The landscape of Madeira Island is as magical as footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s right foot, offering unique experiences for travelers of diverse interests and tastes. The mountainous, volcanic island is one of Portugal’s Autonomous Regions, sitting about 670 miles southwest of the mainland.
But beyond Madeira’s superstar soccer player, what do you know about the island? Why should you go? First off, go for the jaw-dropping views everywhere you turn, from rugged cliffs falling in the sea, to banana groves and vineyards, to wildflower-strewn mountain peaks overlooking the Ponta São Lourenço península. Go for the historic villages, traditional straw houses, incredible caves, and exceptional food and wine.
Here’s a taste of our favorite experiences in Madeira:
Ponta do Sol
Photo by: Reinaldo Garanito (unsplash) Landscape view of Ponta do Sol
Considered the most happening spot on the island, Ponta do Sol is currently the county seat. The town gets its name from a rocky outcropping that juts into the sea and reflects the sun’s rays. The sun shines for the most hours on the island’s south coast, another reason to extend the day in this beautiful and historic town.
While you’re here, visit the Ponta do Sol Pier, the romantic Lagoa do Lugar de Baixo palace, and the Subtropical Floriculture Centre. Outdoorsy types will enjoy exploring the Paul da Serra, the island’s only plateau, featuring indigenous plants, wildlife, and migratory birds. Don’t miss the church of Nossa Senhora da Luze, known for its intricate wood carvings.
Traditional Straw Houses in Madeira
Photo by: Reiseuhu (unsplash)
Walk amongst the storybook straw houses of Santana – you won’t be able to stop taking photos! These small, triangular and colorful houses are reflective of Madeiran culture, dating back to the island’s discovery. At the time, straw and wood were inexpensive and abundant in the region. These materials worked well to keep the interior of the homes temperate. The sloped roofs allowed for rainwater drainage.
The Santana city center is the only place on Madeira where you can view this style of home and the beautiful gardens nearby. If you visit on the weekend, you can partake in the fruit market located across the street.
Sao Vicente Caves
Photo by: Josefin (hike to see the beautiful waterfalls and caves in Madeira)
Whether or not you’ve ever gone caving, give this experience in Madeira a try. These volcanic caves, formed some 890 thousand years ago, were the first of their kind opened to the public in Portugal. Initially created by volcanic activity in Paul da Serra, these caves were first observed in 1885 by locals. Follow the underground route of the Sao Vicente Caves for a little more than a half-mile, under a ceiling height between 16 and 20 feet. Take time at the end of your tour to visit the Volcano Center to learn more about the geological formation of the caves and the initial eruption.
Seixal Natural Ocean-Fed Pools
Photo by: Tim Roosjen (unsplash)
Due to its volcanic geology, there are few sandy beaches in Madeira, but there are plenty of natural volcanic, ocean-fed pools perfect for a refreshing dip. Rocks emerge from the water, creating a calm lagoon area protected from ocean waves.
Seixal, on the north coast of the island, has some of the prettiest pools. In the long run, Seixal may not be as prestigious as other pool areas such as Porto Moniz and Funchal, but it is more tranquil and idyllic. These rocks break the wave and leave behind a pool of crystal-clear water. Here’s a secret about Seixal: There is a black-sand beach here, one of only a few on the island.
Ready to discover the magic and experience of Madeira? Contact me today for more information or to answer any questions you have.