They call it the pearl of the Atlantic, a precious island gem. It boasts a stunning landscape of 800 square kilometers of postcard-perfect scenery, from the deep blue and crystalline sea to the mountains above the clouds, from the magical forest to the many colorful gardens. Madeira is a synonym of well-being, no matter the time of year. Good weather is always around the corner, even when it rains. There is inviting water for swimming, cascading waterfalls, caves and viewpoints to discover, trails and streams to explore.
Less than two hours by plane from Lisbon, Madeira Island is a destination worth considering for everything it has to offer. It smells like flowers and fruits, tastes like countryside and sea. It has history and beaches. It has gastronomy and nightlife. It has wellness and adventure activities. In every corner, there is a charming view, and the sea is everywhere. The sea’s temperature doesn’t vary too much throughout the year, but during the hottest months, it usually stays around 22°C. While it is true that the paradisiacal sandy beaches are on Porto Santo, accessible by 15-minute flights or a longer ferry ride, there are also several sandy beaches to explore on Madeira, such as Calheta and Machico. However, the most famous one is the black and fine sand beach of Seixal port on the north coast, nestled in a stunning mountainous scenery. There are also natural swimming pools at Porto Moniz and Seixal, where the sea naturally enters and fills the rock-made enclosures with saltwater.
Off the coast, there are boat tours for dolphin and whale watching, and on a good day, you can even get in the water to feel the animals up close. Leaving the sea and going up to the mountains, there are Hollywood-like scenes, such as Fanal, a vast area of laurisilva forest, classified as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage, or Pico do Areeiro, the highest point in the archipelago, with an imposing 1862 meters, a true postcard – there is, in fact, one of the many available trails on the island.
Descending to Funchal, there is city life that already has almost 600 years of history. The past and present meet in narrow streets, among restaurants, bars, and shops. The Market of Lavradores is one of the ex-libris, a festival of colors where fruits that cannot be found anywhere else are sold. Behind the market are the fish stalls, where swordfish and tuna caught on the coast reign – it is no coincidence that they are on almost every restaurant’s menu, usually accompanied by fried corn. At the table, try the lapas, bolo do caco, and the iconic espetadas on a laurel stick.
Square kilometers of area in Madeira
Hours by plane from Lisbon
Years of history in Funchal
A fail-proof plan, perfect for enjoying the views and the surprising bay of Funchal, is to take the cable car from Funchal to the Monte area. Once there, take the opportunity to visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the Church of Monte, where the tomb of Carlos de Habsburg, the last emperor of Austria, is located. To return to Funchal, take the basket cars, fearlessly. Handcrafted with wicker and wood, they have seats for two or three people and are driven and controlled by two “carreiros”, dressed in white with a straw hat on their heads, who use their own boots, equipped with thick tire rubber soles, as the vehicle’s brakes. The route is about two kilometers long and takes about ten minutes – it will even feel too short.
Enjoy an unforgettable trip.