Madeira Holidays for 2019 / 2020
Madeira holidays provide something new in 2019 / 2020. The archipelago of Madeira offers incredible natural beauty, a mild climate year-round as well as friendly people, making this island of Portugal one of the top destinations for holidaymakers seeking a relaxing cheap holiday in 2019 / 2020.
If you've looked into an island holiday in Majorca, or maybe you've considered the Algarve, then Madeira will tempt you to its gorgeous shores. Slightly quieter than Lanzarote or Tenerife, and with a bit more old world charm, there are diverse locations to visit within Madeira. With our last minute deals on cheap flights, hotels and all inclusive resorts, a Madeira holiday has never looked more promising.
The capital of Madeira, Funchal, 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. Funchal also has its own small beach, but there are lots of other beaches across the islands to explore, too. 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. Other top destinations to check out in the Madeira Islands include the popular resorts of Canico de Baixo and Canical.
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 3h 30m
When to go
(°C) Avg. High Temp
Top attractions in Madeira
Madeira is renowned for its natural wonders, including cloud-topped mountains and levadas. The intrinsic beauty of the Madeira 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.
Top destinations to check out include:
Funchal, the capital of Madeira, offers up some Portuguese old-world atmosphere. At the heart of Funchal lies its cultural mish-mash of restaurants, galleries and its teeming cafe culture.
Canico de Baixo is a modern tourist resort that straddles the old fishing village of Canico, so for a mix of both worlds, this is an extremely popular destination.
Calheta boasts some fantastic beaches and plenty of activities for the whole family. Some of the things you can do in the Calheta area including hiking, exploring the beautiful beaches and enjoying some local cuisine.
Machico is close to the airport and boasts a lovely beach and a small town, Machico is busy with locals at the weekend, which is always a good sign.
If in doubt, turn to Porto Santo, Madeira's tiny sister island, which has 9km of incredible beach, mostly undisturbed.
Eating out in Madeira
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 and across the various resorts. Because of this fascinating cuisine, your Madeira holidays will involve a lot of eating, so prepare your bellies.
If seafood is your favourite, head to Canical on the east coast. This small fishing village boasts some fantastic seafood restaurants. Its one of the oldest settlements on Madeira, and the old world charm is obvious. Calheta town and the surrounding area is home to many international and local restaurants, making it an ideal spot to have a culinary adventure. Funchal has a range of international eateries as well as some of the finer gourmet restaurants.
No visit to Madeira would be complete without sampling a glass of Madeira wine 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 consisting of Aguardente de Cana, lemon juice or other fruit juices which varies from bar to bar. In fact, it's available in three different flavours. So you’ve no excuse not to sample a couple!
Madeira for families
With its unique landscape and an abundance of activities for adults as well as children of all ages, Madeira is a perfect family holiday destination. Funchal is the busiest city and home to many of the top family-based attractions, yet all of the islands and the different resorts have something to offer.
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.
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. Some of the top resorts and areas for families include Canico de Baixo and Canical.
Action and adventure
Madeira holidays are 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 Vicente 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.
Top beaches in Madeira
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.
Those looking for some classic beach fun, from beach bars to water sports will make the island of Porto Santo their home. In fact, Porto Santo probably has one of the best beaches you'll find in the world, Praia do Porto Santo, 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. The surrounding area also boasts a range of other beaches if you're up for exploring.
Machico has a popular pebbly beach with shallow waters, flanked by a promenade with restaurants, two outdoor swimming pools and activities for kids.
Not far from Funchal you'll find Praia Formosa beach, which is around 10 minutes from the centre of Funchal. If you come here in the early evening, you might have the beach and the waves to yourselves.
Nightlife in Madeira
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 increasingly in 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. Funchal is a top spot, as the capital of Madeira, you'll find a buzzing atmosphere.
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 Madeira wine or Aguardente, as well as enjoying some delicious and fruity Poncha cocktails. Each of the resorts across the Madeira Islands has their own take on nightlife waiting to be explored.
Madeira for couples
Couples have equally as much to look forward to on Madeira holidays. Decades of tourism have seen large luxurious hotels open up, especially on Madeira Island. Porto Santo also has its fair share of new luxury hotel builds. Many of them offer spectacular deals, which you and your significant other can take full advantage of. Funchal is also home to some of the fancier hotels on the island, and its whimsical old-world streets are great for a romantic stroll.
Besides enjoying romantic strolls along the beach, and going out for wonderful dinners, there's a huge number of outdoor activities to enjoy together whilst on a Madeira holiday. 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. Canico de Baixo, Canical and Calheta offer up a nice mix between Portuguese tradition and modern amenities, ideal if you're looking for a bit of both on your Madeira holiday.
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!
Culture and history
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 and Portugal has also made it possible for these influences to evolve in a unique way.
You can see from Funchal's mix of architecture and galleries the rich influence this mixed cultural heritage has had on the Madeiran way of life. You'll also be struck by how these islands feel in comparison to other popular holiday destinations, such as Majorca, Lanzarote or Tenerife. There's a magic charm to Madeira which is illustrated by the awesome city of Funchal.
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 and in Funchal. Canico and Canical de Baixo are sweet little fishing villages merged with modern Madeiran tourist facilities, making them the best of both worlds for a taste of Portuguese culture.
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!