Madeira holidays will take you to a land of breathtaking landscapes and botanical beauty. This sun-drenched island is known as ‘the Floating Garden’, so you can expect lots of colour, from the turquoise coastline to the scarlet poinsettias that cover the landscape. Walkers will love trekking through the lush scenery. Or you can head for a beautiful beach at Porto Santo for an afternoon in the sunshine with the kids. Explore Madeira’s traditional villages and enjoy fresh seafood in a local taverna. Or head for the bustling capital for Funchal for a cosmopolitan affair. It’s up to you to make holidays in Madeira your own.
Things to do
It’s no wonder Madeira is called the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’: you can experience the true beauty of the island’s rich landscape from the tiny village of Curral das Freiras. Or soak up the unspoilt views from the dramatic cliff face at Cabo Girão. Looking for history? Explore Funchal’s Gothic Sé Cathedral, or travel by cable car up to the charming little village of Monte. Water spots enthusiasts will love the crystal-clear waters. Head to Garajau National Marine Park for spectacular scuba-diving. If you have the kids with you then there are plenty of family-friendly attractions to try out in Madeira, and top of the list has to be the Aquaparque waterpark. This popular attraction is the perfect place for family fun.
The stunning beaches of Maderia are exceptionally beautiful. Soft black sand and pebbles line picturesque coves that shelve into warm clear waters of shimmering blue. As well as sandy shores, there are numerous beaches with other unique characteristics. If you want to swim in a peaceful setting under the warm sunshine then Calhau da Lapa’s clear waters are perfect. Hidden at the bottom of a steep slope in Campanario, you won’t find sunbeds or parasols but will find secluded silence and crystal clear waves.
For incredible photo opportunities, visit Porto Moniz to witness the giant lava rocks that sit in the warm pools. Follow the steps into the natural bathing pools and relax, soaking up the beauty of the island’s famous scenery.
History and culture
The botanic island of Madeira is in the autonomous region of Portugal and first became a popular tourist destination in the 1850s. Surprisingly, in the 16th century, Madeira was Portugal’s top producer of wheat and then sugar cane, which brought in more wealth for the region. This started a variety of trade in the 17th century, including today’s most exported product, the famous Madeira wine.
Madeira is still rich in traditional culture that can be seen through its architecture and delightful customs. Recited by writer Ernest Hemingway as the ‘most exhilarating experience’ of his life; one of the most famous traditions, is a toboggan ride down the hill from Monte to Funchal. Take a ride in the wicker toboggans to be pushed by a team of Carreiros de Monte, who fly with you down the paved streets and break using only their rubber-soled shoes.
Food and drink
Madeira is widely known for its undeniable beauty, but also its rustic food and delicious wine. Traditional food consists of hearty meals like espetada, which is marinated garlic and beef cooked with bay leaves on skewers. As Madeira is surrounded by water, you can expect to find freshly caught fish dishes to suit your appetite in most restaurants. A top priority when visiting is to try the famous Madeira wine, made directly from the vineyards across the island.
Madeira’s nightlife is said to be quieter than those found on the mainland of Portugal. This said, you could still enjoy a late evening meal and a few cocktails in the numerous pubs and bars where live music and entertainment can often be found. The island really comes alive at the weekend where you can dance the night away in the several nightclubs that are open late. In Funchal, the atmosphere is more contemporary with an abundance of upbeat nightlife to enjoy throughout the week.
Places to stay
Madeira’s largest city, Funchal, is located on the south coast of the island. For a taste of Madeiran life, take a wander through its narrow streets. Sample authentic Madeiran dishes like sopa de tomate e cebola, a tomato and onion soup topped with a poached egg, in one of its many traditional restaurants. Quaint little art galleries, museums and markets can be found throughout the city. Just six kilometres east of Funchal is the quiet seaside village of Caniço de Baixo. An oasis of calm, the idyllic resort is perched upon a hill overlooking the sea. Take a stroll along the cliffs and admire the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
More Travel Guides
We also have travel guides available for destinations including: Funchal