5 Reasons to Add Madeira, Portugal to Your Travel plans
Portugal is an amazing, surprisingly affordable European destination for hiking, beach lounging, and sightseeing. But there are so many attractive reasons why tourists should venture beyond Lisbon and Algarve and make time for Madeira.
Forget the notion that this subtropical region is exclusive for vacationing couples or deep-pocketed retirees. Here are 5 reasons why Madeira is a must-visit destination for every type of traveler any time of the year.
1. Madeira’s mountainous landscape is a hiker’s paradise.
Hiking enthusiasts rave about the scenic routes and enviably beautiful trails Madeira mountains and peaks offer. Pro hikers scale the island’s highest peak (1862 meters), Pico Ruivo, and find wondrous waterfalls and lush forests rich in exotic fauna and flora along the way. Under these conditions, every climb is simultaneously challenging and rewarding.
Tourists who crave seeing spectacular mountain scenery sans the strenuous hike have options. They can either drive up Pico do Arieiro, or check out the jaw-dropping beauty of Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, a botanical garden situated in Madeira’s capital, Funchal.
2. Madeira’s nature reserves are well-preserved.
The region is not named “Pearl of the Atlantic” for nothing. Conservation measures have to be imposed if Madeira is to keep its edge for the next generation of local residents and travelers. Three of the region’s declared protected areas boast striking beauty unique to the archipelago.
Standing about 580 meters, Cabo Girão is considered the Europe’s highest sea cliff (beating Norway and Ireland). Gaze through the glass-made terrace viewpoint, and admire the panoramic views of the Atlantic sea, Camara de Lobos, and Funchal down below. For marvelous aerial views of Madeira’s rich nature reserves, buy a ticket to one of the cabins at Telefericos da Madeira in Funchal. Once you’ve conquered your fear of heights, try a journey through São Vicente Caves (among Madeira’s impressive volcanic caves), and let a local guide lead you with stories and trivia. Try to fit into your schedule a relaxing bath at Porto Moniz natural swimming pools, a.k.a. lava pools.
3. See Madeira’s awe-inspiring marine life on and off land.
For a unique encounter with Madeira’s marine beauties, head out for a cruise in a comfortable catamaran, and spend a half or full day inside Madeira Whale Museum. The pristine condition of Madeira’s waters attract dolphins, whales, and sea turtles. Take advantage of this tour by learning the names of these marine residents and visitors. It’s particularly tricky to guess the type of whale swimming about, e.g. beaked, fin, humpback, etc. Your heart will jump as you see the whales leap out of the water or spot sea turtles make their way to the ocean. Here’s a fun fact: the 1956 movie adaptation of Moby-Dick was filmed in Madeira, which proves that this is a worthy destination for whale-watching. If you don’t have the luxury of heading out to the sea, check out the impeccable collections and exhibitions inside the Whale Museum.
4. Experience Madeira’s flavors through expert-led epicurean tours.
If you’re looking to sample delicious local food and drinks while you’re in Madeira, join a guided tasting tour in Funchal. This can cut down your research time by locating the city’s excellent spots for savoring traditional Madeira flavors. Explore regional delicacies in their purest form at Venda da Donna Maria. For desserts, your options can range from irresistibly delectable locally-made chocolates at Uau Cacau to traditional cookies and sweets at Fabrica de Santo Antonio. For wine connoisseurs, a great trip to Madeira includes tasting world-renowned wines at Pereira d’Oliveira Vinhos. Not a wine drinker? Then stop by Oficina do Mercado for coffee and tea served in an inviting atmosphere.
5. See Cristiano Ronaldo’s birthplace.
While Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s top footballers from the soccer team Real Madrid C.F., needs no introduction, very few international fans know he is from Portugal’s humble region of Madeira. If you’re staying in Funchal and have a fervent interest in the soccer player’s life and legacy, try to include a quick side trip to Museu Cristiano Ronaldo. Among the highlights of this tour are his golden boots, football awards, iconic photos, and wax figure. Some of the awards date as far back as his childhood days in Madeira, the city that cultivated his love for the sport.
Madeira’s temperate climate year-round makes it a great destination any time of the year. But if you wish to participate in magnificent Madeira festivals, time your visit for the Madeira Carnival Festivities from February 22 to March 1 this year. To catch a glimpse of Madeira’s phenomenal parades and cultural shows, see if you can travel there in May for the Festa da Flor.