4 Things Must to Do in Madeira

Set in a spectacular landscape with a wonderful climate, Madeira is a refined and sophisticated holiday destination. The top-quality hotels and excellent service mean that everybody feels comfortable and welcome.

Madeira is a tropical island with The Laurisilva Forest, the largest evergreen forest in the world. And then there’s the sea, always blue and visible from wherever you are. In other words be ready for Hiking, Swimming and tasting Madeira Gastronomy!

Funchal (view from Pico da Cruz) | Madeira Island (Portugal)View of Funchal towards east from Pico da Cruz. Image by © Ville Koistinen / CC BY-SA 3.0

1. Plan your stay in Madeira to make sure you have chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the Laurisilva Forest, classified by UNESCO as a natural world heritage site. Walk through a forest of age-old vegetation set in the middle of the ocean.

You can walk through the forest by following the water channels known as "levadas", and you will discover all kinds of rare species of fauna and flora. It is said that the world’s first orchid grew here.

2. Then refresh yourself with a swim in one of the natural swimming pools formed by the sea. And while you’re here, enjoy a good, tasty meal. The black scabbard fish is the local speciality and the tropical fruits that grow here are delicious.

3. Those in search of excitement can climb up to the mountain peaks of Pico do Areeiro and Pico Ruivo where they can walk above the clouds and look down at the island below.

The Coast of Madeira |PortugalThe Coast of Madeira. Image by © gov-madeira.pt / All rights reserved

4. Finally, this island has a mild climate all year round and everything is close at hand. Learn about the customs and history of its picturesque towns and villages, and don’t forget to taste the world famous Madeira wine.

Let's start

Levada' walks
Besides its natural beauties, Madeira has another no less surprising beauty to offer you: the magnificent engineering work of its irrigation system - the water channels known as levadas.

With roughly 1,400 kilometres of levadas to follow and explore, discover breathtaking landscapes in a unique encounter with nature. Accept the challenge!

These watercourses are the living proof of the titanic effort made by the ancestors to spread amongst the hills and valleys the abundant water that gushed from the springs high up in the mountains.

Levada Walks (levadas)-the water channels across Madeira  (Portugal)Levada water channels in Madeira. Image by © Adventure Kingdom / All rights reserved

The levadas are sometimes the only means of access to certain places, which are so isolated that they just have to be worth a visit.
Stray a little from the main roads and discover the soul of the island by walking along some of these channels. Your efforts will be rewarded with the discovery of beautiful panoramic views and landscapes that will literally take your breath away.

Around Madeira
Despite its small size, Madeira has a wealth of majestic and unusually beautiful scenery. Rent a car and set off to discover the charms and hidden corners of this floating garden.

As you head westwards out of Funchal, you will soon come to the typical fishing village of Camara de Lobos, followed by Cabo Girao, Europe’s highest promontory and the second highest in the world - reaching up to a height of 580 metres above sea level.

Visit Ribeira Brava before driving up to Encumeada along a route that offers you many different spectacular views. Continuing on towards Ponta do Sol and Calheta, you’ll reach the picturesque town of Paul do Mar. From there, drive up to Paul da Serra, Madeira’s highest plateau, and stop for a while to appreciate the beautiful view over the sloping hillsides.

The manufactured Beach of Calheta | Madeira Island (Portugal)Beach of Calheta in Madeira. Image by © Don Amaro / CC BY 2.0

At Porto Moniz, you can replenish your energies by taking a refreshing dip in the famous swimming pools that are formed naturally amidst the rocks. Go to Sao Vicente along a road that is sprinkled by waterfalls, and you should take some time to admire the contrast between the majestic green of the landscape and the crystal-clear blue of the sea. Here you can visit the volcanic caves or simply walk through the narrow streets of this pleasant little town.

Natural Pools of Porto Moniz| Madeira Island (Portugal)Natural swimming pools at Porto Moniz, Madeira

Now you have two choices: you can either drive back up to Encumeada and venture into the luxuriant vegetation of the Laurisilva forest, or continue on your way towards Santana, stopping at the many vantage points from where you can look out over beautiful valleys and mountains.

In Santana, be sure to visit the town’s typical houses and drive up to Queimadas, which is the starting point for some extremely beautiful walks, such as the one to Caldeirao Verde. The drive down into Faial is breathtakingly beautiful as the imposing mountains slope down towards the sea. Drive on towards Machico and don’t forget to take a detour to Canical and Ponta de Sao Lourenco, the island’s easternmost point.

Beautiful walk to Caldeirao Verde| Madeira Island (Portugal)Hiking to Caldeirao Verde in Madeira. Image by © Adventure Kingdom / All rights reserved

From the headland at Garajau, you can take in the view across to the Ilhas Desertas, whilst the viewpoint at Sao Goncalo offers you a fabulous view over Funchal.

Madeira Natural Park
Visit Madeira’s indigenous forest, discovered by Joao Goncalves Zarco and his fellow voyagers when they landed on the island in 1419.

Situated within the European space, Madeira’s natural heritage has been internationally recognised for its extraordinary wealth, diversity and state of conservation. In December 1999, it was classified by UNESCO as world natural heritage, a unique award in Portugal, and declared to be the biocultural heritage of all humanity.

The Laurissilva Forest, Madeira Nature ParkThe Laurissilva Forest, Madeira Nature Park. Image by © Christiaan Arthur Hemerik / All rights reserved

Don’t miss the chance to appreciate and enjoy this forest, which dates back to the Earth’s Tertiary Era and survived after the last glacial period only in the geographical area of Macaronesia, in other words the archipelagos of Madeira, the Azores, the Canaries and Cape Verde. Madeira has the largest forest of this type, covering an area of roughly 22 thousand hectares and also possessing the greatest variety of fauna and flora, with some rare specimens, as is the case with the Madeiran Orchid, Dactylorhiza foliosa, which is unique in the world.

Marvel at the large trees from the Lauraceae family - the til, the laurel tree or the vinhatico - and discover shrubs, ferns, mosses, lichens and other smaller plants that are characteristic of the Laurissilva forest.

At the level of fauna, attention is drawn to the wood pigeon - the emblematic bird of the Laurissilva forest and the symbol of the Madeira Natural Park.

Pride of Madeira (flower), Laurissilva Forest(Portugal)Pride of Madeira. Image by © Danny Perez Photography / All rights reserved

Madeira Gastronomy
There is a vast range of natural products on this island, making it possible to produce a wide variety of gastronomic delights.

As the island is in close contact with the sea, you will find excellent seafood dishes and all kinds of fresh fish at most restaurants - limpets, shrimps, octopus, tuna steaks and fillets of the Madeiran black scabbard fish, are just some examples of the many regional specialities.

You must also try the typical regional dishes, such as tuna steak with fried corn, the delicious "espetada" of beef grilled on a spit of laurel and the special bread cake known as bolo do caco.

Fruit lovers will find a real paradise in here! There is an abundance of tropical fruits such as mango, banana, avocado, custard apple and passion fruit, offering you exotic flavours to round off a delicious meal. They can be eaten either in their natural state or in puddings, mousses and ice-creams.

If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll love the island’s rich variety of cakes and pastries.

The most typical sweets are the Madeiran honey cake (Bolo-de-Mel) and the smaller honey cakes known as broas de mel, flavoured with various spices and made from sugar cane honey.

You also have a varied range of drinks to choose from. There are exotically-flavoured fruit juices - such as passion-fruit, papaya and guava - as well as the famous "poncha" (a punch made of sugar-cane brandy and lemon). You can also enjoy the famous Madeira wines - Malvasia (Malmsey), Sercial, Boal and Verdelho - which can be enjoyed with coffee or drunk as aperitifs.

Famous Madeira WineMadeira wine. Image by © y kawahara / CC BY 2.0

Traveler's NotesLocation

  • Madeira is a region of Portugal
  • Monetary unit: Euro, €
  • Time Zone: UTC +1 (WEST)
  • Phone code: +351 291
  • Climat: Mediterranean
  • Main cities: Funchal (capital), Machico, Santa Cruz, Camara De Lobos, Riviera Brava

Source: adapted with written permission of www.VisitPortugal.com
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