The island of Madeira boasts such dramatic landscapes that it has earned itself the nickname the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’. This once lost archipelago bursts with colourful flowers all year round thanks to its rich volcanic soil.
Exploring the lush valleys, terraces of vineyards and banana groves on foot reveals the tranquillity and green beauty of the island. An invigorating hike through the UNESCO protected forests, home to diverse flora and fauna, or the eucalyptus woodlands, uncover stunning views of the island. Nature lovers will find dolphins and whales frolicking in the blue sea. Boat trips and scuba diving allow visitors to get closer to these magical creatures and the colourful fish that live beneath the surface.
Madeira is the perfect destination for a beach-break with beautiful long white sandy beaches like Calheta and Machico, as well as beaches of black volcanic sand. There are many modern family resorts on the island, particularly in the capital Funchal, which boasts one of the most beautiful bays in the world. There are plenty of cafes where visitors can relax and sample the famous Madeira wine. Funchal is also home to a 16th-century cathedral, a Museum of Sacred Art and the stunning Botanical Gardens. The one hour climb to the top of Pico Ruvio affords spectacular views and a good work out, not to mention the additional incentive of a bar and restaurant at the top.
For those feeling less energetic, a cable car runs from Funchal to Monte where the reward is the lovely Nossa Senhora de Monte church. Take the ‘fun’ way down with a ride in a ‘toboggan’; driven by local Carreiros; these ‘wicker baskets’ transport visitors back to Funchal in a flash. A leisurely round of golf, a stroll around the old capital Machico with its 18th century fort or a ramble through Santana village with its quaint architecture are all well worth the trip.
With beaches and bars, forests and mountains, wildlife and historic architecture, Madeira is a paradise for every kind of traveller.
The following information is correct as of October 2014 and is subject to change. Please check with the airline directly for complete accuracy.
Madeira Funchal Airport is located 12 miles from the main city of Funchal and can be reached by car in just 20 minutes. Buses run hourly from the airport terminal and take approximately 25 minutes to reach the centre. Taxis are also available from outside the airport building.
What you need to know
Currency: The Euro (€)
Visas: British citizens and citizens of the European Union do not require a visa to travel to Madeira, only a passport or ID card valid for three months beyond the length of stay. Nationals of other countries may require a visa. More information can be obtained from a local embassy or the Foreign Office website.
Laws: Beachwear should not be worn outside the beach as this would be considered inappropriate by many locals. Smoking is banned in all indoor public places including restaurants, bars and cafes, except those with designated smoking areas. Smoking is prohibited in cinemas, theatres and on buses. The legal minimum age for consuming alcohol in Portugal is 16.
Best Time to Visit
The climate in Madeira is hot and dry in the summer months and mild and wet in the winter months. Summer is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit the island, with visitors wanting to make the most of the beautiful beaches and blue seas, but be warned, temperatures can get as high as 40 degrees. September is often quieter in terms of tourist numbers and is still warm and sunny enough to enjoy the outdoors, with temperatures in the comfortable mid 20s. Winter in Madeira is still popular with those seeking a little ‘winter sun’ but there is a greater chance of rain in November and December. March and April are also lovely times to visit with warm, but not too hot, weather and fewer tourists. The streets fill with flowers and floats at the Flower Festival held in April. The Madeira Wine Rally, the Camacha Art Festival and the Sao Vicente Festival draw tourists to the island in August. Another wine festival takes place in September, while the Corrida de São Silvestre in Madeira or New Year Fireworks make December and early January another popular time to visit.
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