Madeira is a spectacular nature lovers’ destination in Europe. It is about 600 km from Lisbon but about 400 km from the coast of Morocco. The destination boasts of a varied landscape, great weather and expansive green landscapes, waiting to be explored. Its coastline is made of cliffs that offer you magical views of the Atlantic Ocean and neighbouring lands. Despite not having extensive sandy beaches, you have the sea to explore along with Madeira Aquarium that boasts of spectacular underwater views and tens of fish species. Do not forget the Madeira’s Laurisilva forest, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.
Travel Tips for Madeira
The most common route from the UK is to fly to Lisbon and then take another flight to Funchal, the capital of the island. However, there are direct flights via various airlines such as British Airways, Monarch and Easyjet. The busiest period to visit is between July and November. Airfares are most expensive at this period too.
Madeira Island is politically part of Portugal, and therefore the language spoken is Portuguese. Since the island is quite remote, it is advisable to learn a bit of the language before going such as saying hello, asking for directions and introducing yourself so that you are able to get around and communicate with the locals. Language apps, like Babbel for example, can help you learn many useful Portuguese phrases even on the go.
The weather is generally warm at around 30°C and a low of 16°C for most of the year. However, there are six microclimates in the area. This means that you can come from one extreme to the other within a span of a few minutes. Therefore, you should carry some warm clothing alongside your usual light attire and in general dress in layers. Also bring a rain jacket, as thunderstorms tend to form pretty quickly.
Most of the hotels are located around Funchal. However, you can book a hotel room at Camara de Lobos, a calm but enticing fishing village, Ponta do Sol, Ponta Delgada, or Prazeres, which is located in the mountainous south. Most of the hotels will allow you to book a room online before you leave the UK. There is a wide choice of options from a Bed and Breakfast room to five-star accommodation.
Things to Do and See in Madeira
Start by hiking the Madeira’s Laurisilva forest. Here, you enjoy the lush mountain vegetation as you follow the meandering irrigation channels as they bring water from the mountains.
Then, rent a car and explore the beautiful island. Madeira is only about 800 square kilometres. This means you can cover most of the area in a few days. You will enjoy a varied landscape with cliffs, narrow winding roads, the sea on one side and lush vegetation on the other end. Carry your camera, as you will regularly be stopping to take photos of colourful flowers or tilled hillsides full of banana trees.
Travel to the village of Porto Moniz on the northwest part of Funchal for a refreshing swim in natural seawater swimming pools. The pools are held together by volcanic rocks and replenished by high tides. They offer a relaxing, warm bath as you enjoy great views of the ocean far ahead. Do not leave without taking a walk at CaboGirao Skywalk. Constructed at 589 metres, this is the second-highest glass walk in the world.
Conquer your fear of heights as you step in an abyss and feel the chills of looking down at sea. After that, you can go for kayaking and surfing in the sea. You get a chance to swim with dolphins in calm blue waters.
What to Eat
Seafood is the most popular dish here. Some of the common fish include the black swordfish that is famed for soft meat and lobster-like taste, codfish (called Bacalhau) and tuna fish. They are served with fruit and veggies.
Sample the sweet honey cake (called bolo de mel de cana). It is not made of honey but molasses, sultanas and nuts- it is so delicious. Wash it down with a traditional drink called Poncha. This sweet-sour drink is made of bandy cane sugar juice mixed with lemon juice and honey.
You can also take a Madeira version of Japanese sushi with a cocktail of local fruits for your dinner or local, grass-fed grilled beef served with plantain and steamed vegetables.
Festivals to Attend
There are parties all year round. Start by sampling local wines at the Wine Festival that takes place between the end of August and the beginning of September at Camara de Lobos. You can also enjoy Madeira Carnival Festivities that takes place between the last week of February and the beginning of March, a week of parades and outdoor parties.
At the start of May, there is Festa do Flor festival, a celebration of spring that comes with colourful cultural events, parades and dance festivals. Finally, visit the New Year to take part in massive fireworks and spectacular illuminations.
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