There are very few island destinations that can match the diversity of experiences offered by the popular archipelago and ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’, Madeira.
Holidays in Madeira
If you’re seeking a destination that boasts remote stretches of beach without the overcrowded nature of the Iberian mainland, Madeira is an ideal hotspot. Wildlife enthusiasts, football fans, hikers, bikers and honeymooners can all enjoy Madeira’s wide variety of activities. After all, where else can you skywalk above cliffs in the morning ahead of whale watching in the afternoon?
An unmistakable characteristic of Madeira are the dramatic volcanic formations found in the eastern reaches of the island. The spectacular highlands of Ponta de São Lourenço almost look unworldly as they meet the azure waters of the Atlantic.
In terms of outdoor ventures, there is a positively overwhelming range of activities on offer. Sail the calm waters of Madeira’s south coast via catamaran, feel the refreshing spray of a waterfall while you canyon Hortela e Vimieiro or experience the unforgettable memories of swimming with dolphins in warm summer waters.
Influenced by the Gulf Stream, Madeira enjoys mild temperatures all year round with a peak annual temperature around 23°C in August while January heat is still around 16°C.
Nevertheless, based upon the geography of the island, several microclimates exist, particularly around mountainous areas. Madeira’s wettest months are October to April, so pack your waterproofs for any sudden downpours.
Things to do on holiday in Madeira
It’s impossible to list every worthwhile experience in Madeira but here are some of our favourites.
Trace the roots of a superstar
Football fans will immediately recognise Madeira as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s greatest footballer. Who wouldn’t expect the self-assured 31-year-old to boast his very own museum featured alongside a proud statue and signature hotel in capital and hometown Funchal?
Peruse rarely seen imagery from Ronaldo’s childhood, gaze at a glittering and seemingly endless collection of trophies while standing next to a life-size waxwork of the Real Madrid superstar. Earlier this year, the complex underwent an expansion with the museum now spread across two floors at Plaza del Mar. With improved digital infrastructure now in place, even the most devoted Ronaldo superfan will find out something they didn’t already know about the Euro 2016 winner.
The best vantage point in town?
As capital of Madeira, Funchal is unsurprisingly home to many invigorating sightseeing opportunities. Marvel at the pretty floral patterns of Jardim Botânico (botanical garden) or for those enraptured by history, Sé (Funchal cathedral) and Zona Velha – or old town – enable visitors to amble past some of the island’s oldest buildings in this south east corner of the main island.
All this is without mentioning one of Funchal’s best loved sightseeing ventures – the Telefericos da Madeira cable car. Offering unrivalled views over the high-rise buildings marking the capital, not to mention mighty luxury liners in port, the trip lasts 15 minutes as excitable heartbeats traverse a climb of 3,173m.
A unique culinary scene
Located just over 600 miles away from Lisbon on the Portuguese mainland, Madeira has naturally had to rely upon its own resources for generations. The most popular dishes are seafood-based and traditional fare includes Espada (black swordfish), Madeiran-style tuna steak and Bacalhau (codfish), which visitors will find is served in multiple ways.
The price of dining out is relatively modest although similar meals may cost more within Funchal. While a local beer is likely to cost no more than two euros, visitors may choose to cleanse their palate with a Vinho Seco (Madeiran dry wine) with fine vineyards never too far away.
Take a charming night-time wander
Madeira isn’t a thriving nightlife capital of Europe but it never pretended to be. This is no bad thing however with several bars of Funchal’s Lido district such as Café Fora d’oras staying open late to complement charming midweek chatter under the stars. Besides, if you really want to put your dancing shoes on, weekend atmospheres are more lively with Copacabana, The Chameleon and Kool serving to provide a stage to get your groove on.
For something altogether more local, head uphill out of Funchal’s winding streets to stop by a Madeira Typical Folklore Evening. This dinner show features long banquet-like tables which are circumnavigated by traditional Madeiran dancers who proceed in arching their backs in dance - but don’t be alarmed. This carrier routine is designed to mimic the weight of baskets carrying Madeiran fruit and other foodstuffs transported up the islands’ sharp inclines.
Tackle levada walks
If there’s room in your suitcase, pack your best rambling boots because there are a number of stimulating walking routes to take advantage of across the island. Witness Madeiran vegetation in full bloom between the months of April to June as you tackle native levada walks.
The term ‘levada’ denotes the series of mini canals that have been designed to carry excess rainfall water from northern Madeira to the island’s southern reaches. There are several waterside walking routes of varying difficulty and time although all provide visitors ample opportunity to appreciate local wildlife up close, while also offering spectacular mountainside vantage points to take snaps fit for Instagram - without the need for any enhancing filter!
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