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10 Reasons to visit Madeira in 2024

BY Richard Webber

15th Mar 2024 Places To Visit

4 min read

10 Reasons to visit Madeira in 2024
Famous for its beautiful gardens, sunshine and the stunning capital Funchal, the Portuguese island of Madeira is a must-visit destination for 2024
Madeira has attracted Brits for decades and it’s easy to see why. A sub-tropical island 400 miles off the African coast, it enjoys plenty of sunshine and average temperatures around 75 degrees.
Its dramatic rocky coastline is fringed by ever-flowering bougainvillea, hibiscus and poinsettia, giving way to towering green peaks.
Dubbed the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic”, Madeira dazzles with its vibrant hues of flowers and plants growing everywhere, including Funchal, the capital. Sitting on the sunny south coast, the city resembles a giant amphitheatre, its houses hugging the lower slopes of a vertiginous 3,900-ft mountain range.
One of the guarantees about visiting Madeira is that you’ll never be short of things to see and do. Here are just ten reasons to visit the beautiful island.

1. Visit the gardens and enjoy a cable-car ride

The Palace Tropical Gardens and Botanical Gardens aren’t to be missed. Jump aboard the cable-car for a 15-minute ride up to Monte, a hilltop parish above Funchal.
"The Palace Tropical Gardens and Botanical Gardens aren't to be missed and are a short cable-car ride from Funchal"
Enjoy spectacular views of the city before arriving at the tropical gardens, which showcase exotic plants from around the world. Steeply terraced botanical gardens, meanwhile, are discovered at the end of another cable-car ride. Here, around 3,000 plants from five continents are displayed.

2. A tranquil paradise

Grab a cab or hire a car and head to Faja dos Padres, 20 minutes from Funchal.
An oasis of tranquillity, this speck of land below an 820-feet cliff face is accessible only by boat or cable car. Owned by the same family since the 1920s, it’s all about relaxing, swimming and enjoying a bite to eat.

3. Explore the island

Hire a car and explore beyond the capital. Stop at Calheta, home to one of Madeira’s two sandy beaches, before heading around the coast to Porto Moniz, where you can swim in natural rock pools.
In the northeast, Santana showcases traditional A-shaped houses. But don’t forget to venture into the interior to experience remarkable scenery.

4. Wander around Funchal

Streets in Funchal, Madeira
Historic buildings, museums and classy boutiques are discovered along the capital’s streets while the attractive palm tree-lined promenade is a delight. The Old Town bursts into life every evening so wander along the maze of narrow, cobbled streets flanked by restored houses plus cosy cafes and restaurants.
"The Old Town bursts into life every evening so wander along the maze of narrow, cobbled streets"
Rua de Santa Maria, dating back to the 15th century, boasts countless doorways rejuvenated by artists with an array of vivid paintings, transforming the street into a permanent art gallery.

5. Enjoy afternoon tea

Savour afternoon tea at the impressive Savoy Palace Hotel, a five-star resort hotel. Feast upon a time-honoured tradition while being entertained by a pianist or harpist.
Enjoy the hotel’s exclusive blends of teas or champagne served with finger sandwiches and delicate pastries, the mastery of the company’s award-winning pastry chef.

6. Take a hike

Cliffs and landscape of Madeira
Madeira is a magnet for walkers, many keen to follow the levadas, a network of 15th century mini-canals built to distribute water from wetter northern regions to the drier south.
One of my favourite routes explores Ponta de São Lourenço, a rocky, finger-shaped peninsula marking the island’s easternmost point. Its undulating landscape, stark cliffs and rocky coves are reminiscent of Cornwall’s coastline.
When walking in Madeira, especially in the mountains, it’s advisable to hire a guide or book via one of many tour companies on the island.

7. Take to the water

The deep waters of Funchal Bay are rich in sea life.
Book a cruise and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales and turtles. Spotted dolphins, pilot whales and loggerhead turtles are regular visitors, too.

8. Eateries galore

The island’s capital offers countless cafés and restaurants, catering for all tastes.
My favourites include Recharge Bar & Restaurant. Part of Savoy Signature’s NEXT hotel, Recharge is a relaxed, contemporary restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, all inspired by the vibrant islands of Hawaii. Unwind in comfy seats while staring out across the pool towards the ocean.
If you’re looking for a fine-dining experience out of this world, then head for the 16th floor of the Savoy Palace Hotel. At Galaxia Skyfood, fine views over the city and delicious, high-quality food make for a perfect evening.
"The island’s capital offers countless cafes and restaurants, catering for absolutely all tastes"
For a healthy, nutritious lunch, pop along to Prima Caju. Tucked away in one of Funchal’s oldest streets, this restaurant has a buzzing atmosphere, with natural moss adorning the walls and plants hanging from the ceiling.
If pasta, pizza or other Mediterranean-influenced dishes are what you fancy, you won’t go far wrong than choose Mamma Mia, situated in front the glamorous Vidamar Resort Hotel, where the food and service are first class.
Or try Alameda, a poolside terrace restaurant at the Savoy Palace Hotel where the tradition of the Latin tables is inspired by tropical flavours.

9. Relax in luxury

Cliff Bay Hotel in Madeira
The luxurious five-star Cliff Bay Hotel, surrounded by gardens packed with exotic plants and palm trees, overlooks the Atlantic. Guests enjoy direct access to the ocean plus two outdoor pools and a serene spa.
Renovated in 2021, the hotel—which boasts its own Michelin-starred restaurant—is the jewel in the crown of PortoBay Hotels and Resorts. Inside, an abundance of fresh flowers, perfectly-polished marble floors and well-appointed rooms make for a comfortable stay.
When it comes to food, there are several restaurants and bars to choose from, including Avista. Alongside the hotel, it’s located in a centuries-old house atop a natural promontory offering fine views of Funchal Bay. A wide variety of dishes make up the menu.  
So, if you want to holiday and dine in style, where visitors return year after year, look no further than the chic Cliff Bay Hotel.

10. Hop across to Porto Santo

Enjoy a day trip to Porto Santo, the sister island 20 miles away. It’s where explorer Christopher Columbus lived and is just a ten-minute hop by plane or two-hour ferry crossing.
"Porto Santo, Madeira's sister island, where Christopher Columbus lived, is just a ten-minute plane trip away "
Despite its size—only seven miles by four—you won’t be short of things to do, including strolling along the beautiful six-mile-long beach spanning the southern coastline.

For all those little holiday extras

Sometimes, it seems like there is an endless list of components to consider when booking a holiday. That’s where a company like Holiday Extras comes to the fore.
Whether it’s airport parking, transfers, lounge access or an overnight hotel stay, contact Holiday Extras to help make your trip run smoothly.

Getting there

A week on Madeira, including flights and seven nights’ B&B at the Cliff Bay Hotel, starts from £1,250pp. Visit madeirachoice.com, call 017687 75672 or email info@archipelagochoice.com.
For more information about Madeira, go to visitmadeira.com
Banner photo: The beautiful Funchal Bay, Madeira. Credit: Dimitry
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