I have had the privilege of visiting this beautiful island multiple times but I often find that many people haven’t heard of it. The Portuguese Island Madeira is actually the top of a massive shield volcano located just off the west coast of Africa. While its clientele is usually older, there is still plenty to do for all ages.
Here are 7 of my favourite things to do in Madeira:
1. Levada Walks. Madeira is known for its lush vegetation, especially during spring. I find the best way to appreciate the flora on this island is through Levada walks. Levada’s are mini canals in Madeira which first appeared in the fifteenth century and were used to transport and distribute water from the rainier areas north of the island to the southern areas. There are around 200 Lavadas in Madeira and the walks vary in difficulty. It is possible to do these walks without a guide however you should always research the walk you plan to do as some can be dangerous.
2. Natural Swimming Pools. These pools in Porto Moniz are formed by volcanic lava that allows the crystal clear sea to flow in. There is a bar, changing rooms, playground, first aid station, and a lifeguard on constant duty. These pools are open all year round between 9AM-5PM in winter and 9AM-7PM in the summer. An entrance fee of 1.50€ for over 3-year-olds, this is a cheap fun way to spend the day.
3. Europes Highest Cliff Skywalk. The cliffs of Cabo Girão are some of the highest in Europe, located at the top is the skywalk. The attraction opened in late October 2012 and is similar to the one in America’s Grand Canyon. It is completely free to enter but being 580 meters above sea level it isn’t for everyone! There are a couple of shops and restaurants nearby making this a wonderful stop.
4. Whale and Dolphin Watching. There are plenty of tours you can book on trip advisor, I don’t think one company is necessarily better in terms of seeing whales/dolphins but the price and service may vary. The tour I did on a previous visit was great (unfortunately, I was much younger and I have absolutely no idea who we booked with). We stopped for a swim, had lunch and saw plenty of dolphins but no whales. As always, do a little bit of research but it is a great day out!
5. Jeep Safari. I did this for the first time this year and it was an amazing day out. There are so many to choose from but we booked with Green Devil Safari and done the Northeast Scents and Flavours tour. A good proportion of the tour was spent driving on off-road tracks through forests in an open-roof 4×4, which we all loved (felt like we were in Indiana Jones). The tour guide was really informative, lunch was delicious, and it was an all-round great day out. Highly recommend!
6. Funchal. Most people stay in the capital city but if you don’t it is worth the trip out. The most common attraction in Funchal is the cable car that takes you up to Monte. The 15-minute ride is an amazing way to see Funchal from above. The cable car takes you to Monte Palace which houses a huge exotic plant collection. To get back down, the traditional wicker toboggan ride is always a fun option. Another favourite is the Mercado dos Lavradores (farmers market). The market is full of activity, noise, colour, and high energy! Open daily (except Sundays and Public Holidays). Fridays are the best time to go, while it is busier you’re more likely to see traditionally dressed ‘flower ladies’ selling wonderful exotic flowers. I think it is overpriced to actually buy anything but it is a great place to wander around!
7. Caves and Volcano Centre of São Vicente. Formed 890 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption, these caves were opened to the public 1st of October 1996. The guided tour takes around 30 minutes through the caves that finishes at the volcanism centre where you learn lots of facts about volcanos in a fun, interactive way. To end the tour you get a lift to the ‘centre of Earth’ and watch a 3D film featuring a volcanic eruption. Open 10AM-6PM every day, located north of the island, it is an entertaining morning/afternoon for everyone.
Just a little side note, I love the food in Madeira. I was always a big meat eater until this year but if you love meat, in particular, beef, ‘espetada’ is the best! Cubes of grilled beef, seasoned in salt, pepper, garlic and bay leaves, is always a favourite with my family. If your preference is fish, you must try the ‘Espada’ which is black scabbard fish seasoned and cooked with banana. I know… sounds bonkers but trust me it is delicious. They are two very typical dishes but you must try them!
As I’ve said, Madeira tends to attract older generations, but if you require some vitamin D, love being surrounded by beautiful vegetation and the sea, then there is no reason Madeira shouldn’t be on your list! I hope there is something on this list that encourages you to think about visiting this wonderful island.
Thanks for reading!
Travels of Eden