I spent the past week cycling around Madeira. Here are some of my experiences and some tips and advice, for those who wish to go cycling around Madeira.

Cycling around Madeira.

Cycling around Madeira.

This past week has really been a joy. I have circumnavigated the island Madeira with my bike and have had some great days of climbing mountains by the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is really a beautiful island. The north coast of the island especially has some fantastic scenery and places that are not built up yet. I have had some of the best views of my entire travel life there. Stayed in some really nice little hotels without paying an arm and a leg for it. Madeira is not the most obvious place to go cycling, but it can be done and it can be very pleasant if you prepare yourself a bit.

Madeira has some steep roads.

Madeira has some steep roads.

Cycling Madeira.

Cycling Madeira.

It’s a vertical island.

Madeira is only 800 square kilometers, so it’s not very big as such. But it’s almost vertical as the island rises from the bottom of the atlantic and is almost 2000 meters high, despite being so small. This means that you are in for some climbing when you cycle the island. Unless you cycle through all the tunnels, which I do not recommend, as they can be dangerous for cyclists. So you better like to climb if you plan to go cycling around Madeira.

Madeira is beautiful.

Madeira is beautiful.

I had a monster climb between Sao Vicente and Santana on the north coast, where I was up really high. But the road was quiet and it was actually really nice. Even if it got so steep that I had to walk parts of the way.

I have no problem walking my bike by the way. I like walking too and I am not interested in injuring myself. My trips are not some macho thing I am doing. Most of my cycling trips are slow rides, where I take my time to enjoy the place. So my pride is not hurt, just because I walk the bike from time to time.

Another Madeira tunnel.

Another Madeira tunnel.

Try to avoid the tunnel nightmare.

Madeira has almost 200 tunnels going through the mountains on this relatively little island. This is great for cars who like to get around the island quickly. For a cyclist they are really bad though. I would strongly advise you to avoid them whenever you can and try to take the old roads up in the mountains instead. It’s better to be tired on a mountain top than get run over in a dark tunnel. I went through tunnels a few times during my trip. But tried to keep it to a minimum. A couple of times when I went through a longer tunnel, I got off my bike and walked. As I felt that driving through was unsafe.

Rural Madeira rocks.

Rural Madeira rocks.

Get away from the Funchal area.

When you are cycling around Madeira, you do not really have much interest in the region around Funchal. From a cycling perspective, Funchal is pretty bad. It’s built up and congested. The roads were only created with the car driver in mind and cycling there is often problematic. Good news is that it’s quick to get away from there, to places that are more suited for cyclists.

Cycling around Madeira.

Cycling around Madeira.

Cycling from Funchal to Ribeira Brava.

When I cycled from Funchal to Ribeira Brava, I decided to avoid the tunnels and go the hard way over Cabo Girao. This is a long climb. But the views are amazing and the road has little traffic. You have plenty of small cafes and grocery stores along the way, where you can refuel if you need to. The alternative is a very busy road with some long tunnels that are no good.

Be ware of rock slides when cycling around Madeira.

Be ware of rock slides when cycling around Madeira.

Cycling along the north coast of Madeira.

The great thing about the north coast of Madeira, is that they have left most of the old road along the sea as it was. They have drilled some tunnels into the mountain, where all the cars are driving now. This means that a large part of the north coast of Madeira has a road that runs right by the sea. These roads are barely used by motorised traffic. Just be aware that there are a lot of rock slides here and you are often navigating around fallen rocks on these roads. But that is just part of the charm for me.


Cycling the west coast of Madeira.

Near Porto Moniz.

Near Porto Moniz.

The western part of Madeira is probably the part that is most suitable for cyclists, as they have not yet blown it all to pieces to make tunnels. It’s a very rural part of the island. And it’s very suitable for cycling. Again if you do not mind that there is a lot of elevation. I spent one day cycling from Prazeres to Porto Moniz and it was really a nice ride. Only hard thing was the descent to Porto Moniz, where I had to do part of the downhill ride by foot, because it was so steep and winding. I think it’s the first time I have ever been to a place, where I actually had to get off my bike for a downhill ride. Simply because it was too steep and winding.

Accommodation along the way.

I decided to stay in a new place every night, as I like to have the road trip feeling when I am tour cycling and I found very nice single rooms along the way in the price range from 20 to 35€ per night. I think this is a good price, especially considering that I was cycling around Madeira during Easter week.

My final verdict about Madeira as a cycling destination.

Madeira is for sure not your typical cycling destination and I did not meet a single other tour cyclist during my trip. But it’s doable and when you figure it out, then it’s actually a really cool place to go tour cycling. Just be prepared to be flexible and take a tunnel ride here and there, when this is the only option. And then walk through the tunnel if it’s a long one. But it’s a really pretty and unique island that deserves to be explored by bike.


Cycling mainland Portugal.

Should you wish to cycle around mainland Portugal, then I have some advice about that on this link.

Waterfall dropping on to the road on Madeira Island.

Waterfall dropping on to the road on Madeira Island.

Tunnel with the old road next to it.

Tunnel with the old road next to it.

Madeira rocks.

Madeira rocks.


  1. Gonçalo Peres

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m from Portugal (continent) and never occurred to me to go cycle touring in Madeira. Also because there’s still so much do discover by bike in the continent – I do a one week cycle tour every year.
    But because of your nice post, I just might reconsider.
    Well done 🙂

  2. Hey there. Thank you very much for your feedback. I really enjoyed reading this post. 😀 I’m glad you also enjoyed this piece of Portugal. I have to ask, did you track your route by GPS? Someday I’d love to do the same as you did here.

    Kind regards

  3. Bicycling around Madeira looks like an epic experience.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience. I ran into your blog because I plan to visit Madeira, and plan on cycling at least one day while there on my vacation next month. As you stated, more cyclists that like climbing can now take advantage of the old roads that are still up and no longer are used by drivers as much to get “around” Madeira.

    Ride & Smile!


  5. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Every year I spend a week cycling around an island and trying to hug the coast road as much as possible.
    I am off to Madeira in January (first time) to do exactly this – your blog has been the most useful thing I’ve read.
    Some questions please
    Q1. I am planning to swim in the man made rock/sea pools in Porto Moniz and elsewhere. Is the sea warm enough ?
    Q2. What is the variation in temperature from coastal road to mountain top ? .. re taking clothes, which as you’ll know I keep to the absolute minimum
    Q3 I have a choice of mountain bike or road bike (cyclo cross ie standard road bike with 28c tyres). Which do you suggest taking ?

    • Hi’ graham.
      Thank you for your comment.
      Regarding your questions:
      #1: The sea pools should be warm enough to swim in as long as you can take the Atlantic temperature of around 17-18 degrees celcius. If you have a strong wind coming from the north, then it might not be possible to swim there due to waves, but otherwise you should be fine.
      #2: That depends on how many clouds you have really, but there can be a significant temperature change, so it’s a good idea to have a jumper and a waterproof windbreaker. be ware that you can encounter rain on Madeira all year round really, but it will mostly be sunny.
      #3 You should be fine with both really. As you cn see on my photos, there can be a little bit of rock slide, but it’s not too bad really. I cycled around the island myself with a standard touring bike and had no problems.

      Have a nice trip.


  6. thanks – i’ll let you know how i get on

    • Had a great time .. but it is hilly .. very very hilly
      Also its full of older people and outside of Funchal very little was happening
      I saw no other cyclists, apart from 3 lycra clad MAMILs in Funchal time trialling along the front.
      Favourite moments were (1) cycling as much of the ER101 as I could on the north side, especially the waterfalls onto the road. (2) being on the top of the island above the clouds (3) the sparks flying of my brake blocks when they wore through to the metal on the descent from the top (4) swimming in the rock pools between Funchal and Port Los Cobos (5) friendly people..
      Like you I ended up on the VE1 but only got about 100m before cars/people ensured I turned round .. good idea.
      Would I go again ? – no .. although I would always go somewhere new. Also far too many stray dogs chasing me and far far too hilly.
      Had a great time though
      Thanks for the notes before I went – really appreciated
      PS Happy to send you a photo to your email address to add to the blog if you wish

  7. Pingback: Madeira is the perfect outdoor destination. Not just a place to look at flowers.

  8. Jon Magnus Solgaard

    Why do you think road cycling is not so popular in Madeira?

    • First of all because the roads in the Funchal area, where half the people on the island live, are too narrow and not build with bicycles in mind. And the fact that the island is very steep also plays in.

  9. Jon Magnus Solgaard

    I see, but did you have a problem whit stray dogs when you was cycling around the island?

    • No problem at all with stray dogs on Madeira. The few stray dos they have are not aggressive. Portuguese in general like to have a big dog barking behind a fence, in the illusion that it makes their home safer. But these guys are always behind a fence and not in the street. I don’t think I have ever had a single dog chase in Madeira or Portugal mainland.

  10. Jon Magnus Solgaard

    Thank you Claus 🙂

  11. Thanks Claus (and everyone else) for sharing your cycling experiences in Madeira. I might take my bike to Madeira in my upcoming holiday and will use your guide. I imagine as there is no cycling-tradition in the island, it will be difficult to find a bike hire place?

    • Hi’ Fabio. You have plenty of places that rent out bikes on Madeira. But these bikes are only good for day trips I would say. They are not good for multi day trips , as they have no space for luggage. But if you are just looking for day trips by bike, then you can easily rent a fairly good bike around Funchal. But if you want to go tour cycling around Madeira, then bring you own bike. Enjoy your trip mate.

  12. Peter Boldizsar

    Hi Claus,
    Nice post, I plan cycle around Madeira this week or so.
    How long did it take you to do the tour?

  13. Stephen Borland

    Claus, thank you for your report on Madeira, it made very interesting and informative reading. I am going to Funchal in the summer and I was trying to research hiring an EMTB. Best wishes for your future adventures.

  14. Samantha Archibald

    Loved reading about your madeira adventure, we’re looking for a short cycle holiday, 5 6 days possibly. I’m just reccying a route but wondered if you’d be happy to share your rough route so I could compare? 🙂

  15. Hey Claus! Thanks for sharing your experience of cycling around one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

    I’m Portuguese but from Sesimbra, a fishing village near Lisbon, and I have actually just discovered the beauty of cycle touring while doing a 56-day trip around mainland Portugal. I’m now thinking of taking on Madeira (maybe next I’ll head to the Azores). I’m sure this post will be super useful in the future, so I really appreciate you taking the time to write it.

    Let me know if you ever consider doing a round-the-country trip of Portugal. It’s definitely worth it! I highly recommend it 🙂

    I’ve also noticed you live and work as a tour leader and have shared some experience in other posts so I’ll read that now. thanks for those as well 😀 I hope to be able to lead a similar life sometime in the future. Having folks like you shedding some light on that lifestyle really makes it seem more like a possibility.

  16. Hi
    I’ll be in Madeira in March and hope to cycle on some of these older roads. Can anyone say how well the old ones are holding up now that traffic and repairs have presumably migrated to the new ones?

    • Hi’ Jim. The old roads that have been replaced by new tunnels are not getting any repair. But they are still fine to cycle as long as you do not have a racing bike. I would recommend either a touring bike or a mountainbike for cycling on Madeira Island. Have a fantastic trip mate.

  17. Judith Butler

    I live in Madeira for a few months every year. The southwest coast, where I live, is an entirely different weather situation than other regions… warmer, drier, sunnier, lusher. As a cyclist who has toured 18 countries by bike to date, I have never considered Madeira as a desirable place for pedalling. Rock slides, the north side’s drizzle & wind & cold, hills, hills and more hills, and so many tunnels! I hike and drive. I call Madeira my winter home but never my cycling destination. As someone who knows the island inside out, I admire your fortitude in conquering all the obstacles. By the way, for daring off-roaders, there is a robust mountain bike culture and several tour companies to accommodate that.

  18. Pingback: 2020 calls for a cycling holiday. - cycling holiday in 2020

  19. Pingback: Tips and advice for tour cycling in Portugal. – Travelling Claus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *