Wondering where to go on your next trip? Why not spending your next holidays in Madeira? This pocket of paradise in the Atlantic Ocean boasts a warm, spring-like climate all year round, and is famous for its gastronomy, wines, outdoor activities, beaches and, most of all, its hospitality. It also hosts multiple festivals throughout the year, including the island’s popular Flower Festival.
So whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday or for an exciting adventure in the mountains, Madeira should be top of the list for your next holiday. Here are 9 fantastic reasons to plan a trip to this beautiful Portuguese island:
1. Warm weather, all year round
When planning your holiday to Madeira, you can do so safely in the knowledge that you’ll be greeted by a near-perfect climate, whatever the time of year.
The pleasant temperatures really help you get the best of the island. Whether you’re taking a trip to the beach or heading for a mountain trek, you’re almost guaranteed the perfect conditions to enjoy everything the island has to offer.
2. The people
Madeira is renowned for the kindness of its people. The locals are extremely welcoming and always try to create a friendly atmosphere, where all visitors feel at home. This sees many tourists returning to the island multiple times, having been made to feel so comfortable and welcomed by the locals.
3. Spectacular views and landscapes
Of all the reasons to choose Madeira for your next holiday, the stunning landscape is one of the most compelling. Madeira is a tropical island covered in lush, green mountains and dramatic cliff faces. Here are some of the most scenic spots to visit during your trip:
Viewpoint of Cabo Girao and Cable Car Faja de Dos Padres
Cabo Girao is one of the highest lookout points in Europe, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic. The viewpoint is located on top of a steep cliff, over 500 metres above sea level. If you’re feeling particularly brave, dare to walk along the transparent platform floor at the summit (providing you don’t suffer from vertigo, that is).
Once you’ve taken in the views from Cabo Girao, head to the nearby Faja Dos Padres and take the cable car down to the beach. This small bay was previously only accessible by sea, but now, thanks to the cable car, you can head down the 300-metre cliff to enjoy a swim in the waters off this rocky beach. Finish your trip in style with a meal on the beach at the Faja Dos Padres restaurant.
You may not realise it, but you’ve probably already seen photos of a traditional Madeiran house. We’re talking about ‘palhoças’, buildings in the shape of an inverted ‘V’ with thatched roofs that slope to the ground. These wonderful structures take pride of place on the front of the island’s postcards, and are a must-see during your trip. You can find some classic palhoças in Santana (Madeira’s second largest municipality after Funchal) located to the north of the island.
In addition to visiting the well-known Casinhas de Santana, this municipality is also a good starting point to visit the Laurisilva Forest (featured below) or to climb the Pico Ruivo. Santana is a picturesque place with a great architectural heritage, including the Igreja Matriz de São Jorge, the Capela de Santa Ana and the Fort of Faial, where you’ll find cannons pointing out to sea where they once defended the island against English ships. You’ll also have the opportunity to buy traditional handcrafted goods from the island here.
Black sandy beaches in Seixal and Caniçal
Porto do Seixal Beach is located in the north of Madeira, next to the port town of Seixal. It’s a stunning black sandy beach where the green of the surrounding mountains contrasts beautifully with the crystal clear waters. The ideal place to relax, sunbathe, rent a kayak or explore the seabed through snorkelling or scuba diving. Two more great options to visit while in Seixal are, Poça das Lesmas (natural pools formed in the volcanic rock) and Praia de Jamaica (prepare to be surprised by its unique natural environment).
Elsewhere, Prainha is located in the fishing village of Caniçal, situated at the start of the San Lorenzo Peninsula, in the east of the island. This beautiful black sandy stretch is surrounded by a dramatic, arid landscape. Prainha is famous for the Dunas da Piedade, fossilised limestone formations of huge geomorphological interest.
The village of Caniçal was a whaling hub from 1940 to 1981. And although the hunting of these mammals has now been banned, you can still take a fascinating trip back in time by visiting the Whale Museum, where you’ll find an impressive life-size reproduction.
4. The Laurissilva Forest
This subtropical ‘laurel’ forest is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Madeira’s most beautiful natural zones, full of stunning waterfalls and cascades.
The entrance to the forest is spectacular, passing through the Levada das 25 Fontes, a valley of volcanic rock where the slopes are covered with gushing water.
Today, it is the largest surviving laurel forest of its kind. Ninety per cent of its area is covered by the primary forest ecosystem, which is home to a unique mix of plant and animal species. Many of the latter – for example, the Madeiran wood pigeon – are native to the region.
5. A rich cultural heritage
With around six centuries of history, the island is full of cultural heritage. The buildings, churches and museums all help to tell the fascinating story of what the island has been through.
Keep an eye open for examples of the Manueline, military and modernist architecture, paintings, furniture, sculptures, photography, porcelain and jewellery among others.
The island’s largest cities, Funchal and Calheta, are where you can find the most-striking examples of the rich local heritage. In Funchal, you can find the Baltazar Dias Theatre, an important cultural hub where you can enjoy a variety of different performances. While in Calheta, you can visit the Mudas (Museum of Contemporary Art) which has received multiple awards for the architecture, concerts, and exhibitions that it hosts.
6. Delicious food and drink
The gastronomy of the island reflects the soul of the Madeirans, and offers a huge range of flavours. Thanks to its subtropical, fertile climate, the local produce is very high quality, contributing to an explosion of flavours in the local dishes. The island’s fish, meat, veg and fruit all leave a rich, gourmet taste in your mouth.
You can sample this great local food right across the island, from freshly-caught fish at Michelin-level restaurants, to humble sandwiches made with bolo de caco in the centre of Funchal.
Wine connoisseurs should also plan a trip to a local cellar or vineyard to taste the famous wine that’s produced in the mountains and by the sea of this wonderful island.
7. Amazing outdoor activities
Are you more of a beach or mountain-person? In Madeira there’s no need to choose, you can be both!
For those with a passion for marine life, a visit to Madeira’s coastline is a truly unforgettable experience. The waters off the island are a meeting point for over twenty types of cetaceans, including bottlenose dolphins, fin whales, false killer whales and even gigantic sperm whales (which can measure up to 16 metres-long). And thanks to the mild climate, you can catch a glimpse of these creatures all year round.
Most boat excursions depart from the south of the island. Funchal, Calheta and Machico are all good spots to set sail into the Atlantic. Private boats are available to hire, although it’s better to head out to sea with a guide who can point you in the right direction of where to find the different species (don’t forget to bring a good pair of binoculars). If you’re lucky, you may even be able to jump into the water and swim with the dolphins.
If you prefer to be on dry land, walkers and hikers can enjoy the winding paths of Las Levadas, which run parallel to the water and cover hundreds of kilometres across the island. A real walker’s paradise!
There are levadas of all levels, both for beginners and experienced walkers. One of the most popular trails is the Caldeirao Verde, which takes you to a large waterfall that drops into a crystal-clear lagoon.
But it’s not all coastal climbs in Madeira; you can also enjoy the peaks of the island’s interior, such as Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro. The highest (at 1861 metres) is Pico Ruivo, with a three-kilometre climb to the summit. Although it may seem difficult, the 270-metre ascent is classified as low intensity, and is well worth the effort once you climb above the clouds to find the entire island at your feet.
Climbing and sailing aside, the best option to explore all corners of the island is to rent a car. Buckle-up and cruise across Madeira at your own pace, taking in as many detours as you like.
8. Cultural festivals throughout the year
It’s very difficult to become bored in Madeira! There’s always something going on, with different events and festivals taking place for both locals and tourists alike.
One of the biggest dates on the calendar is the Sao Joao Festival, which celebrates the start of the summer with a beautiful display of fireworks, music and lots of local gastronomy.
If you’re a fan of motorsport, you’ll probably know that the island is home to the Madeira Wine Rally. Taking place in August, it’s one of the most famous European Rally Championships on the calendar.
Perhaps the most colourful event of the year is the highly-popular Madeira Flower Festival, which sees the entire island decorated in floral splendor.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s raise a glass to the Madeira wine festival. It’s the perfect way to sample the wines the island has to offer, including the most-historic tipples made using traditional methods.
9. Nearby Porto Santo Island
A holiday in Madeira is not complete without a spot of island-hopping. Porto Santo is a smaller island to the north, where you’ll find 9 kilometres of golden, sandy beaches. It’s the perfect place to lie-back and soak up some rays, or get involved in the best beach parties.
You’ll find some great snack bars dotted along the beach, which offer a welcome respite from the sun, and provide public toilets and showers for a quick freshen-up.
Porto Santo’s coastline is divided into several beaches, including Praia do Penedo, Praia do Cabeço and Praia das Pedras Pretas, with each one having its own unique charm.
There you have it! You’re now perfectly placed to plan your holiday to Madeira. All that’s left to do is start looking for flights and hotel options today.