Madeira: Travel and Destination Guide

Sitting in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira attracts millions of visitors every year to enjoy its mild year-round climate and to discover its diverse beauty from dramatic rugged rock coastlines to rich green rainforests draping across the mountains and valleys blooming with colourful wildflowers and vineyards. Madeira is also popular for its rich history and culture which is very apparent in the small villages and the capital city, Funchal.


Madeira has stunning scenery and one way to see the best views is by catching the cable car from Funchal that takes you high above the city to the award-winning Botanical Gardens and Monte Palace. Once you have strolled around the tropical gardens and absorbed the fantastic views return to town by experiencing the hair-raising toboggan ride down the hill through the narrow winding streets.

Climb above the clouds on a hiking tour or take the bus to Pico do Arierio mountain and experience walking above cloud level at the highest peak in Madeira Pico Ruivo, standing at 1862 meters/6,100 feet high, on a clear day the views are out of this world.

Food & Drink

An island bursting with rich vegetation and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean inevitably harvests some of Europe’s finest fresh produce and boasts a great choice of culinary delights that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Fresh seafood and fish, especially tuna are popular dishes as well as meat prepared with locally grown herbs and vegetables. Try the mouth-watering Espetada, chunks of meat, usually beef rubbed in garlic and a sprinkling of salt and herbs before slowly grilled on an open fire. For those who prefer fish can enjoy a similar dish, Bife de Atum a Madeirense, fresh tuna grilled over a wood fire and served with a green salad and the world famous Madeiran rosé wine.

Memorable moments can be enjoyed watching the sunset beyond the horizon with a glass of the sweet tasting Poncha drink, made from sugar cane, honey, and lemon juice. The perfect way to end a wonderful day.

Small sweet bananas grow across the island along with many other exotic fruits including the pineapple looking philodendron fruit. View the amazing colours and flavours of the island’s fare by visiting the Workers’ Market, Mercado dos Lavradores.

Top Sights

Madeira is truly a natural Garden of Eden, so walking, hiking, and cycling are some of the most wonderful way to discover its diverse beauty.

Feel enchanted by the Laurissilva Forest, recognised as part of the World Natural Heritage by UNESCO. Walk along the levadas which run through the forest, admire many different plants, wildflowers, and rare bird species. Wander through the rainforests, cross waterfalls and take a dip in a rock pool. Stretching over 860-miles there are many different nature trails to suit individual abilities.

Visit the capital city, Funchal to explore many interesting monuments, historical sites, gothic cathedrals, and museums or simply browse the shops, markets, and stop for lunch in one of the many charming street-side restaurants. Stay until after dusk and the city comes alive with a great choice of nightlife entertainment.

Admire the island from a different angle by going a boat excursion, from Funchal cruise along the coastline to one of the world’s tallest oceanfront cliffs, Cabo Girão, standing 1,902 feet (580 metres) above sea level. While your boat gently cruises through the waters keep an eye open in the distance to spot the dolphins and whales.

Family Activities

On holiday with your children? No need to worry there are plenty of fun activities to do to keep the whole family happy.

Should you be visiting in the summer months Aquaparque situated in Santa Cruz is the ideal place for those seeking family fun. The leisure waterpark offers hours of fun with several leisure pools, three exhilarating waterslides, including one with four fast lanes, a lazy river for those wanting to take it easy and a children’s pool for the young.

Kids will love pretending to be Captain Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the Santa Maria de Colombo Boat trip. Set sail out to sea with a sense of adventure on the replica 15th-Century pirate ship and envisage the voyages of Christopher Colombus.

The Museu da Baleia, Whale Museum is a wonderful and educational experience for all ages. Discover and learn of the history about the whales on the audio sets, the little ones will be mesmerized by walking around and under the life-size model whales.

Take a dip in a natural outdoor pool, created by volcanic lava. The most popular pool to visit is at Porto Moniz, crystal clear water and safe for children to splash around.

History & Culture

The Portuguese discovered Madeira in the year 1419, it did not take long for civilization and production of wheat and sugar-cane to grow. In the coming years, the island became popular with overseas traders and the islands rich land was quickly cultivated for farmland and vineyards. Today, the island is an attractive holiday destination for people from all corners of the world.

Experience a great sense of the history and culture throughout the island by visiting Catholic churches, especially the beautiful Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte and the stunning interior of the Igreja de Sao Pedro church. The local people are proud of their history and hold many annual festivals, including the impressive firework displays on New Year’s Eve and the world famous Madeiran Flower Festival where the streets of Funchal bloom with many spring flowers. Do not miss Carnival time, when the whole of Madeira comes alive with the sounds of music, dancing, and colourful costumes.