Madere, Portugal

The 11 essential things to do in Madeira

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:41

Madeira, often referred to as the "Island of Flowers," is an extraordinary travel destination located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Portugal. Here are some key elements that could make up a travel theme for this beautiful island:

  1. Lush Nature: Madeira is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, featuring diverse landscapes ranging from rugged mountains to lush valleys. Botanical gardens, such as the Botanical Garden of Funchal, offer an incredible variety of tropical plants and flowers.

  2. Hiking: The island is a paradise for hikers, with well-marked trails that traverse green forests, levadas (irrigation channels), and mountain peaks offering spectacular views of the ocean.

  3. Local Culture: Exploring the local culture through its music, dance (such as the traditional "bailinho da Madeira"), crafts, and cuisine is a rewarding experience. Don't miss tasting the famous Madeira wine and local culinary delights like espetada (meat skewers) and bolo do caco (traditional bread).

  4. Outdoor Adventures: Besides hiking, Madeira offers a multitude of outdoor activities such as canyoning, sea kayaking, scuba diving, and even surfing on some beaches.

  5. History and Heritage: Explore historic towns like Funchal, with its cobbled streets, centuries-old churches, and colorful buildings. Be sure to visit historical sites like the São Lourenço Palace and São Tiago Fort.

  6. Marine Wildlife Watching: The warm, crystal-clear waters surrounding Madeira are rich in marine life, making it an ideal spot for whale and dolphin watching. Boat excursions are available for those who want to experience this unique opportunity.

  7. Relaxation and Wellness: Madeira also boasts luxurious spas and wellness centers, perfect for unwinding and rejuvenating after a day of adventures.

In summary, a trip to Madeira promises the perfect blend of nature, adventure, culture, and relaxation, making it an unforgettable destination for travelers seeking authentic and enriching experiences.

1 - Funchal

Funchal, Madere, Portugal

Funchal, the capital city of Madeira Island in Portugal, is an enchanting destination for travelers seeking adventure, culture, and relaxation. Nestled between lush mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, Funchal offers a captivating blend of stunning natural landscapes and fascinating cultural attractions.

In Funchal, narrow winding cobblestone streets in the city center beckon exploration on foot, offering picturesque views of colorful houses, historic churches, and lush gardens. Funchal's botanical gardens are an oasis of tranquility, home to a myriad of exotic plants from around the world.

History enthusiasts can delve into Funchal's rich heritage by visiting sites such as São Tiago Fort, which provides stunning views of the harbor, and Sé Cathedral, a magnificent example of Gothic architecture.

For thrill-seekers, Funchal offers an array of activities. From boat excursions to observe dolphins and whales in their natural habitat, to breathtaking hikes along levadas (ancient irrigation channels), to traditional toboggan rides, there's something for everyone.

Funchal's gastronomy is also a must-try, with deliciously diverse cuisine ranging from fresh seafood dishes to regional specialties like espetada (meat skewers) and bolo do caco (garlic bread). Local markets brim with fresh produce and artisanal products, offering visitors the chance to taste the authentic flavors of Madeira.

Whether relaxing on volcanic black pebble beaches, venturing into verdant mountains, or discovering the region's fascinating history and culture, Funchal is an unforgettable travel destination that will captivate the hearts and minds of travelers from around the world.

2 - Madeira Gardens

Madeira Gardens, Madere, Portugal

The gardens of Madeira are famous for their lush beauty and botanical diversity. The island of Madeira, a Portuguese territory in the Atlantic Ocean, enjoys a subtropical climate that is ideal for a wide variety of plants to thrive. Here are some of Madeira's most renowned gardens:

  1. Madeira Botanical Garden: Located in the capital, Funchal, this garden offers an extensive collection of native and exotic plants. With a large area and well-maintained trails, visitors can explore a wide diversity of botanical species.

  2. Palheiro Gardens: Situated on the outskirts of Funchal, these gardens feature a charming mix of ornamental plants, fruit trees, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

  3. Monte Palace Gardens: Nestled on a hilltop in Monte, this garden is known for its tranquil atmosphere and collection of exotic plants from around the world. It also houses an art gallery and an exhibition of Portuguese tiles.

  4. Monte Tropical Gardens: Another garden located in Monte, this one stands out for its collection of tropical plants, ornamental lakes, and panoramic views of the city of Funchal.

  5. Orchid Garden: Specializing in orchids, this garden is a paradise for lovers of these elegant flowers. Located in São Gonçalo, near Funchal, the garden is home to a wide variety of orchid species from around the world.

These are just a few examples of the beautiful gardens that can be found on the island of Madeira, each offering a unique experience for visitors to appreciate the lush nature of the region.

3 - Curral das Freiras

Curral das Freiras, Madere, Portugal

Curral das Freiras, also known as the "Valley of the Nuns," is a picturesque village located on the island of Madeira, Portugal. Nestled in the heart of the island, it is surrounded by towering mountains, including Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, the highest peaks on Madeira.

The village's name, "Curral das Freiras," translates to "Nuns' Valley" and originates from a historical event. Legend has it that in the 16th century, nuns from the Convent of Santa Clara in Funchal sought refuge in the valley to escape pirate attacks. Impressed by the isolation and safety of the area, they referred to it as their "curral" or "corral," likening it to a shelter for livestock. Over time, the name stuck, and the village became known as Curral das Freiras.

Today, Curral das Freiras is a popular tourist destination renowned for its stunning scenery, lush vegetation, and tranquil atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, explore the charming village streets lined with traditional houses, and sample local delicacies such as chestnuts and chestnut liqueur, which are specialties of the region.

The village is also famous for its annual Chestnut Festival, held in November, celebrating the harvest season with music, dance, and, of course, plenty of delicious chestnut-based dishes.

Overall, Curral das Freiras offers a peaceful retreat amidst the natural beauty of Madeira, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking relaxation and adventure alike.

4 - Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo

Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, Madere, Portugal

The Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo are two of the most iconic peaks on the island of Madeira, located in the Atlantic Ocean and belonging to Portugal.

  1. Pico do Arieiro: With an altitude of around 1,818 meters, Pico do Arieiro is the third highest peak on the island of Madeira. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the Atlantic Ocean on clear days. Accessible by road from Funchal, the capital of Madeira, it is a popular tourist spot. From there, visitors can take hiking trails to further explore the area, including the option to hike to the summit of Pico Ruivo.

  2. Pico Ruivo: With an altitude of approximately 1,862 meters, Pico Ruivo is the highest peak in Madeira. It is accessible on foot from Pico do Arieiro via a well-maintained hiking trail. The hike offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The summit of Pico Ruivo is often shrouded in clouds, creating a mystical atmosphere. There is also a small refuge at the top for hikers who wish to spend the night.

These two peaks provide unforgettable hiking experiences and are popular destinations for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts visiting the island of Madeira.

5 - Levadas

Levadas, Madere, Portugal

Levadas are a unique feature found on the Portuguese island of Madeira. They are narrow irrigation channels originally built to distribute water from the wetter regions of the island to the drier areas for agricultural purposes. Madeira's rugged terrain made it necessary to engineer these levadas, which often traverse steep mountainsides and cliffs.

Today, these levadas not only serve their original purpose but also offer some of the most popular hiking trails in Madeira. Hiking along the levadas allows visitors to explore the island's lush landscapes, including forests, waterfalls, and dramatic viewpoints. Some levada paths are relatively easy and suitable for all hikers, while others are more challenging and require good physical condition and a head for heights.

The levadas are not only a practical engineering feat but also a cultural symbol of Madeira, showcasing the island's ability to adapt to its natural environment and the ingenuity of its people. They have become an essential part of the island's tourism industry, attracting visitors from around the world who come to experience the unique beauty and tranquility of Madeira's countryside.

6 - Cabo Girão

Cabo Girão, Madere, Portugal

Cabo Girão is a stunning sea cliff located on the Portuguese island of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the highest ocean cliffs in Europe, rising approximately 580 meters (1,900 feet) above sea level. The views from Cabo Girão are breathtaking, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding coastline, the Atlantic Ocean, and the rugged terrain of Madeira.

In addition to its natural beauty, Cabo Girão has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors who come to admire the dramatic scenery and take in the sweeping views from the glass-floored viewing platform that extends out over the cliff edge. The transparent platform provides an exhilarating experience, allowing visitors to look straight down to the sea below.

Cabo Girão is also a popular spot for outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing, although visitors should exercise caution due to the steep cliffs and unpredictable weather conditions. Overall, it's a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the island of Madeira.

7 - Rabaçal waterfalls

Rabaçal waterfalls, Madere, Portugal

The Rabaçal Waterfalls are a set of cascades located on the island of Madeira, Portugal. They are nestled in the Rabaçal Valley, an area known for its lush vegetation and spectacular landscapes. The Rabaçal Waterfalls are famous for their natural beauty and are a popular attraction for hikers and nature lovers.

Among the most well-known waterfalls in Rabaçal is the Risco Waterfall, which is the tallest on the island with an impressive drop of over 100 meters. Nearby is also the 25 Fontes Waterfall, named for the multiple springs that feed its waters. This waterfall forms a series of small basins and natural pools, creating an enchanting landscape.

To reach the Rabaçal Waterfalls, visitors can take well-marked hiking trails that also offer panoramic views of the surrounding area. The Rabaçal region is renowned for its biodiversity, hosting diverse flora and fauna, making it a prime spot for photography and nature observation enthusiasts.

In summary, the Rabaçal Waterfalls are a natural treasure of Madeira Island, offering visitors an unforgettable experience in the heart of pristine and magnificent nature.

8 - Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz, Madere, Portugal

Porto Moniz is a picturesque civil parish located on the northwest coast of the island of Madeira, Portugal. It's known for its stunning natural landscapes, including dramatic cliffs, lush greenery, and the unique volcanic rock pools that attract visitors from around the world. The most iconic feature of Porto Moniz is its natural swimming pools, formed by volcanic lava and filled with crystal-clear seawater. These pools offer visitors a chance to swim in a safe and beautiful environment while surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Additionally, Porto Moniz is known for its charming village atmosphere, with traditional houses, restaurants serving fresh seafood, and a relaxed pace of life that makes it an ideal destination for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

9 - The Beaches of Madeira

The Beaches of Madeira, Madere, Portugal

Madeira is renowned for its mountainous landscapes and rugged cliffs, which means it doesn't have traditional sandy beaches as one might find in other coastal destinations. However, the island offers unique and charming alternatives for sea enthusiasts. Here are some of the options available:

  1. Praia Formosa: While not a sandy beach, Praia Formosa is the largest public beach in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. It is mostly pebbled and provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

  2. Calheta: Located on the southwest coast, Calheta features an artificial beach with imported golden sand. The beach is surrounded by gardens and provides calmer swimming conditions thanks to its artificial harbor.

  3. Praia do Garajau: A small beach near Funchal, Praia do Garajau is a rocky cove popular for snorkeling. The clear waters offer impressive visibility to explore marine life.

  4. Ponta Gorda: This is a complex swimming area with two seawater pools, sports facilities, green spaces, and promenades. It is frequented by both locals and tourists.

  5. Porto Santo: While technically a different island, Porto Santo, part of the Madeira archipelago, boasts beautiful sandy beaches stretching for nine kilometers. It can be reached by ferry from Funchal.

Although Madeira is not known for sandy beaches, it more than compensates with its spectacular landscapes, natural pools, and picturesque coves that offer unique seaside experiences.

10 - Sao Lourenço Bridge

Sao Lourenço Bridge, Madere, Portugal

Ponta de São Lourenço is a stunning and rugged peninsula located on the easternmost tip of the island of Madeira, Portugal. This area is known for its unique and dramatic landscape, featuring sharp cliffs, volcanic rock formations, and colorful vegetation.

Key features of Ponta de São Lourenço include:

  1. Scenic Hiking Trails: The peninsula is crisscrossed by well-maintained hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding landscape. The trails lead visitors through diverse terrain, from arid and rocky areas to more lush and green landscapes.

  2. Unique Flora and Fauna: Despite its relatively arid conditions, Ponta de São Lourenço is home to a variety of plant and animal species adapted to the harsh environment. You can encounter unique flora, such as succulent plants, and seabirds that nest along the cliffs.

  3. Casa do Sardinha: Casa do Sardinha is a small house located on the peninsula, offering information about the local flora, fauna, and geological features. It serves as an educational center and a point of interest for visitors.

  4. Views of the Deserted Islands: On clear days, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the nearby Deserted Islands (Ilhas Desertas) from Ponta de São Lourenço.

  5. Cacti and Sea Stacks: The landscape is dotted with cacti and other resilient plant life, creating a unique visual contrast against the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Sea stacks and natural rock formations add to the picturesque scenery.

Ponta de São Lourenço is a popular destination for nature lovers and hikers seeking a different experience from the more forested and mountainous areas of Madeira. The trails and viewpoints make it an excellent spot for those looking to explore the island's diverse natural beauty.

11 - Excursions to Porto Santo

Excursions to Porto Santo, Madere, Portugal

To travel from Madeira to Porto Santo, there are several transportation options, primarily by ferry and by plane.

  1. Ferry: Regular ferry services operate between Funchal, the capital of Madeira, and Porto Santo. The ferry journey provides a pleasant crossing over the Atlantic Ocean, taking approximately 2 hours. Schedules may vary depending on the season, so it is advisable to check timetables and make reservations in advance.

  2. Flight: Another option is to take a flight from Funchal to Porto Santo. Porto Santo Airport is well-connected with regular flights from Madeira Airport. The flight duration is short, typically around 15 to 20 minutes. This can be a convenient option for those who prefer a quicker journey.

It is recommended to check ferry or flight schedules and make reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Schedules may also be subject to changes based on weather conditions, so staying informed is advisable.

Porto Santo, although part of the Madeira archipelago, offers a different experience with its extensive golden sandy beaches and a more laid-back atmosphere. Whether you choose the ferry or the plane, both modes of transportation provide options for exploring this charming neighboring island.

Madere - Where to Stay?

In Madeira, you'll find a multitude of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are some suggestions on where to stay on the island:

  1. Funchal: The capital city offers a wide range of accommodation, from luxury hotels to more modest guesthouses. You'll also find many apartments and vacation rentals in the city center as well as along the coast, offering beautiful ocean views.

  2. Popular coastal areas: Coastal towns and villages such as Caniço, Ponta do Sol, Calheta, and Machico also offer varied accommodation options, often close to beaches and providing easy access to activities like diving, surfing, and sailing.

  3. Mountains and rural areas: For a more peaceful experience close to nature, consider staying in the mountainous regions of the island, such as São Vicente, Santana, or Paul da Serra. Here, you'll find rustic accommodations, guesthouses, and inns offering spectacular views of the mountain landscapes and levadas.

  4. Traditional accommodation: Madeira also offers restored country houses, known as "quintas," which provide a traditional accommodation experience with rustic charm and warm hospitality.

  5. All-inclusive resorts: If you prefer a more all-inclusive stay, some luxury resorts offer upscale facilities such as pools, spas, gourmet restaurants, and on-site leisure activities.

Whatever your choice, be sure to book in advance, especially during the peak tourist season, to ensure availability and make the most of your stay in Madeira.

Madere - How to get around?

In Madeira, there are several options for getting around the island, depending on your preferences and itinerary. Here are some of the main transportation options available:

  1. Car Rental: Renting a car is one of the most popular options for independent exploration of the island. Madeira's roads are well-maintained and offer spectacular views, but some mountain roads can be narrow and winding, so drive cautiously if you're not accustomed to such conditions.

  2. Public Buses: Madeira has a network of public buses connecting the main towns and villages on the island. Buses are generally reliable and provide a cost-effective way to get around. Schedules may vary depending on the day of the week and the season, so be sure to check the timetables in advance.

  3. Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Madeira, especially in tourist areas like Funchal. You can hail a taxi on the street or find them at designated taxi stands. Make sure to agree on the fare with the driver before getting in, as rates may vary.

  4. Cable Cars and Funiculars: For spectacular panoramic views of the island, you can use cable cars and funiculars, including the Funchal Cable Car up to Monte and the Achadas da Cruz Cable Car in Porto Moniz.

  5. Guided Tours and Excursions: If you prefer to explore the island with a local guide, many agencies offer guided tours and group excursions covering various tourist sites and activities.

  6. Walking: Madeira is also a great place for hiking, with well-marked trails that traverse beautiful landscapes, picturesque levadas, and charming villages. Be sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes and research routes before setting out on a hike.

Whichever transportation option you choose, you'll have the opportunity to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of Madeira while getting around the island.

Madere - Best period

The best time to visit Madeira depends on your preferences regarding weather and activities. Here's an overview of the seasons and weather conditions on the island:

  1. Spring (March to May):

    • Spring is a pleasant time to visit Madeira, with mild temperatures and flowers in full bloom in botanical gardens and throughout the island.
    • It's also an ideal time for hiking, as temperatures are not yet too hot and trails are not as crowded as in summer.
  2. Summer (June to August):

    • Summer is the peak tourist season in Madeira, with warm and sunny weather, perfect for beach activities, swimming, and water sports.
    • Festivals and cultural events are also frequent during this period.
  3. Autumn (September to November):

    • Autumn is another popular time to visit Madeira, with pleasant temperatures and colorful landscapes as the leaves begin to change color.
    • It's also the grape harvest season, and you can taste freshly pressed Madeira wine during visits to local vineyards.
  4. Winter (December to February):

    • Winter in Madeira is mild and generally sunny, making it a popular destination for holidaymakers looking to escape the cold of mainland Europe.
    • End-of-year festivities, including Christmas markets and New Year celebrations, add to the island's appeal during this time.

In summary, Madeira is an attractive destination throughout the year, but spring and autumn may be considered the best seasons to avoid crowds while enjoying pleasant weather. If you prefer summer warmth and beach activities, then summer might be the ideal time to visit.

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:41

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