The beautiful island of Madeira is part of a group of Portuguese islands, that also includes Porto Santo, that are situated 545 kms from the North West coast of Africa (Morocco) and 990 kms from Lisbon, Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. Because of it’s lush river valleys, terraced hillsides, planted with vines and bananas, and dense primeval forest, Madeira is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’.
Walking is a popular pastime for visitors to Madeira. The Levadas (irrigation channels) that criss cross the island form a network of trails that take you through spectacular volcanic landscapes.
Location – Atlantic Ocean, 990km southwest of Lisbon.
Time – GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Area – 741 sq km.
Capital – Funchal.
The climate in Madeira is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures varying between 24C in the summer and 19C in the winter.
The sea temperature is pleasant all year round, varying between 18C in the winter and 22C in the summer.
Most of the beaches on Madeira are either pebbly or man-made. The closest to a Mediterranean-style beach is probably Ribeira Brava and there’s a manmade stretch of golden sand at Calheta. The nearest beach to Funchal is Praia Formosa, which has three small sandy bits and a larger sweep of pebbles. One of the most spectacular beaches is Prainha (Ponta de Sao Lourenco), a sheltered cove of black volcanic sand, on the island’s north east tip. There are several bathing complexes and lidos around the island, including the lido in Funchal and Sao Vincente in the north of the island. Just a 9 km ferry ride away is the soft golden sand of Porto Santo.
THINGS TO SEE
Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is home to an amazing 16th century cathedral and the Museum of Sacred Art. The Botanical Gardens here cover 12 acres of terraced hillside, planted with species from around the world.
Here in Machico you will find a 15th-century parish church, the Chapel of Miracles, and a pretty 18th-century fort.
Nossa Senhora de Monte
Nossa Senhora de Monte
The cable car from Funchal to Monte leads to the Nossa Senhora de Monte church. In August it becomes a centre of pilgrimage when worshippers climb the 74 steps on their hands and knees.
Standing at 6,106 feet, the top of the island’s highest peak, Pico Ruivo offers spectacular views. There are also glorious views to be had from the not so high Pico do Arieiro (5,965ft).
Santana is the most visited village on the island, known for its fairytale triangular-shaped houses or palheiros.
THINGS TO DO
Madeira is famous for its blue marlin. There are a number of companies on the island who offer fishing tours.
There are many distinct varieties of the world-famous Madeira wine to be sampled. The grapes are pressed where they are grown and carried down the hills in goatskin bags by porters. The famous Madeira Wine Festival takes place annually in September.
Campo de Golfe do Santo da Serra
The 27-hole Campo de Golfe do Santo da Serra and the 18-hole Palheiro offer breathe taking views from their cliff top positions.
The levadas are a network of ancient irrigation channels stretching for 1,333 miles across the island’s slopes. The coastal path offers great hiking oportunities with dramatic views, while the terraced valleys further inland offer a more tranquil setting.
Toboggans carry tourists with two men using ropes to control the wide carro, a large wicker basket mounted on wooden runners. Runs to Funchal are located in Monte and Terreiro da Luta.
Great holiday deals to Portugal and Madeira are always available on the internet.
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