim do Mar and in the small city of Machico.
You can find lots of information for medium- or long-term stays on the Digital Nomads Madeira site.