Looking for the ultimate getaway this year? Look no further than Madeira. Often overlooked by other Portuguese destinations; Madeira modestly reigns as a fantastic island full of tranquil landscapes and diverse adventures for all ages. Whether you are an avid sun worshipper, adrenalin junkie or simply looking for an escape to recharge your batteries, you will find it all in the island of Madeira.
Voted as the World Leading Island Destination for 2016 and 2015 you can be assured to get a world class experience. Boasting temperatures between 25 degrees in summer and 17 degrees in winter, you can enjoy it all year round whether you are visiting to catch the best waves or witness the breath taking fireworks at New Year’s Eve.
Funchal’s history goes back over five centuries ago when Portuguese residents colonised the coast of the bright and sunny bay where fennel (funcho) grew in abundance, giving its name to the new town of Funchal. The perfectly cobbled streets in the centre create a mixture of shopping areas, cafes, bars, street art, traditional Portuguese street entertainment and exuberant colourful gardens. The capital of Madeira is a hybrid of both modern and traditional whilst the rejuvenated cosmopolitan city has warm climates all year round that offers beautiful backdrops of the Atlantic Ocean and dramatic mountain tops.
In keeping with traditions you must experience the truly unique form of transportation; the wicker toboggans. Hand-crafted from wicker and wood they are controlled by two traditionally dressed drivers who will push you down hills using only their boots thick rubber soles as brakes. The ride down to Livramento takes around 10 minutes but the crazy experience is sure to get you laughing!
Other places that are worth visiting would be Mercado dos Lavradores which is situated in the centre of Funchal, in the historic neighbourhood of Santa Maria. The market is one of the most famous attractions in Madeira, where colours, aromas and tradition join to entice passers-by. Built in the 1930s it showcases a graceful combination of Art Deco and Modernism. The market presents the best the island has to offer: the freshest and most exotic fruit, beautiful flowers from the “Atlantic garden”, meat, fish, vegetables and spices of regional origin.
For nature lovers or for those just looking to get a breath of fresh air you must visit the indigenous “Laurissilva” forest that was nominated World Natural Heritage by UNESCO in 1999. This is sure to be one of the highlights of any trip offering a perfect way to escape and embrace the fresh green paradise.
Madeira a Family Destination
The island of Madeira is a safe destination, ideal for holidays with the family or friends. Fantastic hotels with outstanding conditions, some with beachfront access, swimming pools and gardens outdoors activities for all ages, direct contact with nature and culture, excellent restaurants and much more interesting offers for all tastes. Everything is close by, allowing lots of different experiences in a few short days.
Walking in Madeira is not just dusty paths but an enjoyable, mind opening experience. Taking in the blooming botanicals along road sides, river banks and gardens you immediately feel uplifted and revitalised. The Levadas (old irrigation channels built to take water to various parts of the island) are famous here and are approximately 2,500km- perfect for any keen walkers!
Taking in Mother Nature’s offspring you will walk across basalt cliffs, through lush dense forests, valleys and mountains where you will be spoilt for choice with what to snap. The levadas can lead you through tunnels to locations revealing raw, unspoiled beautiful waterfalls (Risco, Ribeira da Janela etc) and crystal clear pond- scenes taken straight from a fairy-tale.
Madeira is also a fantastic destination for enthusiastic golfers, where they can experience the best of this sport. Good weather conditions, three excellent courses (2 in Madeira and 1 in Porto Santo island) and a fantastic atmosphere offer a challenge for professionals and amateurs. Each course has its own unique features, offering different experiences on each green.
Pico do Arieiro
At an altitude of 1818 metres it is the third highest peak on the island behind Pico Ruivo and Pico das Torres. As if the rest of the island wasn’t enough you now can feel like you are in heaven whilst walking above the clouds. Due to its high altitude the Pico is covered by snow in the winter time, it’s a rare phenomenon because the climate is normally warm in Madeira, so it is traditional for the locals to visit the Pico do Areeiro when this happens. If you are thinking of experiencing this amazing excursion then feel comfortable that there is an excellently built path leading to the peak, (Pico Ruivo) plus after the 2/3 hour walk you can treat yourself to a drink and cake at the coffee shop on the way up!
Monte Palace Tropical Garden – Botanical Garden
Monte Palace Tropical Garden – This is a must see for all visitors as it offers 70,000 square feet of exotic botanicals, contemporary sculptures which take influence from places all over the world as well as semi precious stones and diamonds, unique minerals, wildlife and much more!
The Botanical garden– opened the doors for the first time in 1960. The garden has a display of more than 2000 plants, labelled with their scientific names, giving the visitor a colourful scenario, in its 70.000 square feet area. Besides a place of leisure it also includes a science and cultural centre.
Santana is a quaint traditional village on the north coast where houses are built of stone and thatched with straw. The neighbourhood lives essentially from agriculture, craftwork and tradition and is quite the contrast from the UK’s busy cities. If you are visiting in July make sure to experience the large festival of traditional music and dance which is held here and is known as “24 horas a bailar” (24 hours of dancing).
Only a short distance from Santana you will find Queimadas, the starting point for one of Madeira’s most spectacular ‘levada’ walks towards ‘Caldeirão Verde’ (the Green Cauldron) so it is worth a visit!
In the excellent subtropical weather it is the perfect combination to practice a variety of outdoors activities: you can choose to do something calm or to get our adrenalin flowing, with extreme sports. For a relaxing retreat opt to observe whales and dolphins on a boat ride where you can witness up to 28 creatures of the ocean. For the more adventurous holiday maker there is plenty do get involved in, from canoeing, canyoning, trekking, climbing, paragliding, diving, SUP (stand up paddle board), windsurfing, among others!
Food and drink
Many of Madeira’s restaurants specialise in quality fish and shellfish dishes, ranging from tuna steaks, scabbard fish with banana, limpets, to octopus. When visiting make sure you try the Broas de Mel (honey biscuits), tartlets, Bolo do caco bread, sopa de tomate e cebola (tomato and onion soup crowned with a poached egg), espetada (meat on a spit) served with fried maize and many more. The menus are varied and rich in local, international and gourmet specialities. Madeira Islands gastronomy represents the soul of its generous and hospitable people.
Madeira Wine is a fortified wine that has been produced for more than five hundred years, from grapes grown on the hillsides of the Madeira wine region. It can be served as an aperitif or after a meal and its flavour and spirit brought it illustrious admirers such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill.
Currently, the grape varieties most widely used to produce Madeira Wine are Sercial (dry), Verdelho (medium-dry), Boal (medium-sweet), Malvasia (sweet) and Tinta Negra (dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet). However, there are also other recommended and certified varieties.
There is a variety of shows, festivals and exhibitions waiting for you, in addition to the natural attractions and year-round spring weather, there is always plenty to do in the Madeira Islands. Throughout the year, there are cultural, entertainment and sports events to suit all walks of life.
The main events are the traditional Carnival, Flower Festival, Atlantic Festival, Wine Festival, Colombus Festival, Madeira Nature, Festival New Year celebrations. The people of Madeira know how to celebrate, and are skilled in the art of hosting. To offset their famous peace and tranquillity, there are a number of celebrations and an extensive entertainment calendar throughout the entire year.
Carnival – February
The Carnival Festivities, one of Madeira’s main tourist attractions, takes over the centre of Funchal. During a week, the city wakes to the sound of marching bands, samba and carnival parades, which will put the whole of the downtown area in a good mood.
Shrove Tuesday is when Funchal explodes with joy. Thousands of partygoers from all over the region and even tourists participate in the Slapstick Parade (Cortejo Trapalhão) a popular costume parade. For days the streets of Funchal are decorated with lights and flooded with carnival music.
Flower Festival – two weeks after Easter
Every year after Easter, Funchal is the stage of a luxurious treat for the senses, celebrating spring and the season’s exuberant botanicals even more intense in Madeira thanks to its subtropical climate. The celebrations begin on Saturday morning (May, 4th to 21st – 2017) with the children’s parade, when thousands of children after a small parade build a wall of flowers, called the Wall of Hope, in one of the main city squares.
There is another outstanding event the next day, the Grand Flower Parade with some floats and hundreds of people showing off the island’s local flowers filling the air with soft perfume.
At the same time, there are other activities in honour of the flower: unforgettable carpets of flowers, Flower Exhibition, folklore shows, classical concerts and variety shows. All in Funchal city centre.
Atlantic Festival – June
This event takes place in June and involves both culture and entertainment in its three different components: the Madeira Music Festival, the International Fireworks Competition and street animation.
The Music Festival enables residents and tourists alike to enjoy some of the best examples of our architectural heritage while listening to high-quality classical music. The Fireworks Competition offers unique moments of splendid pyrotechnics and harmonious music. Every Saturday night, competitors from the four corners of the earth delight the crowds with music, joy and colour. Every year, the best firework companies in the world, charm Funchal in what is now a major pyrotechnics event.
Madeira Wine Festival – August/September
This festival is held in early September, and lasts about a week. when the grape harvest begins all over the island recreating ancestral Madeiran habits dating back to the time of the first settlers. In Funchal and Estreito de Câmara de Lobos celebrates features of the grape harvest such as decorations, music and dancing. Visitors to the traditional wineries can taste the wines while, outside, in tribute to grapes, with a live grape harvest and the traditional parade of grape pickers in Estreito de Câmara de Lobos. This festival takes on all the features of a traditional Madeiran folk festival with regional dishes, living traditions and lots of fun.
Columbus Festival (Porto Santo) – September
In September, Vila Baleira, Porto Santo capital city, devotes a week to Christopher Columbus, who came to the island and lived here for several years. The festival remembers the discoverer’s presence in the Madeira Islands on his voyages to the Americas and the epic of the age of the discoveries.
Visitors can enjoy music, exhibitions, street entertainment and medieval scenes. An outdoor theatrical recreation of the arrival of Columbus and his followers at the quay, and a historical parade mark this week of history.
Madeira Nature Festival – October
In October, Madeira promotes the Nature Festival and celebrates its best, among visitors. On land, on air or on sea, the choices are endless. Everybody can experience activities that offer a range of activities designed for all age groups, many experience sporting events, animation, ethnography and Madeira cultures.
Christmas and New Year’s celebrations – December
If there’s a place where we celebrate life, it’s Madeira. At the end of each year, the island commemorates the completion of another 365-day cycle in our lives. Christmas traditions, deeply rooted in Madeirans’ customs, combine with the expressions of joy on the arrival of the New Year in a rich, vast cultural, ethnographic and artistic programme, lasting all through December and until Twelfth Night.
Funchal Bay’s unique amphitheatre is transformed into a giant nativity scene illuminated with thousands of lights decking the city’s main streets from the beginning of December in a scenario of rare beauty. On New year´s eve, the fireworks are launched from 40 different points in a 10-minute display which are said to be the best in the world.
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