The Portuguese archipelago of Madeira has been a popular destination since the 19th century, when the European aristocracy started to visit, attracted by the region’ therapeutic properties.
It’s made up of Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens, two of which – Madeira and Porto Santo – are inhabited.
In 2020, the entire island of Porto Santo and its surrounding marine area was awarded the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
The archipelago of Madeira has a pleasant climate, with monthly temperatures that vary only slightly through the year. In Funchal, the capital, the temperature rarely drops below 17C in winter and rarely exceeds 25C in summer.
There are microclimates all over the island and it’s possible to live through the four seasons in a single day.
2 Beaches and volcanic rock pools
From north to south, there are many beaches waiting to be discovered.
Little-explored corners of unspoilt natural beauty are ideal for those who value peace, quiet and tranquillity,while more popular beaches allow visitors to use loungers, changing rooms and bar service.
While most beaches have pebbles, there are some sandy beaches, which are popular among families and holidaymakers. Porto Santo, which is reached by boat from Madeira, has a long stretch of golden sand that occupies practically the entire south coast. It was voted by European Beach Destinations as the best beach in Europe in 2022.
Natural pools of Porto Moniz (pictured, above) and Seixal are considered the island’s natural treasures. In Funchal, it’s possible to swim in natural volcanic pools in the bathing area of Poças do Gomes and Doca do Cavacas.
3 The Laurissilva Forest UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Laurissilva Forest is the indigenous forest of Madeira, with humid subtropical characteristics, occupying 20% of the island. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Levadas are irrigation channels created to direct water from the northern slopes of the island, where it is more abundant because of the rain, to the south. The network is 1,400km long and it’s possible to walk these trails.
Centuries-old traditions and unique delicacies await visitors to Madeira, with options including bolo do caco, a traditional flat, round bread made with sweet potato; espetada, meat, fish or squid cooked on skewers; tuna steak, fried corn and grilled limpets.
Contemporary gastronomy also plays a prominent role, with the best restaurants in Funchal, some of which have won international awards, offering a unique journey through the island’s flavours.
Madeira is famous for producing some of the best wine red, white or rose wine, thanks to its mild climate. There are more than 30 Madeira wine varieties, with the ‘noble four’ being Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malvasia – as well as Terrantez and Tinta Negra.
7 Landscapes and nature
Nature is the greatest and most important treasure of this Atlantic archipelago. Be sure to explore the lush beauty of this island oasis – whether it’s the moutains, forests, sea or unique landscapes.
The Madeira Nature Park is a biogenetic reserve whose entire area encompasses unique flora and fauna, occupying two-thirds of the island’s territory.
The Desertas and Selvagens Islands are nature reserves and are the refuge of many species of flora and fauna. Visitors must apply for authorisation to go.
There are countless viewpoints in Madeira, scattered all across the territory.
On the south coast, the Cabo Girao viewpoint at 580 metres, has a suspended glass platform called skywalk, where it’s possible to see the cities of Camara de Lobos and Funchal.
9 Award-winning island destination
Madeira has been voted the Best Island Destination in the World for eight years running at the Word Travel Awards.
It’s also won many more accolades, including being voted Europe’s Safest Destination for Christmas by European Best Destinations in 2020; the World’s Best Emerging Golf Destination by the World Golf Awards in 2019 and received a Silver Award World Certification for Sustainable Tourist Destination by EarthCheck in 2023.
10 Events and spectacular New Year fireworks
Madeira has a spectacular year-round calendar of events. They include Carnival, two weeks of festivity that includes Funchal’s Grand Carnival Parade, on the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday.
The celebration of spring and nature is one of Maderia’s main tourist attractions, with floats during the Flower Festival and Allegoric Flower Parade decorated with Madeiran flowers.
The Wine Festival takes place at the end of summer, inviting tourists to participate in the process of the grape harvest, from picking to treading the grapes.
Christmas markets and other festivities take place at the end of the year, while end of year and New Year celebrations have made history in the Guinness World Records as the largest fireworks display in the world in 2006 and 2007.
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