Updated: Oct 24
Portugal's most alluring island is a site that fulfills all the promises of a subtropical vacation thanks to its stunning geology, diverse color palette, and year-round warmth from the sun. Pearl of the Atlantic, springtime island...Madeira is a little volcanic island that offers a wealth of attractions, meriting both its imaginative nicknames and the love that both tourists and locals have for it.
It might be challenging to comprehend Madeira's allure before visiting. To be frank with you, but this Portuguese archipelago is unquestionably tempting, and not just because England has once again designated it a safe place to travel. Madeira is only 35 miles long and 14 miles wide, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in sheer diversity of things to see and do, including waterfalls resembling those in Hawaii, dense woods, maritime excursions, amazing walks, and exhilarating toboggan rides. All of that combined with hip design hotels, hip dining options, and reliably mild weather makes for an excellent year-round vacation spot.
Why should you visit Madeira?
Madeira Island is a genuinely exceptional place. You can get an idea of what's available by imagining a tropical paradise combined with Jurassic Park. Although Madeira is a part of Portugal with autonomy and is home to the same hospitable, kind Portuguese people, the island has a distinctive atmosphere that is unique to Portugal.
Where is Madeira located?
Off the coast of northern Africa is Madeira, the biggest island in the Macronesia archipelago. There are three islands total—Porto Santo and Desertas are the other two.
How to arrive at Madeira?
Madeira is only a 1 hour and 30-minute flight from Lisbon away in Portugal. From the Capital of England, London it takes you around 3h45. Portugal's fourth-largest airport is Santa Cruz International.
For at least part of, or if not the entire duration of your trip, we highly advise renting a car. You won't get the whole island experience without it. The driving itself was for us the nicest activity. The greatest way to explore Madeira more thoroughly is to drive because the island's roadways provide spectacular views. If you don't rent a car, you should definitely stay in Funchal and go on excursions outside of the city. There is a fantastic airport shuttle that departs from more than a dozen stops around Funchal every hour or so.
When should you visit Madeira?
Portugal (including Madeira) experiences its busiest summer months during the July and August school breaks, similar to much of Europe. The island is best enjoyed during the shoulder seasons (May, June, September, and October), but even if you can't make it during those times, you may still have a nice time there. Spring or autumn are the finest times to go hiking if you intend to ascend to the mountains.
Weather in Madeira?
Let's use the phrase "unpredictable" to describe the weather in Madeira. An island in the Atlantic that is unprotected from the elements. Expect a mix of hot sun and rain showers, wind, and possibly even the occasional storm rolling through; it can be rather muggy. If you're stranded in the rain, don't think the entire island is also experiencing the same rain because the weather varies based on where (or how high up) you are on the island. The air and sea temperatures are both very comfortable, and it is typically warmer than the Portuguese mainland.
How long should you stay in Madeira?
You can remain in Madeira for a long weekend, two weeks, or three months. No matter how long you stay, you can occupy your time with all there is to see and do. Even for Funchal, one or two nights won't be enough if it's your first vacation. Give Madeira at least 4 nights of your time, but a week or 10 days would be perfect if you have the luxury of extra time.
Where should you stay in Madeira?
Funchal draws the majority of visitors, although despite being a worthwhile place to spend some time, it can't compare to some of the other locations on the island. We advise rotating between multiple bases for a real and realistic experience of Madeira, but of course Funchal is a great base if you want to discover the Island.
The obvious and simplest option is Funchal, the capital of Madeira. It provides the widest selection of accommodations on the island and is only 40 minutes from the airport. Since most tours leave from here, this is the best place to stay in Madeira, if you don't have a car.
Where to stay:
Great 3 Star Hotel: Hotel Madeira
Great Guesthouse Option: Villa Camacho Guest House
For the View: Hotel Baia Azul
Authentic Madeira Lifestyle: Quinta Da Penha De Franca
For the Service: Barceló Funchal Oldtown
For the real Luxury: Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira
Madalena Do Mar
This adorable seaside community is a wonderful hidden gem. Located only ten minutes from the well-known digital nomad village of Porta do Sol, but with its very own unique charm and genuine vibe. Banana palms encircle the settlement, giving it an even more tropical atmosphere than Madeira already has.
Where to stay:
This tiny but bustling town is located 15 minutes east of Seixal on the north coast. I spent several nights here and developed a serious affection for it. In addition to being close to Seixal and Porto Moniz, you also have a mix of hills and sea in close proximity to one another.
Where to stay:
Guesthouse: Gardens Guest House
For the Experience: Casa Da Piedade
For the View: Quinta Vale Vitis
Santana is a pretty village on the north coast famous for its thatched houses which can be seen scattered around town. These small stone houses with thatched roofs reaching down to the ground served as stables and dwellings for centuries.
Where to stay:
For the Scenery: Hotel Quinta Do Furao
For the Nature: Casas de Campo do Pomar
The best places to visit in Madeira
Discover Funchal for Shopping
Funchal, the island's capital, has a Portugal-like atmosphere in contrast to the rest of Madeira. There are snack bars, bakeries selling warm pastéis de nata, and typical Portuguese black-and-white pavements everywhere. Spend your mornings at the farmers Market "Mercado dos Lavradores" to purchase fresh tropical fruit such custard apples, banana passion fruit, guava, and papaya. In the afternoon, browse stores like Fábrica Santo António (whose pastries and cookies make excellent presents) and Livraria Esperança (an antique bookshop).
Green-fingered visitors should explore Funchal's expansive botanical gardens, which are home to more than 3,000 plant species from all over the world that grow in Madeira's fertile soil of volcanic source. Art lovers may prefer to visit Caravel Art Centre, an independent gallery, shop, café, and studio.
Visit Santana - A must in every Travel Guide Madeira
Visit Santana on the north coast on any wet days to witness the traditional palheiros cottages, which are triangular thatched structures from the 16th century. Even if the elaborate structures are empty, a visit is nonetheless worthwhile for the craft stores and a glimpse into how islanders formerly lived.
Jump into the water in Porto Moniz
Another well-liked activity in Madeira that you ought to engage in. There are several tiny cubby holes and crevices because to the pools' unusual structure. The swimming environment is actually pretty enjoyable. There are many happy families jumping in and out of the (warm!) pools, so if you have kids as well, we would certainly recommend this experience in Madeira.
Go for a hike in the Mountains
The paths in Madeira will astound you regardless of your level of hiking experience. The PR1 hike between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo is the most well-liked (and for good reason) hike. The hike can be completed in a number of ways. Most people hike the 23 km out and back route. Even if you're not much of a hiker, schedule time in your itinerary to see the sunrise over Pico do Arieiro. You may park straight at the top if you get there early—between 30 minutes and an hour before sunrise. This indicates that all it will take is a short distance for the magic to work.
Some more Portugal Insights, we recommend to you:
Visit the Botanical Garden
The Madeira Botanical Garden was finally constructed in 1960 at Funchal, fulfilling a dream that had existed at least since the 17th century. It is now a must-see on any itinerary of the area, a few decades later.
Eight hectares in size, five of which are planted, this green space features an amphitheatre, a variety of trees and decorative shrubs, an orchid garden, lawns, and vistas with expansive views of the capital of Madeira. More than 2000 exotic species from all continents, some of which are endangered in their native habitats, are kept in the Madeira Botanical Garden.
Rent a car and drive along the Coastline
Getting around this island on your own wheels is the greatest option. The drive is quite breathtaking, and you can find places that most tourists never see. We strongly advise renting a vehicle for at least a couple of days. But don't be afraid to veer off course, too. Pin your most-wanted people on GoogleMaps. One thing to keep in mind is that certain routes, particularly parts of the ring road, can be blocked because of the weather or other risks. For the safety of you and others, as well as the preservation of this stunning island, kindly abide by these closures.
Fly to Porto Santo
Discover this ocean's kept secret, from its paradisiacal beach to its historical legacy, including its geological exuberance. Discovering Porto Santo is like traveling to a golden island known for its long, nine-kilometer beach. In the far southwest of Europe, just one hour and a half of flight time separates Lisbon from the smallest inhabited island of the Madeira Archipelago, which is 500 kilometers from the African coast and 1000 kilometers from the European mainland. Easy to reach by plane from Funchal in less than 25 Minutes, if you have luxury time left it is a must visit on your journey with your personal Travel Guide Madeira Experience.
What to Eat and Drink in Madeira - Travel Guide Madeira
Limpets. Yes, I do. These incredible marine creatures are perhaps not what you would expect to eat, yet they are a delectable cross between a clam and a scallop. At A Taberna Madalena do Mar, they taste even better when accompanied by a glass of white wine and enjoyed by the sea.
Bolo de Caco
An English muffin is the closest bread product to which we can compare this. Typically, handmade garlic butter is served with these traditional rolls. They are all across the island, and you have to order as many as you can. Although we looked, we were unable to locate a store selling these as well as Madeira does.
Esapada preto might be the "ugliest fish in the ocean," but these frightening-looking animals are actually quite good. Look for this meal on the menu because it is typically served with bananas.
Drink Madeira Wine
This is a fortified wine made in Madeira. It is produced in a variety of styles from dry to medium dry, to sweet wines. It can be consumed with dessert or on their own as an aperitif. As a curiosity, the Declaration of Independence of USA was signed in the 4th July of 1776 and the Madeira wine was the toasting beverage of choice.
Since the island became a significant supplier of sugar in the 15th century, when it earned the nickname "white gold," sugar cane production has been the backbone of the island's economy. Poncha, a traditional alcoholic beverage from the island of Madeira, is produced with 5 ingredients: honey, sugar, lemon, and lemon juice; 20 cl of Aguardente de cana (distilled alcohol derived from sugar cane juice); and 5 spoons of honey. It is used with a mexelote, a device designed specifically for this use. According to a local proverb in Madeira, drinking poncha will supposedly cure a cold.
This Madeira guide is intended to be useful. Don't forget to blaze your own path and discover the island's secret riches on your own. Happy exploration!