A Destination Guide to Madeira

 

Madeira is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world. This island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Morocco, with an impressive history, culture and heritage.

The island was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century who named it after their homeland – Madeira. Nowadays, Madeira is a part of Portugal, although it has its own autonomous government and legislative assembly.

Madeira is famous for its natural beauty, numerous waterfalls and incredible landscapes. The island also offers many historical monuments built during different periods by various civilisations that lived here.

The following guide will help you get to know Madeira and offer insights on making the best of any trip to the island.

And while you’re here, check out our range of All-Inclusive Private Day Tours in Portugal and Premium Self-Guided Portugal Tours.

When is the Best Time to Visit Madeira?

In terms of weather, Madeira is close to perfection!

Temperatures on the island range from 20 degrees in winter to 30 degrees in summer (and rarely dip below 10 degrees).

There’s no snow or ice (even the island’s highest peaks reach less than 1,800 feet above sea level). And while Madeira does experience occasional rainfall and cloud cover, it’s mostly sunny year-round—so you can count on plenty of relaxing hours spent exploring in the sunshine!

What should you pack for your trip to Madeira?

Let’s run through an ideal packing list for visiting Madeira…

  • Suncream, sunglasses and a sun hat for the summer months; a raincoat and warm layers of clothing for winter.
  • Comfortable shoes: You'll most likely undertake scenic hikes, so you’ll want to take care of your feet.
  • Sandals: In the warmer months, you'll want to be able to slip on and off a pair of sandals when relaxing. Conversely, if you’re travelling during the cold and wet months, ensure you’ve got footwear that will keep you dry and cosy!
  • Smart clothing:In Madeira, the locals dress in a smart-casual style, so perhaps pack a favourite dress or shirt, trousers and dress shoes for dining out.
  • Quality camera:Whether you use a digital camera or a high-resolution camera on your phone, you want to be able to take lots of photos. The scenery of the Madeira region is breathtaking.
  • Some cash:Most businesses in Madeira will accept card payments, but when travelling, it’s best to keep enough cash for food, drinks, and gifts.

In short, Madeira’s mild climate means you don’t need to worry about a complicated packing list. Primarily, your case should be filled with comfortable clothing that can be layered for cooler days.

And always pack that raincoat! Even in paradise, you can get caught in the rain.

How to Get Around in Madeira

Madeira is a great place to visit, but getting around can be challenging, especially if you’re not familiar with the island.

The best way to get around Madeira is by car. Driving here isn’t difficult, and there are plenty of rental options. The roads are well-maintained and modern, so you won’t have any problems driving in Madeira. If you have never driven on the left side of the road before, it takes some getting used to!

If you don’t want to drive or rent a car, the next best option is taking the bus. The bus system here is cheap and reliable; it frequently runs throughout the day and crosses most of the main roads on the island.

Public transportation is also available in Madeira – namely taxis and minibuses (called “rápidos”). Taxis tend to be expensive compared to other modes of transport in Madeira but are still cheaper than renting a car or taking public transportation. If you want an inexpensive way to get around town, take advantage of these modes of transportation when possible!

Is Madeira Expensive?

Portugal offers some of the best value for money in Europe. So, if this is your first trip to Madeira, you may be surprised by how expensive it seems.

Unfortunately, the island’s location and popularity as a dream holiday destination do mean you will be looking at a more expensive trip than you could have elsewhere in Portugal.

We recommend reserving around 82 Euros ($90) per day for your trip to Madeira. Accommodation at a quality hotel will cost around 70 Euros ($76) per night.

Of course, there are ways to reduce your costs. Try travelling off-season to get better deals on flights and accommodation and when out and about, consider preparing one meal each day with food from the supermarket. This means you can enjoy an excellent lunch or dinner in a restaurant each day without being preoccupied with the cost.

Things to See and Do in the Douro Valley

Popularly known as the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic”, Madeira is famous for its unique ecosystem, stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity. The island’s subtropical climate and mild year-round temperatures make it ideal for sightseeing and exploring.

Here are some things you can do while visiting Madeira:

Hike through a UNESCO forest: The Laurisilva of Madeira is a magical green landscape of international significance. A laurel forest, of a kind which is almost extinct today, is a breathtaking natural landscape to explore.
Enjoy a day trip by boat: With Madeira being an island, there’s no shortage of unforgettable boat trip options available, including whale and dolphin watching trips.
Explore the town of Funchal: Funchal is the capital city of Portugal’s Madeira archipelago. Known for its magnificent harbour and historic wine cellars, Funchal is a must-see part of any Madeira holiday.
Visit Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools: Incredible lava-rock tidal pools on the north-western tip of Madeira.

Drinking Wine in Madeira

Madeira is a fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands. It is named after the Portuguese island of Madeira, although the wine’s origins may actually lie elsewhere.

Madeira is produced by fermenting the juice of grapes left to sit in large barrels under controlled temperature and humidity conditions. This process allows native yeasts to ferment the sugar into alcohol, which is then fortified with brandy. The ageing process continues over many years, as long as 30 years or more in some cases.

The resulting wine has a unique character that reflects its origins and history; it has evolved into a variety of styles that are sometimes described as sweet or dry, but these terms are misleading since Madeira can be either sweet or dry depending on how it is made and stored.

There are five basic types of Madeira: Sercial (youngest), Bual (medium age), Verdelho (mature), Malmsey (oldest) and Moscatel de Setubal (sweet).

Sample the Cuisine of Madeira

Madeira’s culinary tradition reflects its multicultural heritage with influences from all over Europe, including Portugal itself; Spain; Italy; France; England; Scotland; Ireland; Germany and Russia.

Here are some Must Try Madeiran foods:

  • Cataplana de Mariscos (Seafood Cataplana)
  • Carne à Bairo (Beef Stew)
  • Funcho (Filled savoury pastry)
  • Pasteis de Nata(Sweet pastries)
  • Bolo-Rei (A sweet Madeiran cake)

We hope this guide has inspired you to begin planning a visit to Madeira. If you would like to learn more about the tours we offer, take a look at our Custom and Private Tours of Portugal, and if you have any questions, please get in touch.

 

 

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