Incredible nature is the highlight of Project Director Stepan Borovec’s recent trip to the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Madeira is not a beach destination. It’s all about exploring incredible landscapes and finding authentic local experiences.
In this article, Stepan reports back on this island holiday experience in Europe.
An Introduction to Madeira
Madeira is a rapidly growing destination with many new direct flight connections. Both Eurowings and SmartWings fly there year round.
The Portuguese island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, closer to Morocco than Portugal. It’s becoming a great alternative to the well-known Spanish Canary Islands, like Tenerife.
A long weekend was not long enough. I want to go back to Madeira for its nature and hiking.
The island is just 10 to 20 kilometres across, yet from sea level you can climb to a mountain peak at 1800 metres. You can stay in a hotel on the cliffs and do an excursion to see sunrise above the clouds!
Madeira Is Not About Beaches. It’s a Different Island Destination.
The Atlantic Ocean is different to the Mediterranean. It’s a lot colder, only around 20 degrees even in summer! And it’s a lot rougher!
The coolest swimming options are tidal rock pools filled by ocean water. In some places you can jump into the ocean from raised platforms, although these are not suitable for children.
Madeira is all about chilling by the pool and exploring the landscapes. The coastline is beautiful and I lost count of all the amazing viewpoints.
We rented a car. Without a vehicle you won’t enjoy Madeira too much. I recommend booking a guide or renting a car, it depends on your travel style.
The roads are very steep, but are mostly new and in good condition. The driving isn’t scary or too difficult, but I definitely recommend a car with automatic transition.
Amazing Things To Do in Madeira
Hiking is the number one Madeira activity and there are dozens of great options.
We did a 16 kilometre round-trip hike from Madeira’s third tallest peak to its tallest peak. It was steep, challenging, beautiful and unforgettable.
Madeira is packed with experiences. Here are my top ten recommendations.
1. Hiking is not what I normally do on holiday. But I loved this hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo.
2. Explore the enchanted forest of Vereda do Fanal, it’s normally full of mist and unusual trees not found elsewhere in the world. Except we had a clear blue sky on our visit!
3. Swim in the volcanic lava pools of Porto Moniz.
4. Madeira is famous for its wine, born of the island’s rich volcanic soil. Visiting a winemaker is a must!
5. Do the Skywalk on the cliffs of Cabo Girao, a glass walkway jutting out from the cliffs, 580 metres above the ocean. The view is pretty spectacular and scary!
6. Visit the CR7 Museum – Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Funchal, Madeira.
7. Experience a sunrise and breakfast above the clouds, at a secret location only accessible on a 4WD trip by Belmond.
8. Madeira is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. From April to October you can see eight different whale species around the island. Dolphins are always around too.
9. Madeira produces a lot of sugarcane. Which means a lot of run. We visited a Madeira rum factory which was a very local experience and a great place to buy tasty souvenirs.
10. Savour a leisurely afternoon eating cake. Madeira Honey Cake is very traditional and Reid’s Palace does a famous afternoon tea experience.
Stay at Reid’s Palace, A Belmond Hotel
Madeira is not a luxury destination in terms of hotels, exclusivity or high-end shopping. Luxury here is about exploring remarkable places.
Reid’s Palace is the best hotel on the island. It’s really a grand dame, operating for over 130 years.
Reid’s Palace is an old and traditional hotel. Many areas do need renovation. The entry-level rooms are quite small and need refurbishment. That is why you should go for suites!
I recommend the Deluxe or Presidential suites. These suites are beautifully decorated, offer amazing views and are clearly the best place to stay on Madeira.
Reid’s Palace has three swimming pools. Two are heated all year around, one with fresh water and one saltwater. I loved the third one – the Ocean Pool – it’s so scenic and unique.
I recommend dining at William at Reid’s Palace. It’s the only Madeira restaurant headed by a Michelin-starred Madeiran chef. Madeira has very unique gastronomy and dinner here is a sublime local experience.
Practical Information for a Madeira Holiday
Madeira is a year-round destination. They call it the land of eternal spring. I found the weather to be perfect in late March, around 20 degrees and sunny.
Locals told me that Madeira is often cloudy and there can be a very strong wind. Overall, the climate doesn’t vary too much throughout the year.
Like the Canary Islands, Madeira can offer beautiful weather outside July and August. You can have a great holiday here from January to December.
Madeira can now be visited on direct flights from dozens of cities across Western and Central Europe.
The flight schedule reduces between November and February, yet for most of the year there are easy flight options for either a long weekend or week-long holiday.
Also consider combining Madeira with one of two great Portuguese cities, Lisbon and Porto. You can enjoy a wild island exploration then a chic city experience.
Madeira is Becoming Popular
I could see that Madeira is really growing in popularity. It’s being discovered by people from all over the world. I met Americans, Brits, Germans, Poles, Slovaks and other Czech visitors.
My recommendation is to come here soon, while it still offers so much mystery and new experiences.
There’s so much more I can tell you. But let’s save that for a private call, when I can advise you personally on an island holiday.