Madeira / Portugal / Europe. Looking back, I can’t say from what I was at the most impressed, from the lush green landscape where you can’t get enough of the view or the imposing rocks and the cliffs with their amazing sunsets and daily play of colors. In any case, the small island in the Atlantic Ocean left a colorful and decelerated impression with places that invite you to relax and switch off from the stressful everyday life. Slowdown. This is exactly what you inevitably achieve in Madeira if you don’t live in the centre of the island – namely in Funchal. The internet doesn’t work everywhere on the island and in many villages you’re simply transported back twenty years into the past. But this is strictly what this island is about: find back to the roots, get to know yourself a little better, enjoy nature and just recharge your batteries, if you’re looking for that, Madeira will be the right place for you.
The flower island is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (the second one being the Azores) and it includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Deserats, administered together with the separate archipelago of the Savage Islands. Madeira is geologically located on the African Tectonic Plate but it’s an integral part of the European Union as an outermost region. Madeira generally has a very mild and moderated subtropical climate with Mediterranean summer droughts and winter rain. There’re many microclimates courtesy of the elevation changes. Did you know that this beautiful island was claimed by Portuguese sailors in 1419 and settled after 1420. The archipelago is considered to be the first territorial discovery of the exploratory period of the Age of Discovery. As you may know from the Canaries also Madeira has a volcanic origin and can therefore score with a breathtakingly beautiful landscape too. The island has a coast that drops steeply into the sea, mountains that invite you to long hikes and a variety of flowers and other plants that will leave any nature lover speechless.
Let’s discover the island of eternal spring
We’ll start our little tour through the south of the island at Funchal – the capital of Madeira – and we’ll go for the first exploration tour to the right side until Santa Cruz and for the second one to the left side of the island, until Ponta do Pargo. So starting your tours from Funchal is a good option, because it’s really central located, the transport links from and to the city are good and it’s also a good position for daily trips in every area of the island. If you’re planning some day tours with a car, read carefully the route and also look for the right way, because the island hasn’t a flat landscape, it’s very hilly. You may need more time and it’s also not possible to move from the north to the south of the island at many places. More precisely it’s just on five and in the centre of the island on two streets possible – consider this in your planning.
First highlight not far from Funchal is Cristo Rei – a viewpoint with an excellent panoraic view over the Atlantic Ocean, the Garanjau Natural Reserve, part of the Funchal bay and Canico de Baixo. The name result of the existence of a Christ the King statue, which was erected to fulfil a promise made by Counsellor Aires de Ornelas. Tip: Close to the view point there’s a cable car which brings you down to the raia do Garajau. Here you can enjoy a short coffee break directly at the sea with a nice view. The Transport with the funicular costs only € 3,00 for each person.
Some funny inside tip is also the airport, first you should drive the motorway from both sides next to the airport, than you’ll see how the construction is built. The second reason is, that on the opposite side of the airport at the gas station it’s possible to enjoy your coffee or just to watch at the viewpoint the planes at the start and landings. That’s really cool, I didn’t see this so close anywhere else.
Funchal is also a highlight, especially because the city was built into the hillside, so you can discover the city from the top down to the harbour. Unfortunately I’ve to admit that we weren’t in the main city, respectively we just drove through it, because on each day we intended to discover the capital, there were two or more cruise ships in Funchal and I don’t mean small ships, this were large one, so that’s the reason.
Now we move from the capital of the island to the left side and here I can totally recommend you to take some time & a car and stroll through the old federal road close to the sea. This street leads you to beautiful villages in the mountains, it’s most of the time a up and down, but the view there is breathtakingly amazing. I can recommend you to start in Praia Da Riberia Brava or in Ponta do Sol and just follow the street until Faja da Ovelha. You’ll find awesome nature, houses and farms like twenty years ago and there’re also beautiful hiking routes which starts along this way. Definitely take time for this trip, if you love to photograph the nature, you’ll find the right paradise of landscape, flowers and stunning views. Also don’t forget to watch a sunset there, you’ll find a lot of viewpoints along the whole street.
Definitely worth for watching sunrise or sunset is also the next location: Ponta do Sol. Maybe I’m so in love with this cute little authentic place, because we spent there the whole week from our Madeira trip, but I can absolutely recommend this place to you. Especially if you love sunsets, a bit calmer places, no mainstream and most of the time no tourists – than you’re welcome in Ponta da Sol. Don’t forget where there is sun on it, there’s also sun in it – this city has statistically the highest number of hours of sunshine from the whole island, this is also the reason, why the temperature is always a bit higher there. Tip: From the restaurant sol poente you’ve a great view for watching sunsets and also over Ponta do Sol.
Arrived at the end of the south you’ll find the city Ponta do Pargo with his beautiful lighthouse, the view from there is just awesome, here you can see the complete stunning cliffs again and it’s also a nice little inside tip for a sunset – but just if you’re hunting sunsets like me 😉 From Ponta do Pargo you’ve the opportunity to drive further to the north of the city or back to the centre, to Funchal. My favourite places in the north I’ll describe in a separate blog post, because it’s just too much information for one.
Things you should know about Madeira
#1 Flights from/to Madeira are mostly not non-stop flights, stopover in spain or portugal are normal
#2 This island is also a popular destination on cruises, so you also have the opportunity to discover the island during a day trip
#3 Rent a car – that’s the best way to reach your explore points around the island. The streets are well prepared so driving there is not a problem
#4 The climate on the island is very different from the south to the north. In the north it’s raining most of the time, during in the south there’s a subtropical climate. But it’s the whole year constantly warm, so you can visit the island whenever you want.
#5 Porto Santo is the neighbour island of Madeira, there you can find the only sandy beach. You can reach the island by ferry or plane.
#6 You’re searching for a destination on christmas or new year’s eve, then Madeira is maybe the right place for you if you are searching for xmas vibes and around 20 degrees. Everything is also very cute decorated and the celebrations around christmas are really beautiful.
#7 Flower fans will be excited about this island – there’re beautiful flowers everywhere and you can also discover a few sightseeing spots around this theme. Also in may, every year Madeira celebrates the flower festival – definitely a must for fans!
#8 At least one hiking tour in Madeira is a must, did you know, that there exists around the Levadas a lot of hiking tours through the whole island? The most tours you can find in the north and centre of the island. Especially a tour along levadas should be on your to-do list for this vacay.
#9 Try out the Madeira wine, it’s fortified wine and you can’t compare it with an wine like from austria or italy, it’s really different and a must to taste a glass of it.
#10 If you’re searching for a typical restaurants like an italian one or a chinese, you’ll not find this at the island or maybe just in Funchal. The traditional local food is fish & meat, so you can just search for a local restaurant, where you can find meals like this and also try out the traditional espata – its meat from chicken or beef.
You can find more information about the region, arrival, accomodation, etc. at tourist information madeira
Direcao Regional do Turismo
Avenida Arriaga 18
Hoteltip for Ponta do Sol
Hotel Enotel Baia ****
Avenida 1 Maio
9360-209 Ponta do Sol