The archipelago of Madeira offers incredible natural beauty, a mild climate year-round as well as friendly people, making it an ideal destination for holidaymakers seeking a relaxing holiday in the sun. There are plenty of experiences to enjoy, as well as lots of activities to try your hand at. With numerous diverse locations to visit within Madeira, there’s something for everyone. Funchal, Madeira’s capital, is located on a bay and features a more modernised city centre, as well as three main historical areas: São Pedro, Santa Maria Maior and Sé. Ponta Do Sol is one of the most well-preserved historical centres on Madeira and features several splendid attractions including the Ponte do Caminho Real. Head to Pico Do Areeiro and Pico Ruivo to get a breath of fresh air in the island third-highest region, where you can take on the footpath between Pico do Areeiro and Pico Ruivo and savour the breathtaking views.
Most popular hotels in Madeira
Pestana Carlton Madeira
Pestana Casino Park
Savoy Saccharum Hotel Resort & Spa
Pestana Ocean Bay
Savoy Calheta Beach Hotel
Enotel Lido Madeira
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Portuguese
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 4h 5m
When to go
(°C) Avg. High Temp
Madeira is renowned for its natural wonders, including cloud-topped mountains and levadas. The intrinsic beauty of the archipelago and rugged geological formations make it an ideal destination for more active holidaymakers and those who enjoy challenging walks on mountainous areas. One of the island’s top attractions is the Garajau Natural reserve, an entirely nautical reserve where you can spot marine wonders including manta rays, turtles and schools of barracuda. In addition to exploring the natural environments, there’s a multitude of activities to try out, ensuring there’s something for everybody. You can opt to try climbing, canyoning, mountain biking, horse riding, jeep safaris or trekking. With plenty of visitors to the archipelago around the year, you’re sure to meet like-minded travellers and make friends along the way. Paragliding and hang-gliding are also favourite sports on the island, with the natural terrain providing the ideal setting for gliding and taking in the spectacular views. For man-made fun, head to Santana to enjoy the Theme Park, which features boat trips, trying your hand at traditional Portuguese activities and impressive fire-breathing entertainers. There’s also a virtual tour of the island, perfect for enjoying the sights of the island if you don’t fancy venturing up a mountain yourself!
Wine and Dine
Due to prolonged contact with Portugal, Madeira has absorbed a lot of its culinary influences; signature Portuguese dishes such as Espetada can be found throughout the islands.
As you'd expect, seafood dishes are a common favourite here, and Coral Restaurante is especially popular. Espada Preta is another highly rated seafood restaurant. Be sure to try the bread soup – a house speciality!
Maderia wine is a local fortified wine used for both cooking and socialising; no visit to Madeira would be complete without sampling a glass with dinner. Locals will also recommend you try the Aguardente de Cana; local rum often consumed as a digestive. However, the most popular drink on Madeira has to be Poncha, a delicious cocktail with the exact ingredients varying from bar to bar, and which is available in three different flavours. So you’ve no excuse not to sample a couple!
With an exceptionally low crime rate and an abundance of activities for adults as well as children of all ages, Madeira is a perfect family holiday destination.
Start off by treating your family to the Madeira Film Experience; a 30 minute long audiovisual journey through 600 years of the islands fascinating history, which has earned Madeira the nickname “Pearl of the Atlantic”. This provides an excellent introduction into the local culture, and the civilisations which flourished on the islands.
Renting a car and driving around Madeira Island is highly recommended. You’ll not only be relieved of bus schedules and planning ahead, but also highly rewarded; Madeira has some truly breathtaking roads which take you along beautiful coastlines and hilly terrain. This experience is definitely worth the car rental prices.
Hiring a sailing boat is an awe inspiring way to see Madeira's varied coastline. Spend a day out in the sun and explore the many islands found on this archipelago. If you don't know how to sail, you can easily find a personal captain to take you on your adventure.
Action and Adventure
Action & Adventure on Madeira Holidays Madeira is bursting with things to do, whatever your interests are. With its amazing natural beauty and environmental diversity, travelling between the different parts of Madeira offers a wide selection of notably individual exciting experiences and memories. Head to Sao Vicentre at the North of the Island, to experience the Sao Vicente Caves, where you can visit the magnificent underground lava corridors and experience several geological marvels up close and personal. At Seixal, follow the road to the west rewards you with views over one of the most picturesque landscapes of the northern coast of the island. There are natural pools of sea water, shaped by the rocks, which provide the perfect opportunity for a refreshing dive into the blue waters. Seixal has many verdant areas and cascading waterfalls to explore and walk around, as well as a black sand beach.
Life's a Beach
Since Madeira is an archipelago of islands, there's no shortage of beaches to choose from. Due to the volcanic natural history of these islands, many of the beaches here are made from dark or even black volcanic rock and sand, giving them a distinct and unique character.
Many of the smaller islands - particularly in the Desertas island group - reward those who venture here with pristine and secluded beaches. Those looking for the ultimate adventure can charter a boat and visit one of the many uninhabited islands found scattered across the archipelago; with a bit of luck you'll have the entire island (including beaches) to yourself. Madeira Island itself also has a number of hidden gems worth seeking out.
Those looking for some classic beach fun, from beach bars to water sports will make the island of Porto Santo their home. This island is entirely devoted to tourism and features a gorgeous 9km stretch of beach.
Calhetha town on Madeira Island features a manufactured coastal beach, where the dark volcanic rocks have been replaced with golden sand.
Madeira has a flourishing bar scene, as many of the locals are also keen for a drink in the evening. Madeira Island, as well as Porto Santo is home to many modern beach bars, featuring a relaxed as well as chic ambience. This is the place to have a boogie to some electronic music, or sip cocktails on the beach to the soothing sound of the ocean. If you're looking for night clubs, try Discoteca Copacabana, or Trap Music Bar in Funchal on Madeira Island.
However, smaller and quainter bars are also scattered far and wide, especially on the archipelago's smaller islands. Here, locals cheerfully enjoy a glass of Maderia wine or Aguardente, as well as enjoying some delicious and fruity Poncha cocktails.
Couples have equally as much to look forward to. Decades of tourism have seen large luxurious hotels open up, especially on Madeira Island. Many of them offer spectacular all-inclusive deals, which you and your significant other can take full advantage of; spend some quality time enjoying the exclusive service provided, which includes full room service.
Besides enjoying romantic strolls along the beach, and going out for wonderful dinners, there's a huge number of outdoor activities to enjoy together. Why not rent out a kayak for two and explore the hidden gems of Ponta de Sao Lourenco; beautiful bays, magical marine caves and spectacular landscapes only accessible by boat.
Perhaps you're curious about what's hidden beneath the waves? Book yourself on to a diving tour, or go snorkelling just off coast; you'll be rewarded with a colourful and rich display of marine life!
Since these islands have a long history of Portuguese settlement (as well as being part of Portugal's sovereign territory), the culture on Madeira has naturally absorbed many of its influences over the years. However, Madeira's wonderful isolation from mainland Europe has also made it possible for these influences to evolve in a unique way.
Local people are warm and hospitable who revel in more traditional types of entertainment such as art exhibitions, theatre performances, concerts and film screenings. You will also find a thriving cafe culture, especially on the main island.
The largely catholic population has resulted in many beautiful and rustic churches, which are open to visitors. However, please note that the population is more conservative than you might think and wearing bikini's and other swimwear anywhere besides the beach may upset some locals!