Madeira is one of those islands that is definitely best explored by car. With so much to discover in its ‘out of the way’ towns and villages and along its beautiful coastline, having your own wheels gives you the best chance of seeing as much you want to in the time you have. |
We suggest renting a vehicle and driving the length of the island, taking in some of the road trips below. Before you leave, remember that Madeira is best discovered slowly. The roads can be full of twists and turns and there are many ups and downs, so take it easy. Stick to the smaller roads for the most authentic experiences, the best views and the ‘wow’ factor.
Top Four Scenic Madeira Road
Bica da Cana – Fonte do Bispo/ Paúl da Serra (ER 110)
Starting with a gentle introduction, this route takes you along the plateau of Paul da Serra and is the longest stretch of road on the island. As you make your way, you will be pleased to discover that there are hardly any curves compared to the other routes, which is why this is a good one to start with as it will give you a chance to get used to the hire vehicle (and there is less risk of you needing to make a claim on that car hire excess insurance!).
Miles of quiet road leads you past magnificent wind energy mills and on to the Rabaçal, where you can take a break and find out more about the magical trees of the Laurissilva Forest. Truly delightful!
Porto Moniz – Seixal – São Vicente – Ponta Delgada (ER 101)
There’s nothing quite like driving with seaside views to greet you around every turn. Dazzling waters to one side and verdant mountains with trickling streams leading down to the sea to the other side make this a stand-out drive.
Taking a diversion to the Porto Moniz natural pools is highly recommended, as is a visit to the cascade of the bride’s veil in Seixal, the Chapel of Calhau in São Vicente or the Ribeira da Janela rock formations. This route is definitely one of the most scenic on the island, and possibly even a contender for the world. Ribeira Brava – Encumeada (ER 104 / ER228)
This drive certainly has all of the ingredients to render you speechless, but just make sure you keep your eyes on the road! The Encumeada Valley is like nowhere else on Madeira and the twisting, turning contours make this an absolutely stunning part of the island. It is a great idea to stop off in the Serra d’Agua to admire the Pico do Galo and the wonderful cultivated terraces known as “poios”.
Once the gateway to São Vicente, and the main link between the north and south of the island, this road is one not to be missed.
Poiso – Pico Areeiro (Route sans nom)
You need a clear day for this one, as if there is low cloud your efforts to navigate its turns and gradients will be wasted. Arriving at 1818m above sea level at the Pico do Areeiro is a real treat. Endless blue skies and wispy clouds punctuated by the dominating mountains make for spectacular views and great photos.
Before You Go
There is no doubt that driving on Madeira is not as easy as driving on long stretches of the main roads you might be familiar with. You will need to contemplate hairpins, gradients and rough ground on a regular basis. With this in mind, it is recommended that you take out car hire excess insurance just in case any unexpected issues arise when you are out in the car. You don’t want to return home to unnecessary bills that your car hire company insurance doesn't cover.
Once you have your car hire excess insurance sorted, all you have to worry about is looking forward to what has all the makings of a trip of a lifetime.
Author Plate Sam Walker is a specialist insurance expert at LowerHire, a company that offers low-cost single trip and annual multi-trip car hire excess insurance policies. Travellers can rest easy knowing they will be fully protected against any hidden hire car costs and look forward to a stress-free rental experience.
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