Beautiful roads are not the first thing you would expect in Madeira. But there are a lot of scenery streets on Madeira. Madeira is a wonderful island full of spectacular landscapes, unspoiled tropical nature and challenging hiking trails. There are waterfalls, mountains, valleys and of course spectacular roads. Driving in Madeira is in a league of its own. Due to the special topology of the Portuguese Atlantic island with many differences in altitude, mountains and valleys, there are extremely steep roads in Madeira, like we have never experienced anywhere else in the world. Driving a car on Madeira can be quite a challenge.
There are also many beautiful and scenic panoramic roads here, some of which run directly along the cliffs, through tropical forests or switchbacks, and wind their way up Madeira’s highest mountains. But what are the most beautiful roads in Madeira that you should not miss at all? If you are planning a road trip in Madeira, we would like to introduce you to the most beautiful roads in Madeira. Have fun on the road!
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
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Driving in Madeira | Tips for your Road Trip
First of all some important tips for you. Driving a car in Madeira is a thing of its own. Many roads – especially the side roads – are so steep, curvy and narrow that you have to be an experienced driver to cope with them. Especially the starting on the mountain should be mastered here. If you have been on the road in Madeira for a few days, you will get used to it.
So while the side roads are almost always very curvy and really steep, the main roads are mostly dead straight. This is because of the fact that most of the main roads (or expressways) go through the mountains in tunnels that are often miles long. These are then briefly interrupted by a traffic circle in the fresh air before entering the next tunnel. Especially in the south of the island, driving is like this when using the expressways (recognizable by the abbreviation VE).
Difference between ER and VE roads
If you look at the roads on Madeira on Google Maps, you will immediately notice the differences between the often dead straight VE roads and the mostly very curvy ER roads. VE are the expressways (or highways) on Madeira. They often run through endless tunnels and bring you as fast as possible to your destination. The roads with the abbreviation ER are more like country roads and wind without tunnels partly over narrow serpentines over mountain and valley.
So, in summary, if you want to get somewhere quickly, take the fast VE roads. If you want to experience Madeira and also have fun driving over winding roads, then rather take the ER roads. It will take you much longer, but you will also see and experience much more along the way.
Are there Speed Cameras on Madeira?
There are a few speed cameras on Madeira, but they are announced in advance. We have seen speed cameras – and the corresponding signs – but only near the capital Funchal and the airport. On the rest of the island, we have discovered neither fixed nor mobile speed cameras. Of course, you should always keep to the speed limit indicated.
How fast can I drive on Madeira?
The maximum speed on the highways (VE) is usually 90km/h. In towns you are usually allowed to drive only 50km/h. Out of town, depending on the road conditions, more may be allowed. Just pay attention to the signs. Sometimes there are signs out of town that allow a 10 km/h higher speed when the sun is shining. In case of rain, the speed limit must be adhered to. A very fair regulation as we find.
Parking on Madeira
As in Germany, there are parking bays on Madeira and parking is usually allowed at the side of the road. Here you have to pay attention to the color of the lines at the roadside. With blue lines you have to buy a parking ticket. If the lines are white, parking is free.
Do I need a Rental Car in Madeira?
There are many people who fly to Madeira and travel across the island without a rental car. This is also possible without any problems, because there is a well-developed bus network on Madeira. In total, there are five bus lines on Madeira, some of which only operate in Funchal (Horários do Funchal. Bus map as PDF) or each of which serves a different part of the island.
Intercity connections are offered by the following companies: Rodoeste Bus, SAM Bus and Canico Bus. Then there is the Aerobus, which connects the airport with Funchal. For each bus ride you need a new ticket, which costs about 1.50 Euro. Unfortunately, there is no transport association in Madeira, so you need a new ticket for each bus. We would recommend you to rent a car. This way you are much more flexible and you can get to more remote areas of the island very quickly.
The Most beautiful Roads on Madeira
Now we come to the most important part of this article. The highlights of driving on Madeira. Here is our personal top list of the most beautiful panoramic roads on Madeira.
Serpentines up to Pico do Areiro
The hike from Pico do Ariero to Pico Ruivo is already one of the gnarliest hikes you can do in Madeira. And just as cool is the climb up the 1818 meter high Pico do Arieiro. This first leads through dense coniferous forest and later over narrow curves and serpentines up to one of the highest mountains in Madeira.
If you drive up before sunrise, which is highly recommended, then you will hopefully be lucky enough to drive through thick fog or clouds a few kilometers before the finish. Soon you will break through the fog and you will be on top of the Arieiro above the clouds and have a spectacular view over the mountains and the rising sun. An absolute highlight on Madeira.
ER101 at the Ribeira do Inferno
Before the many tunnels were carved into the rocks, the coastal roads led directly along the cliff. Many of these coastal roads still exist today and very few of them can still be driven on by car. But most of them are closed or impassable by car. However, you should visit a very special coastal road, although it is closed to car traffic and is not so easy to walk on due to several fallen rocks.
This coastal road is located between São Vicente and Seixal and begins at the small waterfall Cascata Água d’Alto directly on the highway. Right here (Google Maps link) you can park your car and then you just have to walk across the highway (be careful!) to get to the coastal road. You have to walk past two bigger piles of rubble and then you have a great view of the coast all the way to São Vicente.
If you continue walking until you reach the tunnel, you will have a great view into a green canyon, which is crossed by a tunnel of the highway. You can continue walking until the coastal road meets the highway again or you can walk back and return to the car. This beautiful spot of Madeira is really totally untouristy and you will probably be totally alone here. This alone makes the charm of this beautiful road in Madeira.
The ER228 road leaves the VE4 in Serra de Água and leads you up the mountain in many small switchbacks, where it eventually joins the ER110 and then continues as ER228 to the town of Vargem, where it meets the VE4 again. On the way there are many smaller and larger viewpoints and the path leads at the beginning still on open roads that offer you a great view back to the valley.
In the later course, it goes through partly dense coniferous forest and winds further and further up the mountain before it goes down again in the same way. The curves are partly very narrow and it is really fun to drive here. When you arrive in the north of the island, you can use the highway VE4 to get back to the south of Madeira. The view here is zero, because this route leads through a tunnel, but it is much faster than the outward journey.
ER110 with Lombo do Mouro
High in the mountains in the region of Encumeada the ER110 starts, which leads to the northwest to Porto Moniz. The most exciting section is directly in Encumeada and leads steeply up into the mountains, offering you phenomenal views of mountain and valley landscapes along the way. The special highlight of this stretch is certainly the hairpin bend Lombo do Mouro.
Here you can also get out and climb the small hill between the roads and enjoy the view of the great landscape. If you continue, the road goes up again and you pass the viewpoint Bica da Cana, from where you can see the highest mountains of Madeira (Pico Ruivo & Pico do Areiro) in good weather. In the further course you will also pass the starting point of the popular hike to the 25 Fontes, which you should definitely hike.
The ER103 is a beautiful north-south connection between the Monte region in the south and Faial in the north of Madeira. The road winds through countless curves into the mountains in the center of Madeira, passing through almost tropical green forest and also offering some viewpoints and hikes that start along the way. One of the most famous hikes on ER103 is the very touristy, but also very short hike to Levada dos Balcões. You won’t miss the start of this hike, because there are a lot of cars parked right on the side of the road.
A little below the starting point to the Levada dos Balcoes is the beautiful bridge Ponte Velha (old bridge), which you cross on your way. From a drone you can take really nice photos of this bridge. The ER103 then leads you back downhill to the north of Madeira and offers you great views of the sea on the sometimes steep descent.
ER101 – The Road with the Waterfall
A very touristy, but super cool, road on Madeira is the ER101 near Ponta do Sol. Here you will find the narrow, but quite high waterfall Cascata dos Anjos. This waterfall pours from 90 meters high directly onto the narrow coastal road and then on into the sea. We have not experienced such a cool waterfall even in Iceland, which is very spoiled by waterfalls.
This is really a special natural spectacle and you can even drive under the waterfall with your car and use the waterfall as a free car wash. But you should also get out here and look at the waterfall up close. During the day you should have no problems to take a nice picture, but in the afternoon and especially at the sunset, which is always very beautiful on Madeira, you will not be alone here. Very many tourists run around here and try to take the perfect photo.
Do you think there are any other great roads in Madeira that we haven’t mentioned here? Always post them in the comments!