Madeira is only 35 miles long, so it’s easy to see all the best sights during a week-long trip. The archipelago is located 1,000km southwest of Lisbon and benefits from a balmy climate year-round, thanks to its geographical location and mountainous relief – even in the winter, average temperatures hover around a comfortable 17ºC. Here, the sea temperatures are mild, so taking advantage of the beautiful beaches along the coast is a must. The capital, Funchal, is where you’ll find some of the best hotels and villas, as well as an interesting culinary scene where visitors can enjoy everything from traditional Portuguese dishes to fusion European cuisine. If you want to avoid the city and take in beautiful rural scenery, head to the west of the island, such as the picturesque fishing town of Câmara de Lobos, which benefits from a slightly warmer climate. Santana is one of the most beautiful villages to the north, while Porto Moniz is where you’ll find natural salt water swimming pools made of volcanic rock.
FOR A SOLO TRIP
Madeira is a nature lover’s dream, so it’s an ideal destination if you want to travel solo. Explore the beautiful beaches along the coast, including Praia Formosa and Faja Dos Padres (easily reached from Funchal and renowned for its seafood), then take a guided walking tour of the city. If you’re feeling adventurous, explore the island via a jeep safari to see stunning scenery off the beaten track – Madeira Adventure Kingdom offers full- and half-day tours. Solo travellers should also book a vineyard tour to discover the region’s excellent wine – Discovering Madeira run day trips to a number of vineyards and wineries, with tastings at each. No solo trip would be complete without sampling the local cuisine, so be sure to make a beeline for a few casual spots too. Book a table at Atlantis to the east of the island and sit on the terrace overlooking the crashing waves, or head to Vila do Peixe which is a little more upmarket and serves delicious seafood to a backdrop of live music. For a real treat, book a table at new restaurant Kampo for delicious Mediterranean dishes made with local produce.
Where To Stay
Luxe: Saccharum Resort & Spa, Calheta
Located in Calheta in the south west of the island, this hotel is a great choice for solo travel if your idea of bliss is relaxing at a top spa. Book one of the oceanfront rooms for the best views, and enjoy sundowner drinks at the Fly Lounge Bar, before heading to the hotel’s Alambique restaurant for delicious vegetarian dishes. Here, the spa is the star of the show, where guests can make use of a Turkish bath, sensorial shower, halotherapy room and indoor heated pool. Be sure to book a tai chi or yoga class during your stay, too, to totally relax and unwind.
Rooms from £110 per night.
Uber Luxe: The Cliff Bay, Funchal
This five-star hotel is part of the impressive Porto Bay Hotel & Resort collection. With direct access to the sea and the two-Michelin-starred Il Gallo D’Oro restaurant, it has great views of Funchal. Most rooms have private balconies – ask for one with views of the bay or go all out with a luxury suite. There are three pools to swim in, plus an outdoor spa area with jacuzzis. Enjoy fresh seafood and snacks from The Blue Lagoon and be sure to book a table at the new Avista Restaurant.
Rooms from £250 per night.
FOR A ROMANTIC TRIP
Madeira has countless actives for couples, whether you want to relax with a glass of wine and take in the spectacular views, or head on a sea safari to spot whales and dolphins. Madeira’s award-winning botanical gardens in Funchal are a must-see, as is the island’s third largest peak, Pico do Arieiro – the best views can be seen from the top of the mountain, but the surrounding area is equally beautiful if you don’t fancy the climb. Take a dip in the natural swimming pools at Porto Moniz or visit the Enchanted Terraces where you can bathe in the warm waters. In terms of restaurants, you’re spoilt for choice, but one of our favourites is Quinta do Furão in Santana where you can enjoy rustic Madeiran food with mountain views. Funchal’s Gavião Novo is another top choice where you can enjoy delicious seafood alongside Portuguese wine.
Where To Stay
Luxe: Zino’s Palace, Ponta do Sol
Located in the beautiful village of Ponta do Sol (which benefits from the longest hours of sunshine on the island), this boutique hotel has recently been refurbished. There are now nine rooms to choose from, each of which is decorated in soft pastel colours with plush furnishing and stylish fabrics with a nod to Portuguese tradition. Couples should book the Suite Sea View or Suite Ocean View room, and book a table at the restaurant which has beautiful ocean views.
Rooms from £95 per night.
Uber Luxe: Reid’s Palace, Funchal
Iconic Reid’s Palace is one of the most stylish hotels in Madeira and is surrounded by lush subtropical gardens overlooking Funchal Harbour. There are 158 rooms to choose from, as well as four restaurants, a sun terrace and a cocktail bar. Couples can take a dip in the heated outdoor pool, hit the tennis courts, explore the scenic walking routes in the nearby mountains, or simply relax at the on-site spa. The Michelin-starred William Restaurant is an excellent fine-dining restaurant, while Ristorante Villa Cipriani’s gorgeous al fresco terrace is a great place to sit back with a glass of wine and soak in the view.
Rooms from £285 per night.
FOR AN ADVENTURE
Outdoorsy types will relish the activities Madeira has to offer. As well as sea safaris and wildlife tours, there are several excellent hiking routes which have stunning views of the mountain ranges. G Adventures run hiking tours across Santana and Funchal, while Macs Adventures specialise in walking holidays, both self-guided and with a local expert. For something a little less strenuous, Visit Madeira has a number of easy walks on its website, most of which can be completed in a few hours. Cabo Giaro Cliff along the south coast is another must-see, as is Laurisilva Forest – a Unesco World Heritage Site. Once you’ve made the most of the outdoor pursuits on offer, get a feel for local life at Mercado dos Lavradores, an award-winning food market in Funchal which sells delicious local produce grown in the island’s fertile soil.
Where To Stay
Luxe: Socalco Nature Hotel, Estreito da Calheta
This new boutique hotel is the brainchild of Octávio Freitas, one of Madeira’s top chefs. Set on the southwest coast, with stunning sea views, guests are encouraged to embrace nature, whether that’s a cooking class with the resident chef, dining tours, wine days, or even farm chores – think bread and jam making. There are eight houses with self-catering facilities, plus two luxury villas, all of which have simple yet stylish interiors with bright rooms and beautiful views of the countryside or ocean. The hotel can organise excursions like bird watching hikes, walking tours and whale watching trips, as well as snorkelling and paddle boarding if you’re feeling adventurous.
Houses and villas from £110 per night.
Uber Luxe: Funchal Cottages
For a luxury holiday to remember, Funchal Cottages has it all. There are ten properties to choose from, ranging from couples’ hideaways to large family houses, all of which have beautiful sea views. Okulus Madeira sleeps up to eight across four ensuite bedrooms with a seafront rooftop terrace with an infinity pool and garden. A great option for families or groups, it has stairs leading down to the beach and a spacious kitchen-diner for relaxed mealtimes. Couples should book Pool Cottage which has a private pool and stylish, colourful interiors throughout. Head to Old Town Funchal to see the beautiful architecture and sample street food, before exploring the surrounding beaches.
Prices available on request.
Current Travel Info: While Portugal is currently on the UK’s amber list, the Azores are on the green list, which means you won’t have to quarantine on your return from Madeira. All travellers arriving from the UK must complete an online passenger locator card before their arrival, and show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 72 hours beforehand (a NAAT, PRC or Rapid Antigen Test).
Flight Time: A direct flight from London to Madeira takes around 4 hours. The main airport is Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, commonly known as Madeira Airport.
Time: There is no time difference between the UK and Madeira.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice and entry requirements before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information
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