From the beginnings of exploration, travellers have expressively described Madeira as “a flower island” and “an island of eternal spring.” Indeed, the archipelago of volcanic origin is located approx. 900 km from Lisbon, and about 800 km from the African coast. Two thirds of the island is a nature reserve. Landscapes and natural spectacles are just as unique as versatile. Some examples include: the natural “amphitheatre” of the bay of Funchal, picturesque fishing villages, steep slopes of volcanic mountains with their stonewalled terrace fields (poisos), deep gorges, valleys and waterfalls. Artificial irrigation canals (levadas) crossing throughout the island, which used to be water supply routes, today serve as fascinating hiking trails of a total length of 2,100 km. Adventurous panoramic zigzag roads located on mountain slopes high above the sea, are surrounded by exotic and tropical flowers, plants and fruit.
The geographical position and the Gulf Stream are responsible for the mild climatic conditions in Madeira. Temperatures hardly ever fall below 16°C. The sea is the main food provider and hence Madeiran cuisine abounds in delicious sea food, juicy tuna fish and the local speciality – the black sword fish (espada). Bottles of famous Madeiran wine are obligatory souvenirs that all tourists carry back home in their hand luggage, as well as wonderful embroideries and orchids of “the flower island”. Madeira has the oldest tourist tradition in Europe.
Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is located as if in the rows of a huge amphitheatre above the bay. You must see the cathedral, a large number of churches, fortifications and several museums. In the botanical garden there is an exotic blend of tropical flowers that fascinate visitors. Do not miss the experience of the Mercado dos Lavradores (the farmer market) with its lavish offer of tropical fruit and vegetables.
Many bars and wine taverns in Funchal offer tasting of famous Madeiran wines. In the traditional winery Adegas de São Francisco you can learn about the history and production of wine. Funchal is a cosmopolitan city with excellent restaurants, good shops, bars, discos and a casino. Monte, formerly a holiday retreat with beautiful summer residences, is located 6 km north of Funchal.
The church of Nossa Senhora do Monte is worth the ascent of over 70 steps. And even higher than Monte, the Terreiro da Luta Monument is located. From here you have a particularly beautiful view on the bay of Funchal. Above all, though, it is a good starting point of an unforgettable holiday experience of Madeira. You can return down via a basket carriage. This old-style wicker chair is steered down on wooden rails by two carreiros guiding you down steep lanes until you hit Funchal again.
With its mild water temperatures the sea around Madeira encourages you to do all kinds of water sports: water skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing and fishing. Also holiday guests have recently caught big fish in the sea. On the coast near Jardim do Mar, Paúl do Mar and São Vicente there are fine surfing spots. Windsurfers profit from very favourable wind conditions, too.
Canoeing down the deep ravines of numerous Madeiran rivers leads you in the middle of unspoilt nature of the interior, all year round. But for those who would rather feel fixed soil under their feet or do some air sports, Madeira also has something on offer: kite flying, paragliding, horse riding or tennis.
The island is especially well suited for mountain biking. For golfers, the island has two wonderful championship courses: Santo da Serra with 27 holes, which is home to the Madeira Island Open Championships organized by the PGA European Tour, and Palheiro (18 holes), which has a wonderful view on the bay of Funchal.
Hiking in Madeira: With its wide array of sports offers, Madeira is also a paradise for hikers. You may be sure that even with difficult routes, you will hardly ever break out in a sweat because of the moderate climate. The most popular hiking routes are the agricultural roads leading along artificial irrigation canals (levadas) that cover a 2,100 km network on the island and lead to all places of interest. Numerous varied and new trails have made the classic walking experience attractive also for young people. If you prefer a somewhat “harder pace”, you can go trekking over stunning mountain paths.
Câmara de Lobos: The beautiful fishing port in Camara de Lobos, with its colourfully painted boats, was once a popular motif for the hobby painter Winston Churchill. Today it is the favourite site for tourists with a passion for photography. Nearby, the Pico da Torre provides a fascinating view on the port and the cliff Cabo Girão. With its height of 580 m, it is the second highest precipice on earth. From its viewing platform you can see as far as to Funchal.
Machico: In the bay of Machico the Portuguese sailor Zarco, the discoverer of Madeira, first came ashore in 1419. Fishermen and tourists share the historical city today. There are several places of interest: the chapel Nossa Senhora dos Milagres, São Roque fountain and the forts of Nossa Senhora do Amparo and S. João Baptista.
Near Porto da Cruz there is a 590 m high Eagle Rock (Penha D’Águia). The Paúl da Serra Plateau is the source region of over 25 waterfalls. The highest one is about 100 m tall.
Porto Moniz: In the north western part of the island, near this small coastal town you can find lava rocks and exquisite sea water pools. The drive from São Vicente to Porto Moniz is a spectacular journey along high cliffs and through tunnels. At times a waterfall almost crosses the road, which is separated from the steep bank only by a wall.
Santana is famous because of its typical pointed gable houses with roofs reaching down almost to the ground. Pico Ruivo (1,861 m), the highest mountain in Madeira, is only a walk away and guarantees a fascinating panoramic view.
Ilhas Desertas: The islands in the south-east of the archipelago are, in accordance with their name, uninhabited by people. There are only nature reserves where sea birds, goats, poisonous black spiders and monk seals rarely receive visitors, except for occasional tourists.
Porto Santo: Madeira’s neighbouring island has something that Madeira itself, with all its natural richness, is deprived of – a 9 km long wide golden sandy beach. Porto Santo is still a “virgin” island that has barely been affected by tourism. The island was discovered by Portuguese sailors one year before Madeira. The most famous visitor in the history of Porto Santo was Christopher Columbus, who came here to marry the daughter of the governor and lived there for a while. His simple house still exists in the island capital, Vila Baleeira, and is a small museum today.
Unfortunately there are no accommodations at this location at the moment.