Posted by: Author | January 9, 2013

Madeira Ideas and Resume

Madeira in a Résumé
Main Objectives

The Big Six Madeira’s main sights are readily accessible from any point of the island and can easily be visited during a week’s stay. The following give an idea of the diverse attractions available, from historic towns and churches to natural wonders such as towering mountains and sheer cliff faces, not to mention the superb sandy beach on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo.
Funchal The only town of any size on Madeira, the attractive capital makes the perfect base for exploring the island.
Porto Santo Perhaps Europe’s best-kept secret, Madeira’s sister island has 9km of pristine sands.
Machico With its own little beach and surrounded by banana plantations, this historic town makes a great alternative base to Funchal.
Cabo Girão Whether viewed from the sea or from the top, the world’s second-highest sea cliffs are a spectacular sight.
Monte A hilltop town boasting great views, lush gardens and the island’s most sacred church, guarding a venerated statue of the Virgin.


Walks Madeira is rightly famous for its walks. Many of these are along well-marked veredas (paths), used by locals to travel from village to village before the road network was constructed. Even more popular are the levada walks, along the sides of irrigation canals that wend through some of the island’s wildest scenery. The levadas cover some 2000km; make sure you’re well prepared and follow local advice, as some pass through tunnels and across precipitous terrain.
Lorano to Machico An exhilarating clifftop path high above the north coast.
Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Madeira’s most famous and memorable route, between two of its highest peaks.
Rabaçal to 25 Fontes A beautiful levada walk deep into lush woodland.
Prazeres to Paúl do Mar Zigzag down one of the west coast’s steepest cliffs, with great views en route.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde One of the island’s most spectacular levada walks winds through ancient laurel forests.
Levada da Central da Janela, Porto Moniz An attractive, gentle levada hike that takes you into the heart of the rural north.


Transport Getting around Madeira, surrounded by the Atlantic, fringed by cliffs and rising inland to 1862m above sea level, has long posed problems to voyagers and engineers alike. Over time, many of the island’s most challenging features have been ingeniously exploited to provide easy access and highly enjoyable ways of getting from A to B. From dry toboggans to high-tech lifts and cable cars, many of the rides are worth going on for the thrill alone.
Santa Maria de Columbo Get a different perspective on the island on a boat trip from Funchal harbour.
Cable car at Santana Not for the faint-hearted, this dizzy descent is an adrenalin-pumping way to see the wild north coast.
Cable car to Monte The best views over Funchal are from the slowly ascending cable car from the Zona Velha.
Lift to Fajã dos Padres The beachside settlement of Fajã dos Padres is reached by a thrilling descent down the cliff face in a glass-fronted lift.
Monte toboggan Traditional basket toboggans are a bizarre, novel and undoubtedly exhilarating way to get down a mountain.


Sports and Activities The opening of Porto Santo’s golf course means there are now three top golf courses in this corner of the Atlantic. Madeira’s climate and terrain are also ideal for several other sports: game fishing is big business, surfing has a dedicated following and an increasing number of companies offer adventure sports, from canyoning to diving. Madeira’s national sport, however, is football, and the island that produced the silky skills of Cristiano Ronaldo also has teams in Portugal’s top division.
Porto Santo Golf Porto Santo Golf, in the heart of Madeira’s sister island, is rated the best course in the area.
Mountain Bikes Get off the beaten track on a mountain-bike trip along the spectacular levada paths.
Fishing The deep waters around Madeira offer some of the best big game fishing in the world; take a fi shing trip from Funchal harbour.
Marítimo Catch one of Portugal’s top teams, Marítimo, who entertain the likes of Porto and Benfica.
Surfing Madeira has a burgeoning reputation as a surfing centre, and one of the top places to take to the waves is Jardim do Mar.
Diving Explore sea caverns, wrecks and the clear, deep water, swimming with moray eels, Atlantic rays and mantas.


Picnic Spots Tropical fruits and fresh produce are relatively inexpensive at Madeira’s vibrant markets, the best places to stock up on food and drink for a picnic. Madeirans love nothing better than taking off for a summer picnic, and there are little wooden benches dotted round the island’s most scenic spots. In the mountains you’ll also fi nd brick or stone barbecues.
Queimadas Little Red Riding Hood wouldn’t look out of place in the fairy-tale scenery of this UNESCO-protected forest.
Ribeiro Frio Tree ferns and exotic vegetation high in the mountains provide a pleasant shady spot for a picnic.
Ponta do Pargo Perch on the clifftop at the westernmost point in Madeira.
Portela Find a spot near the stalls selling bulbs at this dramatic mountain pass offering a sweeping panorama of the north coast.
Baia de Abra Enjoy views of Ponta de São Lourenço at this breezy bluff, and watch out for lizards, who may take a fancy to your picnic.


Swimming It’s commonly assumed that Madeira has few beaches, but in fact nearly every coastal village has some sort of beach or jetty that you can swim off. There are fi fteen Blue Flag beaches in total, and though most of these consist of large stones, two have soft sand. Many places also have a complexo balnear or lido, coastal sea pools, usually supervised in summer. And virtually every hotel of three stars and above has its own pool.
Prainha Madeira’s only natural sandy beach, a popular stretch of soft black sand.
Ponta Delgada Lovely fresh water and a poolside café-bar make this lido the summer hub of the village.
Porto Santo The island’s southeast coast is one long expanse of superb sand, perfect for families.
Porto da Cruz Safe bathing with a breathtaking backdrop of towering mountains.
Porto Moniz This north-coast village is famed for its natural sea pools, hollowed out from the volcanic rock.
Foz da Ribeira Sea pools in an idyllic river valley on the dramatic north coast.


Parks and Gardens Madeira means “wood” and was so named because of its lauraceous forests, one of the earth’s last great concentrations of laurel trees – in 1999 they were declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The island’s climate also supports a wide range of the world’s most beautiful cultivated flora, many introduced from ships calling in on their way back from South Africa, Australasia, Asia and South America. As a result, many parks and gardens have exotic plants bursting into bloom virtually year round.
Jardins Tropicais do Monte A park-cum-museum, boasting works of art, decorative tiles, koi carp and abundant tropical vegetation.
Palheiro Gardens Elaborate formal gardens that show off Madeira’s prolifi c plant life.
Jardim de Santa Catarina A highly scenic and popular town park, complete with a lake and fi ne views.
Jardim Botânico, Funchal Funchal’s botanical gardens offer a diverse range of stunning fl ora, from palms to exotic cacti and bird-of-paradise plants.
Rosarium, Arco de São Jorge Portugal’s largest rose collection, with over one thousand species.


Museums In its heyday, Madeira was a glorified service station on the shipping highways between Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Christopher Columbus set up here, keen to exploit the island’s rich commercial potential, as did the Flemish, who traded works of art for sugar. This exchange has left a rich legacy of artefacts and paintings that can be enjoyed in Madeira’s museums. You can also find out about more recent influences on island life, such as whaling.
Museu de Arte Sacra Set in a former Bishop’s Palace, the Renaissance Flemish paintings here are testament to Madeira’s once-powerful trading status.
Palácio de São Lourenço Funchal’s most impressive historic building, a series of magnifi cent state rooms stuffed with works of art.
Casa Museu Cristovão
Colombo
The great explorer’s heavily restored Porto Santo home, full of fascinating memorabilia.
Museu da Baleia, Caniçal An engaging museum, recording the history of the island’s whaling industry.
Fortaleza de São Tiago The capital’s seventeenth-century fortress, where you can visit an eclectic collection of modern art and then clamber round the ramparts.


Azulejos In its heyday, Madeira was a glorified service station on the shipping highways between Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Christopher Columbus set up here, keen to exploit the island’s rich commercial potential, as did the Flemish, who traded works of art for sugar. This exchange has left a rich legacy of artefacts and paintings that can be enjoyed in Madeira’s museums. You can also fi nd out about more recent influences on island life, such as whaling. Funchal’s most impressive historic building, a series of magnificent state rooms stuffed with works of art. Fortaleza de São Tiago The capital’s seventeenth-century fortress, where you can visit an eclectic collection of modern art and then clamber round the ramparts. Funchal and the Old TownCasa Museu Cristovão Colombo The great explorer’s heavily restored Porto Santo home, full of fascinating memorabilia. Porto Santo Museu Fotografia Vicentes. An evocative collection of black-and-white photos of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Madeira. Madeira has some fine examples of azulejos, the distinctive Portuguese glazed tiles, used to decorate everything from the exterior of houses, walls and fountains to the interiors of churches and cafés. The craft was brought to Portugal by the Moors in the eighth century – the word “ azulejo ” derives from the Arabic al-zulecha, “small stone”. Useful both for insulation and decoration, tiles continue to be used on buildings to this day, though most are now factory-produced imitations of the old hand-painted forms.
Jardins Tropicais do Monte Palace These modern azulejos illustrate key moments in Portuguese history.
Casa dos Azulejos Fine Portuguese tiles alongside those from Turkey, Syria and elsewhere.
Praça do Município The former Chamber of Commerce on Avenida Arriaga is typical of some of central Funchal’s elaborately decorated older buildings.
Convento de Santa Clara The seventeenth-century tiles in this convent are some of the oldest on the island.
Quinta Vigia Azulejos depicting the life of Saint Francis embellish the chapel of the president’s house.


Festivals Usually coinciding with local saints’ days or harvests, Madeira’s festivals are occasions for the locals to let rip, and they follow a similar format: religious services in the church followed by folk dancing, usually accompanied by live music. Food stalls, lots of alcohol and sometimes fi reworks enliven the proceedings. The main festivals have become more commercial, with the biggest ones – at New Year and for carnival – becoming tourist attractions in their own right.
Madeira Wine Festival Kick off your shoes and join in the grape-treading with the locals.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks Let the new year in with a bang: some of the fi nest fireworks you’ll ever see.
Funchal Carnival The closest Europe has to a Rio-style parade, both literally and figuratively.
Festa da Flor A three-day fl ower festival turns central Funchal into a riot of colour.
Columbus Week Porto Santo’s Columbus week celebrations involve a replica sixteenth-century sailing boat and a mock wedding.
Vintage Car Rally The annual touring of hardy relics dating back to the 1920s.


Weird and Wonderful Madeira’s last eruption fizzled out 890,000 years ago, but its geological origins are still evident in its bold and occasionally weird landscape, in which former volcanic peaks are punctuated with dramatic cliffs, caves and plateaus. Portuguese settlers have added to these natural wonders with a network of levadas , road tunnels and monuments. The most familiar artifi cial wonder is probably the Santana house, still common on the north coast.
Grutas de São Vicente Ancient lava fl ows have left a warren of textured underground caverns buried in the hills outside São Vicente.
Santana Houses The highly practical and picturesque Santana houses still house the odd family, though most are now used for cattle.
Cabo Girão Peer right down a sheer drop from the top of the world’s second-highest sea cliffs.
Terreiro da Luta A towering monument commemorating the end of World War I, set high on a slope above Funchal.
Paúl da Serra Driving across these high moors through mist is an eerie experience; when the weather clears, the views are superb.


Historic Madeira Madeira was settled in the fi fteenth century by the Portuguese; they established lucrative sugar plantations, and soon the island became a major trading post. In the early seventeenth century, the wine trade, backed by powerful British merchants, led to the emergence of a wealthy elite, who also prospered from local embroidery and basket-weaving. But the majority of the islanders lived a harsh existence until the late twentieth century, when tourism and EU funds gave the island a leg-up into the modern age.
Monte An important pilgrimage spot, in the mid-1800s the cool heights of Monte also became the favoured destination for the island’s first tourists, who stopped en route to and from Africa and the Americas.
Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge The oldest wine lodge on the island, dating back to the early seventeenth century.
The Hotel Zone Opened in 1891, the famous Reid’s blazed a trail for the plethora of modern hotels that ensure tourism remains Madeira’s main source of income today.
Lauraceous Forests The island’s ancient laurel woods, protected by UNESCO, are unique to this corner of the world.
Machico The island’s capital from 1440 to 1496, Machico was the first place on the island to be colonized.
Antiga Alfândega Located on the major shipping routes, Madeira thrived on international trade, though much of this former customs house was destroyed in the earthquake of 1748.


Unspoiled Villages To experience Madeira at its tranquil best means a visit to one of its idyllic villages, where life goes on pretty much as it always has. Hotels are gradually opening in some of these places, too, offering the chance to savour village life after the tour coaches have gone.
Porto da Cruz A spectacularly sited north-coast village with its own sea pools.
Ponta do Sol With its own little beach, Ponta do Sol is wedged into a valley swathed in banana plantations.
Câmara de Lobos This earthy fi shing village – Churchill’s favourite – has atmosphere by the truckload.
Jardim do Mar A tranquil village with a burgeoning surf culture, set at the foot of towering cliffs.
São Vicente Its leafy pedestrianized streets make São Vicente one of the most picturesque spots on the island.
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