Likes & Dislikes

Opinions


“If you’re expecting to sunbathe under palm trees on sandy beaches by the ocean then I’m afraid Madeira won’t be for you 😊. The island’s geology means that most beaches are covered in igneous pebbles, though there are some artificial sandy beaches.
The only natural sandy beach is at Prainha, which became our great favorite. We were there out of season, and so we're lucky enough to enjoy the peaceful sunset there almost entirely alone. Then we took one last swim in the ocean, or rather threw ourselves into the waves, which sometimes swept us back to the shore with such force that we just lay there on the sand 😊.”

-----------------------

“My boyfriend and I spent a week on Madeira, and personally, I really liked the island. I’d been to Tenerife and Fuerteventura before, but Madeira is much greener than these islands. The cold ocean water meant we couldn’t really go swimming, but the many beautiful landscapes in the island’s interior more than compensated for this. Though you can only really drive up and down, there’s hardly a single straight road on the island. The buses we took often traveled on very narrow, winding roads, which I didn’t particularly enjoy.

There was a lot of sunshine, and we saw many beautiful flowers, as well as bananas growing outdoors, though we were there in February. I can recommend Madeira to anyone who doesn’t necessarily need to swim in the sea, and for whom a beautiful sea view is sufficient. I had to transfer twice to reach Madeira, but I can say for sure that the destination made the long trip worthwhile.”

--------------------


“Some people return from Madeira a little disappointed. There are typically under the age of about 35, or teenagers traveling with their parents, who find that Madeira is not a vibrant, youthful party destination. It is true that most visitors to Madeira are middle-aged or retired, though Madeira can be a good choice for some young people, especially couples looking for a romantic getaway.
Anyone picturing palm trees and white sands, however, is likely to be disappointed. Though their beaches are clean and well-maintained, neither the sand, the water temperature, or the strength of the ocean are ideal for bathing. Put simply, Madeira is not a beach holiday destination, and the main experience of your trip is unlikely to be relaxing by the seaside. In this sense, it is quite different from Mallorca, Tenerife, or the Caribbean islands. For those who still want a long beach of golden sand, consider checking out the nearby island of Porto Santo (about two-and-a-half hours away) where there are genuinely nice beaches! If you do go, it’s worth staying for a night or two.
The main benefit of a trip to Madeira is that the island is a special world, with a totally unique atmosphere. Plus, it’s a place where feeling good is almost guaranteed. This is helped by the fact that the island is clean, neat, tasteful, rich in nature, and with high-quality accommodation and services. Public safety is excellent, and the locals are laid-back and tranquil.
Madeira is for everyone, regardless of age, who can appreciate the simple, harmonious beauty of nature. It is a very special experience to experience its unique natural world, and even city life here has none of the rush and bustle found elsewhere. There are mango, papaya, and banana trees growing in the center of the island’s largest city, Funchal.
Ladies and garden lovers will be especially enchanted by the island. In spring, the jacaranda trees of Funchal blossom, and turn the whole city a beautiful shade of purple. The flower of Madeira is the Strelitzia, or bird of paradise plant, and its flowers bloom on enormous bushes practically all year round. Madeira is also known as the flower garden of the Atlantic, and in the case of this island, it’s particularly important to stress its unique climate. In our experience, many people underestimate how different the weather and temperature is here, compared to the Canary Islands, for instance.”

-------------------

“The vast majority of tourists choose a hotel in the Funchal area, and that’s understandable. City attractions and services important for tourists are all centered here. Most hotels outside Funchal stretch along the long, seaside resort zone. Locals do not live here – the houses here are all holiday homes. From the hotel zone you can get to the center by either bus, taxi or on foot. The bus service is very good, though taking a taxi can work out cheaper if you’re a party of three or more. The walk from the main hotel area to the city center is very pleasant, and the downtown area is very attractive – clean, well-maintained and in good condition. The locals are friendly, laid-back, and seem relatively prosperous. Indeed, this is the richest area of Portugal outside Lisbon. The city center is full of restaurants and cafés – a charming place! Details about the sights and activities on offer are listed in a separate section.”





Madeira - Levada das 25 Fontes - r.g photo

Madeira - Porto Moniz - r.g. photo

Practicals

Transport

“Even arriving in Madeira is interesting, since the lack of flat ground means the runway extends out into the sea. It almost feels as though you’re going to land on water. This land was not reclaimed in the usual way, by creating a causeway, but was instead constructed on columns above the water, like a kind of bridge. The structure, which consists of 180 columns, each 70 meters high, is itself an architectural masterpiece. (O.L., 2018)

Car rental

If you intend to discover most of the island, the best option is a car rental. We advise you to rent a car with a strong engine because some roads of the island are very steep, and if the vehicle is old or not very powerful, you may get stranded somewhere.

“Madeira’s roads are not for beginners, the easily intimidated or those afraid of heights. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, you might even enjoy driving on the island 😊. Madeira is approximately 20km broad and 50km long. The highest point is 1800m above sea level and this is, after all, a volcano, so unsurprisingly the roads are extremely steep. The islanders have put an insane amount of work into building a network of tunnels – these are the easy sections – but you’ll have to roll your sleeves up if you head towards the island’s interior. Narrow, steep roads full of hair-pin bends with a cliff on one side and a chasm on the other. True, the view of the sea is often spectacular, but you don’t think about that when you see a bus coming down the narrow road towards you… However, precisely because of the danger, there is street lighting almost everywhere. Once, during a storm, I was tempted to drive all the way around the island to get back to our hotel, because I was afraid to drive across the interior of the island in the dark, but to my great surprise, there was street lighting all the way. We drove at about 20km/h the whole way, but at last, we got home safely.

It’s hardly worth getting a car with a six-speed transmission. I rarely went higher than second or third. The fourth was a cause for celebration, and the fifth was unknown except on the rare sections of the highway. The situation is no better in town – the streets are narrow, and the local drivers can park so close to the wall you couldn’t put a piece of paper between the car door and the wall. As a result, almost every vehicle we saw had scratches and dents.

No question, driving in Madeira caused me some street, but I would still recommend hiring a car, because though public transport is quite developed – we certainly saw plenty of buses – they often don’t have stops at the start of hiking trails, making it quite difficult to get to the most beautiful places without independent transportation.” (2017)

Taxi

Taxis in Madeira are yellow with blue stripes on the doors. From the airport to the center of Madeira, the journey can cost around forty euros, so it may be worth it if you are more than 2 PAX.
In the city center, in the port, and around the hotels, there are several taxi ranks. 

Bus

Schedules between municipalities are very limited. There is a bus line that takes you directly to the airport from Funchal.

Funchal-Monte cable car.

Funchal is connected to Monte by cable car. In Monte, you find several gardens, Quintas (manor houses), and downhill the toboggan rides.  The cable car for Monte is located in the Zona Velha (old town of the capital). It is quite curious to see modern cable cars pass over old buildings.

-------------


Madeira - Carros de Cestos Do Monte - r-gy. photo

Madeira - Funchal - Funicular railway - r.g. photo

Madeira - scenic and hair-raising road - p.a. photo

Accomodation

In Funchal, football fans should visit the Pestana CR7 hotel, partly owned by  Cristiano Ronaldo.

-------------

1: Staying in one place
If you’re the kind of person who likes a relaxing holiday, it’s a great idea to find accommodation somewhere in the middle of the island. We always stay near Ribiera Grande. If we go somewhere else – because we love to go swimming sometimes – it’s generally in the region of Furnas (somewhere right by the ocean) since it means you can go to the beach any time. The problem with staying in one place is that if you travel around you always have to drive up and down the same stretch of road, which can get boring. São Miguel is comparatively big, and it's easy to combine hills, mountains, meadows, valleys, slopes, bends, and lookout points. The number and length of the highways on the island is quite small, plus you’ll constantly be stopping, because there are so many sights that are simply impossible to pass by without a closer look, so always plan for double the expected travel time.
2. Staying in several places
This can also be a good option since it gives you more time to relax and enjoy yourself. Make sure you plan your accommodation in a neat circuit, so you don’t have to drive back and forth. For example, Ponta Delgada (capital, airport) – the Ferreira area (where a spring makes the temperature of the ocean relatively pleasant) – Sete Cidades (the viewpoint above it) – Ribeira Grande (local big city with lots to see) – Achada (because it has a beautiful botanical garden) – Nordeste (one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the area) - Povoação (because its surroundings are beautiful) - Furnas (because of the bathing) - Vila Franca do Campo (tiny island + good food + church) – and back to Ponta Delgada would be a good circuit.
The accommodation in São Miguel is pretty good, and most hotels are relatively new. Tourism is quite a new phenomenon in that area, so you won’t find many run-down old places.” (O.L., 2018)



Food

Madeira is a great place to eat fresh, tasty fish.

You should try the espetada as well, which is beef cooked over an open fire.

-------------

All of us – especially the family’s female members – really liked the local wine. All Madeiran wines, even the ‘dry’ varieties, are significantly sweeter than what we’re used to. They’re also stronger, more like a port or a liqueur, which again seems strange at first. This made it a new (taste) experience, and while a half glass sample may be enough, it’s still an experience not to be missed!
• The local specialty, espada com banana (black swordfish with roast banana) is an absolute must for anyone who likes seafood, and I’d even recommend it to those who usually aren’t so keen on that sort of thing. The fish has an intense flavor and gorgeous white flesh, and everywhere we went they prepared it beautifully. There are always side dishes of vegetables and salad (and they often serve another local specialty, ‘mihlo frito – a chunk of fried, spicy corn on the cob – with French fries). It’s easy to get tasty, simple, nutritious meals in Madeira.
There are two more absolutely unmissable things for anyone visiting Madeira: poncho and sidra, two very strong but tasty tropical liqueurs with a rum base. (The gentleman at the reception desk warmed us to start with just a single shot, and then, if we felt like another, to drink it only together with something else. Good advice, because it really is strong! 😊) My absolute favorite, though, and in my opinion, an unmissable treat, is Madeiran bread, especially when it’s fresh. So if you’re out and about in Madeira, keep your eyes peeled in streets, squares, and markets for sandwich makers using good, fresh bread with all kinds of fillings. (O.L, 2018)

Madeira - Restaurante Chalet Vicente - r.g. photo

Madeira- Funchal - Mercado dos - Lavradores de Funchal - r.g. photo

Shopping

• The local markets should be part of any visit – firstly because of the wide range of goods on offer, and secondly because of the atmosphere and spectacle of it all. The best known is the market of Funchal, where you can buy fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and all kinds of fish at very good prices. This market also has the best selection of clothes, bags, sandals… A real paradise for women, and a danger to men and their wallets! 😊
One piece of advice: The market at Santo Antonio de Serra is less well-known but more atmospheric and is definitely worth a visit. This is not a tourist market but offers a completely different and ‘raw’, authentically Madeiran experience. Another unique experience is going to the butcher’s and buying a local specialty, the ‘espatada’. This is skewered beef which you have to cook yourself in a big stove, then serve with Madeiran bread and fresh vegetables. (O.L., 2018)

Public safety

x

Madeira - National Guard - j.m. photo

Others

1. If you want to enjoy a sandy beach, you have to sail over to the island of Porto Santo, as there is no sandy beach in Madeira. A boat departs from Funchal around 8 a.m. and returns from Porto Santo around 6 p.m. The ticket costs around 50-60 EUR. Porto Santo is almost treeless, and there are not many attractions, but one beach day is O.K. 

Madeira - Christiano Ronaldo statue - some parts of it seem to be more touched (and brighter) than others -R.G. photo

Background

Madeira - r.g. photo

Destination in brief

Madeira is a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean 1143 km (710 mi) west from mainland Portugal.

Madeira means wood in Portuguese, referring to its vast forests and dense vegetation.

Size: 801 km² (309 mi²) - It takes about 90-120 minutes to drive around the island (non-stop). 

Capital city: Funchal

Population (in 2020): 241,000

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 847 Euro

Cristiano Ronaldo, who was born on the island, has a fantastic cult on Madeira. His original name is Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro. He was named after the late American President Ronald Reagan. He never drinks alcohol, as his father was an alcoholic and died at the age of 52. Ronaldo is a very family-oriented father of four children.




Krista photo

Geography

Madeira is a little closer to Africa (800 km/497 mi) than Europe (850 km/528 mi).

• I must make special mention of the flowers (as a keen amateur gardener 😊) because the huge range of brightly colored flowers really brighten up an already rich natural landscape. Everything here is so much healthier and more beautiful than elsewhere; you can see that thanks to the favorable climate, plants really do well. I saw lilies, hibiscus, and magnolia that were bigger than any I’d ever seen before in my life 😊. What was most amazing to me was the way plants which back home we exert great efforts just to keep alive, grow on the roadsides of Madeira like weeds. Wherever you go, everything is bright with natural color – though of course, this depends to a large degree on the time of year you go. (O. L., 2018)

Climate

Always have a raincoat with you, because it can rain at any time, the weather can suddenly change from sunshine to wet.

---------

“They say that Madeira is the island of eternal spring – and it’s worth bearing the implications in mind! Even at the airport, a representative of the car rental company warned us that we should always keep raincoats in the car because showers can come at any time. She was right, and we got soaked a few times, but what made an even bigger impression was the climatic differences across the island. We stopped off in Faial, a small town on the north coast of the island. Or as we soon came to call it: the angry side 😊. In the middle of this volcanic island rises the mountain range which defines its topography – it practically cuts Madeira’s weather in two: During a whole week on the south coast we had almost exclusively sunny weather, while on the north coast it was much rainier, winder and a little cooler (though not much, I mean 20˚C instead of 21 ˚C 😊).

This had several consequences for us: firstly, we felt lucky to experience not only the sunny, holiday side of the island but also its somewhat wilder, more unrestrained side – specifically, we once drove through the wind so strong we thought it might tip our little Fiat Punto over – so we had some close-to-nature, elemental experiences. The famous beach at Porto Moniz was closed because the waves were so high it would have been dangerous to swim there. (O.L., 2018)

---------

• Those who like their holiday destinations hot and sunny sometimes object to Madeira’s weather, since – as its nickname, ‘the island of perpetual spring, suggests – you get spring-like weather all year round. June is known as the cloudy month, so if you want sunshine and warm weather you’d be better off picking a different time of year to come. The towns higher up can have temperatures up to 10°C lower than on the coast, and even at the best of times, you can’t expect temperatures much higher than 20°C anywhere on the island.


History

In 1950, Winston Churchill wrote his war memoirs at Reid’s Palace Hotel.

Nowadays

x

Madeira - Fortaleza de Pico - r.g. photo

People

Though at first, the locals appear a bit unfriendly, it quickly turns out that they’re actually very kind and hospitable. Many don’t speak English, especially in the smaller villages and markets, but one way or another we always managed to understand one another. Everyone was happy to help, if, for example, we needed to find the way somewhere. They aren’t pushy or insistent at the marketplace or the souvenir shop, the way they are in so many other destinations (you don’t quite remember how it happened, but somehow you bought a souvenir). Of course, they still follow you around, hoping you’ll buy everything, but nobody ever really pestered us. What’s more, sellers at the market are generally happy to round prices down, and you don’t need to haggle (O.L., 2018)

-------------

“The people of Madeira are very kind, friendly, and hospitable. One of their biggest sources of income has now become tourism (along with the deservedly famous wine, lace, basket, and banana exports, of course), so they treat visitors well. We only met one person who spoke no English – surprisingly, he was a bank employee – but even a beggar on the street asked us for a coin in English. This wasn’t just an expression he’d learned – we know because we stopped to talk to him 😊. Most people speak some German too, and in addition to these languages, menus are written in French as well.” (2017)

Gastronomy



Madeira wine is kept at a constant 45C (113F) for the first three months in the wooden barrels, thanks to that, it retains its flavor for up to 150 years.

Attractions

Madera - Câmara de Lobos - p.a. photo

Related posts

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.