Reviewed on 6 Sep. 2021
Reviewed on 11 Sep. 2021
Reviewed on 18 Sep. 2021
Visit Madeira to discover a chain of islands that boasts dramatic terrain suitable for outdoor adventure sports and bustling ports that welcome cruise-ship passengers. Watch surfers tame the crashing waves, take a mountain-biking tour through the inland peaks and see farmers in the valleys tending to their crops.
While Madeira is officially Portuguese, these islands actually sit a bit closer to North Africa than they do to Europe. In addition to the main island of Madeira, the region also includes the islands of Porto Santo and the Desertas.
Start in Funchal, a cosmopolitan capital city on Madeira known for its warm climate and rugged mountains. Ships dock at the stunning Funchal Harbour, letting tourists disembark to explore the restaurants and cafés. Also on Madeira is the Ribeira Brava, a lovely river valley that provides a beautiful backdrop for local villages.
Take a 10-minute flight from Funchal to Porto Santo, an island northeast of Madeira, which offers pleasingly warm waters. Madeirans tend to flock to its golden beaches in the summer months for daytime lounging and night-time revelry. Visit in spring and encounter fewer crowds.
Porto Santo is also home to a famous wreck dive site, the Madeirense, which was sunk on purpose to create a reef for divers. Stay in the small capital of Vila Baleira for easy access to surrounding attractions and natural scenery.
Rent a car to experience Madeira at your own pace. While the island roads were historically unpaved and a bit too treacherous for many tourists, paved roads and better signage now means that you can zip around with ease.
Most Madeirans do speak some English, but they will appreciate it if you attempt to speak Portuguese with them first. Learn a few words before travelling to help cultivate friendly relationships with the locals.
Swim, hike, sail and dive your way around the beautiful island region of Madeira, a true Portuguese treasure.