From its dramatic landscapes and unique culture to its delicious cuisine and exciting activities, Madeira is an island destination that offers something for every traveler. So pack your bags and prepare for an unforgettable journey through this captivating archipelago.
Getting To and Around:
- Flights: Madeira International Airport (FNC), also known as Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, serves the island of Madeira with connections to major cities in Europe and other destinations.
- Ferries: A ferry service operates between Madeira (Funchal) and Porto Santo, the neighboring island, and occasional ferry services link Madeira to mainland Portugal (Lisbon).
- Local Transportation: Madeira offers public buses and taxis for getting around the island. Renting a car is recommended for exploring at your own pace, though be prepared for winding roads and steep inclines.
Top Attractions in Madeira
- Funchal: Madeira’s capital city is a vibrant destination with historic sites, beautiful gardens, and lively markets. Key attractions include the Old Town (Zona Velha), Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market), and the Funchal Cable Car.
- Pico do Arieiro: This impressive peak offers spectacular views, accessible via car or by hiking the challenging trail connecting Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest point.
- Levadas: These unique irrigation channels, built to distribute water across the island, feature scenic walking paths alongside lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls.
- Cabo Girão: One of Europe’s highest sea cliffs, Cabo Girão features panoramic views and a thrilling glass-bottomed skywalk.
- Ponta de São Lourenço: This dramatic peninsula boasts striking cliffs, vibrant landscapes, and picturesque hiking trails.
Activities and Experiences in Madeira
- Dolphin and Whale Watching: Join a boat excursion to spot various species of dolphins and whales that inhabit the waters around Madeira.
- Laurisilva Forest: Explore this UNESCO-listed subtropical rainforest, home to unique flora and fauna, by hiking the numerous trails within the forest.
- Wine Tasting: Discover Madeira’s wine heritage by sampling the famous fortified Madeira wine at local vineyards or wine lodges in Funchal.
- Jardim Botânico da Madeira: Wander through this stunning botanical garden to admire its extensive collection of plants and panoramic views of Funchal.
- Santana: Visit the charming village of Santana, known for its traditional A-frame houses with thatched roofs.
Local Madeira Cuisine
Indulge in Madeira’s unique cuisine, which features fresh seafood, local produce, and traditional Portuguese flavors. Must-try dishes include espetada (grilled meat skewers), bolo do caco (round bread served with garlic butter), and lapas (grilled limpets).
Best Parts of Madeira to Stay
Madeira offers a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets and preferences, from guesthouses and boutique hotels to luxury resorts. Funchal is a popular base, while smaller villages and rural areas provide more tranquil settings.
When to Visit
Madeira enjoys a pleasant year-round climate, with mild temperatures and abundant sunshine. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are ideal times to visit, as the weather is pleasant and the island is less crowded.
Tips for Visiting Madeira
- Pack layers, as the weather can be unpredictable, especially in the mountains.
- Wear comfortable shoes for hiking and exploring the island’s rugged landscapes.
- Learn a few basic Portuguese phrases to help navigate the island and connect with the locals.
- Practice responsible tourism by respecting local customs, preserving the environment, and supporting local businesses.
- Visit local festivals and events: Madeira hosts various events throughout the year, such as the Madeira Flower Festival (April/May), the Atlantic Festival (June), and the Madeira Wine Festival (August/September). Plan your visit around these events to experience the island’s unique traditions and celebrations.
- Discover Madeira’s natural pools: The island features several natural pools formed by volcanic rock, such as Porto Moniz and Seixal, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in a picturesque setting.
- Try a traditional poncha: This local alcoholic drink is made with aguardente de cana (sugar cane spirit), honey, lemon, and orange juice. You can find it in most bars and restaurants across Madeira.
- Visit the CR7 Museum: Football fans should not miss the CR7 Museum, dedicated to the career of Madeira-born football legend Cristiano Ronaldo, showcasing his numerous awards and memorabilia.
- Explore the island’s diverse microclimates: Madeira’s varied landscapes and microclimates create unique environments, from the rugged peaks of Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro to the subtropical Laurisilva Forest.
- Enjoy Madeira’s outdoor activities: The island offers a wealth of outdoor experiences, such as canyoning, mountain biking, paragliding, and diving, making it a paradise for adventure seekers.