Madeira Island is one of the three islands in the Madeira archipelago, which is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. The other two islands are Porto Santo and the Desertas Islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean and just a few hours away from mainland Europe, Madeira Island is accessible and a perfect destination for some island travel.
World-renowned for its mild climate all year round, and named the Island of Eternal Spring, Madeira welcomes numbers of tourists every year, any time of the year. Its infinite natural beauty, from the colorful and fragrant flowers to the stunning landscapes of cliffs and mountains, attracts visitors from different parts of the world.
One of Madeira’s main attractions is its water supply system that features the impressive levadas. The long stretch of aqueducts provides incredible walking paths that allow relaxing walks while enjoying the magnificent scenery the island offers. Two popular hiking paths are Levada do Caldeirao Verde and Levada do Canical. These levadas are also the ones responsible for the flourishing flowers and crops in the island. Nowadays, they also provide hydro-electric power to some parts of Madeira.
Madeira’s capital and main city is Funchal. Named after fennel that is abundant on the island, Funchal is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal. Visit the Madeira Botanical Gardens and feast your eyes on more than 2,000 plants that adorn these hillside gardens including bird-of-paradise flowers, anthuriums and even an extensive cactus collection. The botanical garden also features a small garden of parakeets and parrots and a natural-history museum. Funchal’s most-visited historical monument is Se Cathedral. Notable for its ceiling made from ivory with intricate designs, the cathedral was built between 1493 and 1514 and reflects Arabic influences. Another historical building is home to Mercado Dos Lavradores, the Farmer’s Market. Here you can buy local fresh fruits and vegetables such as Madeiran mangos and maracujas. The lower level is bustling with vendors of freshly caught fish. Other noteworthy sites in Funchal are the mannerist Sao Lourenco Palace, the striking Colegio Church and Santa Clara Convent with its azulejo tiles.
The best way to learn more about Madeira, especially for the first-time visitors, is to visit Madeira Story Center. Its paintings, archives and displays tackle the history and culture of the island as old as the pirate days. There are activities for youngsters, a souvenir shop and a café to take a break. Another museum that might be of interest is Museu Da Quinta Das Cruzes. The 17th century residential building turned museum is home to an exceptional antique furniture collection. One of its highlights is the palanquin, a lounge chair that was once used by the colonial Madeira for carrying their grand ladies. Museu de Arte Sacta or Funchal’s Museum of Sacred Art includes Flemish artworks such as paintings and wood statues while Museu do Historia Natural do Funchal features a collection of stuffed sharks.
Madeira’s many beaches lure visitors to go and see the island. One of the most popular of these beaches, and one of the largest too, is Praia de Machico. It offers a wide and sandy stretch with clear and calm waters. It provides amenities and various water sports such as kayaking. Praia da Calheta is another destination to consider if you are looking for a relaxing day. The sea pools in Porto Moniz are famous sites along the coast of Madeira. There are various pools that vary in size and depth. Madeira’s coastline is also a great place for whale and dolphin watching. Common, spotted and bottlenose dolphins are frequently spotted. Bryde’s, Sei and sperm whales are also sighted. So remember to drop by and be prepared for an encounter with one of them.
One of the world’s highest sea cliffs is situated along the island’s southern coast: the Cabo Girao. At approximately 1,900 feet above sea level, Cabo Girao is the perfect viewing platform to see the astounding wonders of nature in this part of the globe. The cliff top offers a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the many poios or terraces in Madeira. No wonder it is a favorite stop for travelers. Other Miradouros or viewpoints that offer majestic views of the island are Pico dos Barcelos, Pico de Facho, Curral das Freiras and Pico do Arieiro.