Travel Attractions in Madeira Island
The Madeira islands are a subtropical archipelago
islands located in the Atlantic Ocean about 980
kilometers southwest of Lisbon, about 700 Kilometers
west of the coasts of Africa and about 450 kilometers
north of the Canary Islands.
The archipelago consists of two inhabited islands – Madeira and Porto Santo, and two groups of tiny uninhabited islands, Desertas islands and Selvagens islands.
The Madeira island is the largest of them all and is the most touristic – it is 741 square kilometers: 56 KM long and 21 KM wide.
Madeira has an impressive topography characterized by cliffs dramatically raised above sea level. The steep climb created six unique climate zones, in which one has a typical and unique vegetation, a fact that caused many to compare it to the Hawaiian Islands. Just like Hawaiian Islands Madeiran is also a volcanic island that only its tip peeks above sea level, while its general height is 5.5 KM! The last volcanic eruption on the island was over 6,000 years ago. The high peaks on the island are over 1,850 meters, and most of them are on the north part of the island.
View of the Forested Mountains and Low Clouds
The green and wild island, filled with vegetation and
tropical fruits, is especially loved by nature lovers
and active vacationers, and it is called: “Paradise of
the Atlantic Ocean”, “The Island of the Eternal Spring”,
“The Pearl of the Atlantic”, “The Floating Gardens of
the Atlantic”, and the “Island of Flowers”.
Madeira was established under the Portuguese Constitution, but there is an independent government and it is a separate part of Portugal itself. The residents, however, are Portuguese in every aspect: they speak Portuguese, they vote during the elections in Portugal and celebrate the holidays practiced in Portugal. It is easy and comfortable to get along in English, because all the residents speak fluent English, given that tourism is the number one source of income on the island.
The weather in Madeira is comfortable all year round,
thanks to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream
passing close to them and their location in a parallel
altitude with Casablanca, Morocco. The average
temperature in the summer is 25 degrees C and in the
winter 17 degrees. Also the temperature of the water is
comfortable and does not change substantially and ranges
between 18 in the winter and 22 in the summer. Also the
humidity is comfortable all year round. That is why it
is wonderful and comfortable to visit and travel in
Madeira all year round.
There are 270,000 residents in Madeira, most of them reside in the south of the island. 45% of them live in the capital of Madeira called Funchal, where also the hotels on the island are concentrated. Funchal is surrounded by dark cliffs and has a big harbor to which cruise ships arrive at most of the year. In the months of October until May there are large cruise ships that arrive almost daily at the Funchal harbor.
Funchal is known for its long promenade along the beach and the harbor, its popular botanical gardens and the variety of museums and restaurants and the vibrant nightlife including the clubs, shows and casinos.
Botanical Gardens in Madeira
In Madeira, there is also a popular market called Mercado das Lavardores, which is located in an old two-story building. They have plenty of exotic fruits and vegetables. The market is located at the end of the old city with picturesque well-kept alleys, filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.
Mercado das Lavardores Market
A unique attraction in Funchal is: The Monte Toboggan Run “A basket sled” led at a dizzying speed down the road by two locals in traditional costumes. This ancient mean of transportation of the island which served as the fastest way to get down from the top of the mountain of Funchal to its slopes, today it is considered as one of the popular attractions in Funchal.
Wooden Sled in Madeira
More than a million tourists visit the island each year, most of them from northern Europe. The island is especially popular with the British and the Scandinavians, who have direct flights from their country to the international airport in Madeira. Madeira in located an hour and a half flight from Lisbon. There are direct flights for the same length of time, also from Porto and about an hour flight from the Canary Islands.
Porto Santo Island
The second inhabited island, much smaller, 42.5 square kilometers is Porto Santo, it also has an airport and between it and Madeira (the distance between the two islands is 48 kilometers), there is a regular ferry service. This small island is known mainly for its pristine beach, with a golden sand which stretches over 9 kilometers, and are considered amongst the best in Europe. The island also has sand dunes and it is famous for its wineries.
Attractions for the Travellers in Madeira
Most of the beaches on the Madeira islands are rocky
and full of basalt rocks. There are two tiny beaches
where there is a yellow sand imported to the island from
Morocco. These two tiny beaches are packed with bathers
during the summer. It is not an island for fans of
“sunbathing” but it is definitely possible and
recommended to combine watersport and sailing.
The travelers in Madeira enjoy hiking in a dramatic landscape, jeep tours, a cruise to watch dolphins and whales (15 different types!), diving, surfing, fishing, horseback riding and of course good food and local good wine.
Cruises in a Catamaran
Cruises in a Catamaran that last about 3 hours include
in addition to watching marine life, also a different
perspective on the island and its cliffs, this time from
sea level upwards.
A reliable and recommended company is: VMT Madeira which starts its tours from the beautiful marina of Madeira.
Cruising in a Catamaran
On the island there is a canals system called Levadas which in the past was used to irrigate fruit orchards and many vineyards. Today there is on part of the island, a modern irrigation system but some of the Levandas’s are still being used for irrigation. The Levadas are being used today as a part of wonderful hiking trails spread throughout the island and go through magical landscapes with breathtaking lookout points, waterfalls, picturesque houses, orchards and a variety of flowers.
The Levadas Canals
Every piece of land on the island was created for growing various crops, especially banana plantations, vineyards, and sugar cane. Most of the lots are on slopes and cliffs and creating a wonderful view over the dark cliffs.
Agricultural Terraces in Madeira
A Guided Tour and/or Independent Tours
The islanders call the island “a swiss cheese” because of the abundances of tunnels dug into the mountains that make it possible to get anywhere on the island relatively easily. Many of the tunnels are new, thanks to the many EU funds that was invested in the island. The drive through all the tunnels is free! The roads are relatively narrow and windy, but it is definitely easy and comfortable to drive on the island and it is recommended to rent a car. However, there are destinations in the center of the island with narrow and windy dirt roads. Some have one lane two-way street and therefore it is recommended to combine a jeep tour on the island, especially on the northern part, including a visit in the forest of Madeira the Laorishilbh forest located on the highest area on the island which was declared as a National Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The two leading companies on the island for jeep tours, with open-top jeeps, are:
The Safari Madeira Island company
This company offers jeep tours for half a day or a full
day in different areas on the island. Especially
recommended is their tour to the northwest of the
The FULL DAY SAFARI WITH LUNCH NORTHWEST SEIXAL which includes amongst others a visit to the spectacular observation deck – Cao Girao. On October 2012, a glass floor was built in the observation deck, that allows a unique and breathtaking viewing angle. The observation deck is located on the top of the highest cliff in Europe (the second highest in the world), which is almost 600 meter above sea level.
An Observation Deck on a Cliff
After the lookout point, you will continue your tour
also in the town of Ribeira Brava located along the
southern coast of the island, and in the town of Porto
What’s special about this town is the large natural pool which allows swimming in sea waters also when the sea is rough and not risk swimming next to the dramatic and sharp cliffs.
Natural Pools in Madeira
The possibilities of swimming safely in a natural pool with sea water by the crashing waves are unique and exciting. You will also drive in the picturesque Laurisilva forest from which you will view the dramatic landscape of the northern island. The tour includes lunch in the town of Seixal where there is a natural pool of lava and also a beach with black sand soft and pleasant to the touch.
The Mountain Expeditions Company
This company offers several jeep tours, each one in a different region on the island. Especially recommended is Tour 2 - Combo Expedition in the northeastern part of the island.
Steep Mountain in the Center of Madeira
The tour combines a ride in a Land Rover between the mountains, valleys, bridges and towns and a hike in two particularly impressive landscapes: Referta and Ribeiro Frio. The tour includes an impressive view from one of the highest peaks on the island: Pico Arieiro as well as a visit to Ponta de Sao Lourenco, the most eastern point on the island, with the landscape of arid cliffs and water-borne rocks. The tour includes lunch in the town of Santana known for its traditional houses with triangle thatched roofs.
A Jeep Tour in Madeira
A nature tour
The Madeira Fauna e Flora company specializes in tours following the unique animals and vegetation on the island. The company has tour viewing bats, birds, butterflies, geological tours etc. Especially popular is the Tropical Tour by the Tropical Tour company which includes a visit to the different tropical plantations, this includes the banana and sugar cane plantations, a visit to the factory for the extraction of sugar cane and preparation of drinks and dishes from it, it also includes tasting the products and of course the possibility to purchase them (tasty and unique), a visit to a banana packing factory, a visit to the market with explanations about the special fruits and vegetable grown on the island and explanations about the gastronomy of the island.
Banana Plantation in Madeira
The Banana Packing Factory in Madeira
The tour includes a typical lunch in a restaurant on the edge of the ocean and the highlight is: going down with an elevator from a high cliff to sea level in Fajã dos Padres. For 4 minutes you will go down in a clear elevator 250 meters high in the highest panoramic elevator in Europe. You will reach the orchards and vineyards that belonged in the past to the monastery and it became today a unique hotel for those who are looking to break away and be secluded close to a wild beach with dramatic landscape.
The Faja dos Padres Cliff Elevator
There are plenty of festivals in Madeira. Everything is a cause for a celebration. In February, there is a carnival, in March there is the fruit festival, in April there is the flower festival, at the end of August and beginning of September there is the wine festival, in September there is the grape harvest and much more. The most famous celebration is on New Year’s Eve on the 31st of December where there are the biggest fireworks in the world (included in the Guinness Book of records).
Many famous celebrities have visited the island and even turned it into their second home, for example: in 1950, after his retirement, Winston Churchill arrived on the island. He traveled around in his Rolls Royce and painted the fishing villages there, but the islanders are particularly proud of the footballer born on the island: Cristiano Ronaldo whose large statue is standing proudly on the promenade by the harbor.
Ronaldo’s Statue in Madeira
The most typical dish in Madeira, which you will get for lunch in most of the tours you will join is the Espada de Madeira, is a black scabbard fish living in the deep (looks ugly but tasty) served with fried bananas.
The Espada Fish and market fruits:
Other popular dishes are the Espetada, marinated beef
skewers, scallops in garlic sauce and garlic bread
called Bolo do Coco.
A popular dessert is the Bolo de Mel – a rich cake made of sugar syrup, fruits and almonds.
Madeira is also known for its liquors: from the famous Madeira wine to the Poncho, a strong alcohol drink made from Rum and fruit juice. The local say that after a few shots of Poncho you will start talking Portuguese...
Madeira offers a vast selection of accommodation,
suitable for tourists and popular, Most of them are
centered in the capital Fuschal. The prices of the
accommodations vary of course, but are low in comparison
to hotels at similar levels in other destinations in
Europe and they offer high value for the money.
You can stay in huge hotels near the rocky beaches, where there are plenty of pools and sport and leisure facilities, or stay in more modest hotels and also in holiday apartments and guest houses, but the highest quality and typical way of staying on the island is in a Quinta: an old manor house converted into a luxurious hotel. These hotels are known for their intimate atmosphere in them and the quality of service and food. They are also located in a more pastoral location.
Recommended hotels in Madeira:
A five-star hotel with elegant and spacious rooms. Most of them have a balcony overlooking the gardens or the Fuschal Bay. The hotel has a swimming pool, wide botanical gardens, a gym, a tennis court and high-quality restaurants (and ARE expensive). It is located two kilometers from the center of Funchal in a quiet and pastoral place. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to the center of town. Internet and parking are also free.
The Quinta da Bela Vista Hotel:
A five-star hotel, immersed with gardens, 1.2 kilometers from the center of Funchal (about a fifteen-minute walk). The hotel has 40 spacious and luxurious rooms, wonderful restaurants, swimming pools, gardens, a spa and an intimate atmosphere. It is chosen as one of 25 most luxurious and successful hotels in Portugal.
Quintinha de Sao Joao Hotel
The most successful hotel on the island for families. It also a five-star hotel, located on a huge area of tropical gardens, at the edge of a cliff near to the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel has three swimming pools and a direct access to the ocean. The hotel also has sports facilities, including tennis courts, a gym and a spa. Internet and parking are free.
A small family own a three-star hotel, with spacious studio rooms, including a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the ocean or the banana plantation. It is located 4 kilometers from the center of Funchal. The internet is free in public areas and public parking is free around it also.
Anyone who travels to Portugal and loves nature and landscape – it is highly recommended for him to combine a visit of at least 4 days (preferably more) in beautiful Madeira.
It is also a good idea to combine a visit to the Canary Islands with the visit to Madeira. It is a wonderful destination and is very suitable also for families!
Deal: Air+Hotel+Transfer From USA to Madeira: