Is Madeira a good solo travel destination?

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Madeira can be a great solo travel destination, but a lot depends on your expectations. There are numerous activities you can do on your own, but meeting people (especially other solo travellers) can be harder than in other destinations.

Overall, I would say Madeira is an excellent choice if you enjoy solitary activities, but if you’re a social solo traveller you may have to work for it a little more. I’ll share some more tips and perspectives from travelling in Madeira solo, having also travelled solo in 60+ countries.

We (Marek and Inês) typically go on couple or family trips, but this post is written from the personal perspective of Marek, who travelled to Madeira solo twice.

Is Madeira safe to travel solo?

Yes! Madeira is a very safe destination overall. Crime, especially of the violent sort, is very rare. It’s one of the safest destinations in Europe, so you don’t need to worry about exploring it by yourself.

Madeira is also a safe destination for solo female travellers. In addition to the low crime rate, locals tend to be friendly and helpful and most speak English very well.

However, remember to be very careful when hiking. This is realistically the one danger you need to be conscious of in Madeira, as it’s not uncommon for tourists to go missing in the mountains or to need rescue. As a solo traveller, you will logically be at greater risk, so take proper precautions (see further below) if you want to go walking in nature.

Solitary travel in Madeira

If you’d just like to spend some days on a beautiful island and don’t absolutely need to socialize, you’ll be in the best position to enjoy Madeira.

There are plenty of activities you can do by yourself: you can drive around the island, swim at the beaches or natural pools, enjoy the local cuisine, go on hikes, or sign up for water activities such as surfing, coasteering, canyoning, or dolphin- and whale-watching.

If you love photography then you’re going to be thrilled with all the craggy landscapes, varying weather conditions, and interesting scenes you can capture.

It’s easier to have a car, but if you don’t drive, you can still manage to some degree. The public transport isn’t amazing, but it can get you to a couple of places from the capital Funchal, such as Curral das Freiras, or Ponta de São Lourenço.

Hiking solo in Madeira

If you want to hike, consider some easier and reasonably well-trodden paths, so that you’re not truly alone. It’s also a good idea to pick a nice and clear day for your walk. Some nice popular and easy/medium difficulty trails include Ponta de São Lourenço, Levada das 25 Fontes, or Levada do Rei.

If you want to hike the spectacular mountain peaks (Pico Areeiro and Pico Ruivo), I recommend booking a tour with a guide or finding a shuttle transfer to/from the trail. It’s a much more demanding hike with narrow paths along the mountain rims. It’s not circular but point-to-point, so it’s best to arrange transportation or get a tour with pick-up.

Be sure to keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Don’t stand on ledges or walls to take selfies
  • Avoid hiking in adverse weather, especially when surfaces may be slippery
  • Avoid hiking alone; join a hiking tour group or at least pick an easy trail you can do by yourself based on your level of hiking experience. Make sure you tell someone where you’re going
  • Don’t enter hiking trails that are officially closed because often this is for a good reason (such as mudslides). You can check all the trails’ statuses here.

Residents in Madeira often bemoan how some tourists take unnecessary risks or ignore safety advice, which has sometimes led to tragic accidents over the years.

To be fair, there are only a few areas where you may feel truly away from civilization and there are no dangerous animals on the island, but it is nevertheless still a good idea to be careful.

Jaca Hostel in Porta da Cruz

Social solo travel in Madeira

If you’re looking to meet many other (solo) travellers in Madeira, then this may require a bit more effort than in other destinations. And if you’re a younger solo traveller looking for a buzzing vibe, then this can be more difficult to find.

Madeira is not so well-known among backpacker-type solo travellers. Whereas in, say, Thailand you may meet solo travellers at seemingly every turn, and Lisbon has numerous highly social backpacker hostels to choose from, it’s not quite such a solo travel cornucopia here.

Madeira is mainly a destination enjoyed by couples and families, especially those who enjoy a relaxing and quiet time in nature. However, there are some solo travellers around — and you can travel solo in a social way in Madeira if you put in some effort.

Madeira used to be known as a destination mainly for grey-haired retirees visiting by cruise ship, but in recent years it got onto the radar of digital nomads, who helped popularize it among other audiences as well. There’s a reasonably broad mix of ages and traveller types on the island.

How to meet people in Madeira

Firstly, your choice of accommodation can help you find a more social atmosphere.

There are several hostels in Madeira, though not all of them may be super social. I haven’t yet stayed, but I think your best bets may be the two Jaca Hostels (one in Porto Cruz, the other in Funchal) or On Track Hostel.

Some accommodations in Madeira have a bit of a guesthouse feel. I much enjoyed Maktub Guesthouse in the small village of Jardim do Mar, which reminded me a bit of cozy guesthouses I stayed while travelling in South America. I also heard some nice things about the Madeira Surf Lodge.

If you come to Madeira with particular activities in mind, that’ll be helpful too. Spend a few days learning to scuba dive or taking surfing lessons and you’ll have a built-in connection with other students and teachers.

You can also book organized tours, such as those offered on GetYourGuide. Mind you, these sorts of tours are unlikely to get you connected with new travel buddies, as most participants will be couples or families doing their own thing for the rest of their trip. However, they can easily let you join a group activity and still interact with others on the same tour.

Know that nightlife isn’t huge in Madeira. There are bars and a couple of clubs, but they are mainly oriented toward residents rather than being a tourist draw or something the island is known for.

You can use online groups to connect:

Lastly, a note on meeting locals. Culturally speaking, most Portuguese (and by extension Madeirans) tend to stick to their traditional friend- and family circles. They often hang out with the people they know from school and are big on family obligations, which is the focal point of Portuguese life. So while locals are very open, they are also busy with their existing connections, or at least this is often the perception among foreigners. However, you can always find plenty of exceptions to the rule, particularly through some of the communities linked above.

For more ideas on what you can do all around the island, be sure to click around the blog! For a basic template for a short trip, don’t miss this 3-day itinerary for Madeira.

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