Scenic mountainous landscapes, stunning wildlife and fabulous food
Backpacking in Madeira
Its year-round mild climate makes Madeira a good choice for a backpacking holiday. You can enjoy fantastic walks, scenery and flora and fauna for free, and there is a reasonable choice of affordable accommodation in Madeira, including four dedicated hostels. You’ll also find that some guesthouses offer some dormitory-style rooms for those on a backpacking holiday. Backpackers can expect to pay around €18-€30 for a dorm room including breakfast. While not as cheap as some traditional backpacker holiday locations, the weather, reasonably priced food, wonderful fresh fruit and stunning scenery make it a good option for a short backpacker stop-off from the Portuguese mainland.
Beach in Madeira
Madeira has a mostly rocky coastline, so if you’re planning a beach holiday in Madeira consider the resort of Calheta on the south west coast, which has two sandy beach bays and whose seafront has seen a lot of renovation in recent years. As well as an ideal location for a beach holiday in Madeira, it is also the main centre for banana plantations in Madeira! Another option for a beach holiday in Madeira can be found a little further up the coast where you’ll find the pebble beaches of Paul do Mar and Jardim do Mar, which are Madeira’s surfing hotspots. Other beaches around Madeira are pebble or feature the kind of black sand you see in the Canaries. If you must have a beautiful sandy beach for your beach holiday in Madeira, Madeira’ s small sister island of Porto Santo offers the solution, with 9km of sand that’s even said to have healing properties.
Camping in Madeira
There are three campsites in Madeira, all of them in beautiful, but quite different locations. Montado do Pereiro with its unspoilt and spectacular scenery, is a real must for a camping holiday in Madeira, set in a restricted and controlled nature reserve on the slopes above Funchal, leading into the mountain tops of Madeira. You’ll need to contact the Madeira Camping Service if you want to spend your camping holiday in Madeira there. Camping in Madeira is also possible at Porto Moniz on the far north coast of Madeira, which is popular for its natural swimming pools carved into by nature through ancient lava flow residues. The camping ground on the island of Porto Santo is by far the most visited by campers to Madeira, and offers a comprehensive range of amenities.
City Breaks in Madeira
The city of Funchal in Madeira lends itself perfectly to a short city break, with a flight time of only 3 and a half hours from the UK. The small capital city of Madeira is easy to walk around, with plenty of attractions within easy reach. On your city break in Madeira, don’t miss a visit to Mercado dos Lavradores, a huge, colourful market where you can buy everything from plants to fish. Enjoy the mild climate on your city break in Madeira by taking a short tour around Funchal via open top bus and then take the cable car to Monte to view the full panorama of the city and harbour, berthed with cruise ships.
If you want to include some retail therapy on your city break in Madeira, Funchal centre is a warren of narrow cobbled streets where little shops offer traditional wares including embroidery and wickerwork. There are several big shopping centres that are open seven days a week.
Other attractions worth a visit are Sé Cathedral, the Cidade do Açúcar Museum, and the 17th and 18th century buildings surrounding the Praça do Município (main square): the Museu de Arte Sacra, the town hall (Câmara Municipal), and the Igreja do Colégio. Remember to include a tour of the Madeira wine institute – including a free tasting.
In the evening during your city break in Madeira, enjoy a Portuguese steak washed down with Madeira wine and finish the night in Funchal casino! If you want to take an excursion on a bus or boat, you’ll find all tours leave from Funchal.
Corporate Weekend in Madeira
Madeira does have some plus-points for anyone looking to arrange a team-building event. Madeira runs on Greenwich Mean Time, so no problems with jetlag on your corporate weekend; Madeira has some seriously luxurious hotels with spa facilities, and there are opportunities for activities such as canyoning and levada walking in Madeira. But the 3-hour flight time to Madeira could rule it out for most companies for even a long corporate weekend.
Cruises in Madeira
Madeira is famous for the cruise ships that arrive in Funchal Harbour. The cruise ships arrive especially in Funchal Harbour for the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks, but it is popular year-round with cruises, and there is little to top arriving in Madeira by sea, with the lights of Funchal hovering above the harbour at night, and by day with the mountains rising up out of the ocean, with mists and clouds about them. There is no regular passenger service to Madeira, but it is a port of call for cruises calling at European destinations such as Seville, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Rome, Istanbul and more.
Culture and Arts in Madeira
Madeira has made one significant contribution to world culture in the form of the ukelele! But there is more art and culture available to the visitor to Madeira in the shape of Gothic and Baroque architecture and some pieces of art in the island’s museum. Listen out for a xaramba band, a Madeiran collection of singers and musicians playing instruments unique to this kind of music. Folk dancing can also be seen at village festivals in Madeira – rather than ‘tourist’ evenings at hotels. Embroidery and wicker work are popular crafts and can be found in many shops in Madeira.
Disabled Needs in Madeira
Madeira’s hilly and mountainous terrain does not lend itself to being easily accessible to anyone with mobility problems. In Funchal, the capital of Madeira, the streets are steep and cobbled, which makes it tough going. Those with wheelchairs or walking difficulties will face problems (this applies also to children in prams or pushchairs). Disabld facilities are not common in Madeira, although hotels are mostly able to accommodate, with lifts and ramps. There are few adapted public toilets in Madeira, or disabled-friendly hire cars. However, the footpath between Pico das Pedras and Queimadas, has facilities for visitors with disabilities, so the famous Laurissilva Forest of Madera can be appreciated from a 1980-metre-long track, which can be made in a wheelchair and where information is provided in Braille and SPS (language for people with cerebral palsy).
Family Holiday in Madeira
Madeira is not the obvious destination for a family holiday. Children need to be good walkers to cope with the hilly terrain, and there are few golden beaches for sandcastles, unless you head to Madeira’s sister island of Porto Santo. Unless they are particularly botanically-minded, children will probably not appreciate the beauty of Madeira’s wild flowers and gardens. However, they will probably enjoy a visit to Funchal’s aquarium, the water park at Santa Cruz, as well as the lidos in Funchal, with their excellent salt water pools and access to the sea. Children will also love the rock pools at Porto Moniz. If you have small children, pushing a pram or pushchair will require some strength, even in Madeira’s capital city of Funchal, which has cobbled, steep streets.
Gay and Lesbian in Madeira
Madeira has become generally tolerant of homosexuality, which was only decriminalised in 1982, but in Madeira gay and lesbian activity is still very discrete. In Madeira’s capital of Funchal there are no specific clubs and bars for gays and lesbians, but it is worth checking online for gay-friendly accommodation.
Honeymoon in Madeira
For a romantic getaway, Madeira can be a good choice, as long are you aren’t expecting walks along palm-fringed, white-sand beaches. With a wealth of luxury hotels with spa facilities to choose from, honeymooners can expect some serious pampering. The Reid’s Palace Hotel for example offers a honeymoon package including an afternoon in the Spa couples’ suite and a private moonlit dinner for two in the spectacular gardens. Romantic views in Madeira can be found above Funchal harbour, watching the cruise ships depart in the evening, or at Madeira’s highest point, where you can glimpse views between the clouds.
Party Holiday - Singles Life in Madeira
Madeira is not the most obvious destination for a party holiday for singles. A stroll along the front at Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, followed by dinner and entertainment in the hotel is on the menu for many holiday makers in Madeira, but if you want to party there are a couple of nightclubs in the city of Funchal in Madeira. In the dock area of Funchal you’ll find Vespas, filled with a young crowd and an all-night party atmosphere. Chameleon disco can also be found in Funchal and another well known Funchal club is Latina's, near the Savoy Hotel, which has a salsa theme.
Some of the larger hotels have their own disco's, as does the Casino, but the price of drinks can be excessive.
Outside of Funchal in Madeira, don't miss cocktails in Câmara de Lobos and La Barca disco on Machico's harbourside, and try out the seafront restaurants and bars.
Couples Holiday in Madeira
Madeira is a great destination for couples looking for a quiet holiday. There are luxurious hotels in Madeira if you want to be pampered, restaurants with sea views for romantic dinners and quiet bars to relax in after a day spent sunbathing by the pool, sightseeing or walking and taking in the dramatic mountainous scenery of Madeira. Couples holidaying in Madeira will find there is plenty to occupy them, whether strolling around beautiful gardens, hiking along the levadas (manmade irrigation channels) or taking a tour around the island of Madeira in a hire car. If holidaying couples fancy a day on the beach, they can take a ferry to Madeira’s sister island of Porto Santo, renowned for its golden sandy beaches.
Golf Activity Holiday in Madeira
Madeira has two golf courses in spectacular settings. Madeira’s Santo de Serra has wonderful sea and mountain views, offering a memorable experience on a golf holiday in Madeira. Palheiro Golf adjoins the beautiful gardens at Quinta Palheiro. On a coastal ridge overlooking Funchal, this Cabell Robinson designed golf course follows the natural valleys and ridges and hills of the surrounding countryside of Madeira. Trees and shrubs from all over the world have been imported and the course presents a fair challenge to golfers of all abilities on their golf holiday in Madeira.
The clubhouse has wonderful views over Funchal Bay. While there may only be two golf courses in Madeira, they are both worth playing more than one round on. Indeed Santo da Serra has 27 holes and can be played in three different 18 hole combinations. It also offers plenty of hazards, including water, bunkers and ravines to add a hint of the unexpected to your golfing holiday in Madeira.
Sailing Activity Holiday in Madeira
Whatever your level of experience, there is a way to enjoy sailing when you’re on holiday in Madeira. Take an organised trip on a sailing boat from Madeira and get the chance to see dolphins, whales, turtles and more. Sunset sails give holidaymakers in Madeira the chance to watch the sun set over the island of Madeira while they sip on a glass of Madeiran wine. You can even sail on a 15th century galleon – a replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship sails around the south coast of Madeira every day. Or take a longer, 3-day trip on a yacht around the Madeira coast and on to the Azores. For a more luxurious trip, there are many yachts available to charter in Madeira. And if you’d like to learn to sail on your holiday in Madeira there are numerous sailing schools in Madeira offering RYA qualifications.
Hiking Activity Holiday in Madeira
Walking on Madeira is undoubtedly the best way to see this beautiful and dramatic island. The network of levadas (irrigation channels) follow hundreds of kilometres across the island of Madeira, and can take you through a variety of landscapes in one day – from lush, semitropical rainforest, to barren mountaintop to sunny valley.
One word of warning though, most of these walks on Madeira are not gentle strolls, there can be steep climbs and you can find yourself walking along a narrow path with no safety barriers. If you’re planning to go walking on Madeira, make sure you are prepared, with good walking boots or shoes and suitable clothing – remember if you’re heading upwards it can get chilly even on a sunny day. But don’t be put off hiking in Madeira, it can be an absolute highlight of your holiday on Madeira and there are plenty of easier routes and it is also possible to go on guided walks if you would rather. And keen walkers and hikers will find there are enough walking routes on Madeira to keep them occupied for at least a week.
Cycling Activity Holiday in Madeira
If you’re after gentle cycles along country lanes, Madeira is not the place to choose for your cycling holiday. However, if you’re a keen mountain biker with the urge to try some serious off-roading, Madeira the place to go biking. If you want to do serious cycling in Madeira you'll be out early and will have trained beforehand. Madeira is full of very steep climbs so if you're staying on the coast your bike ride will be hard going up in the morning but it'll be a gentle ride downhill later on.
Almost anywhere on Madeira is good for cycling. The west of Madeira is possibly the best place for mountain biking, being steep, rugged and wild – and with less traffic. If you’re up for a challenge on your Madeira cycling holiday, there are a couple of passes connecting the north and south of Madeira with the climb to Pico do Ariero being the hardest climb in Europe.
However, renting a mountain bike on Madeira is not easy. Try some of leisure companies that offer bus tours and outdoor activities, and the Madeira Camping Service in Funchal.
Shopping Holiday in Madeira
Madeira is not the place to go if shopping is the main aim of your holiday. However, if you fancy a spot of retail therapy when you’re on holiday in Madeira there should be enough to occupy you. Madeira is famous for its embroidery and wickerwork. The wicker centre of the island is in Camacha, in the east of Madeira, where you’ll find a large shop and factory. If you want to buy embroidery when you’re on holiday in Madeira, it’s worth shopping around as quality varies. And this may be one time when it’s worth visiting the more expensive shops in Madeira.
All over Funchal, the capital of Madeira, you’ll find interior arcades lined with small businesses – try the Bazar do Povo, with its grand staircase and wooden counters. If you’re shopping in Madeira for designer clothes and shoes, you’ll find boutiques along the Rua dos Ferreiros and Rua das Pretas. You’ll also want to leave some space in your suitcase for a bottle or two of Madeira wine – Sao Francisco Wine Lodges is the main outlet for the Madeira wine company.
Well-being and Spa in Madeira
No luxury holiday is complete without a spa treatment, and Madeira is the ideal place for a well-being and spa holiday. The island of Madeira is filled with luxury hotels boasting luxurious spas, and offering a wide range of treatments in sumptuous settings. A spa holiday in Madeira will not only offer you wonderful treatments, but also magnificent views and settings, whether overlooking the ocean, or set among lush semi-tropical gardens. The charm and peaceful atmosphere of the island of Madeira, the fresh sea air and exhilarating walking trails will ensure that you come home from your well-being and spa holiday in Madeira feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Touring - Driving holiday in Madeira
Madeira is a small island, which means it’s easy to get around by driving, once you get used to the mountain roads and hairpin bends! But Madeira is so small that there really is no need to tour from one place to another, staying overnight. However, if you hire a car while in Madeira on holiday, you might like to stay on the west side of the island for part of your holiday and then drive to the north for the other. Driving a hire car, you will be able to easily explore the more remote areas of the island, such as the Nuns’ Valley, and the high spots such as Pico Areiro.
Wine Tasting Holiday in Madeira
Madeira is, of course, the home of Madeira wine. There are many wineries that you can visit and taste the surprising range of Madeira wines, although it is not to be compared with a tour of the vineyards of France, for instance. In Funchal, Madeira’s capital, there are opportunities for wine tasting at several wine lodges, including Blandys Wine Lodge, where you can enjoy an hour-long tour followed by an excellent value-for-money Madeira wine tasting. There is also a wine festival held in Madeira each year at the end of the summer, when there are plenty of wine-tasting events held.
Winter Sun in Madeira
Madeira in the winter is pleasantly warm (around 18-22C), although the winter months in Madeira can be quite wet, particularly at higher levels, and stormy and cloudy conditions may last for a few days at a time. However, the winter weather in Madeira can be pleasant for walking and sightseeing, touring the island of Madeira, and wandering around the fascinating cobbled streets of Funchal, Madeira’s capital city. If you are looking for a winter sun holiday where you can lie by the pool every day, Madeira is not the ideal destination, but for pleasant, sunny days, with an average of five to six hours of sun, Madeira is a good choice for some winter sun.