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Madeira - why you should visit the eternal island of spring

Madeira is a wonderful Portuguese island that is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 km southwest of the mainland. Rugged cliffs, almost 2,000-meter peaks, untamed coastlines, and lush green vegetation are just some of the natural attractions of Madeira. With a mild climate all year long - hence the name the Island of Eternal Spring - Madeira is the perfect destination for family adventures and outdoor getaways.

View over Porto da Cruz, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

What to do?

Probably the best way to explore Madeira is by taking a road trip, which allows you not only to discover the natural beauties and beaches of Madeira but also its local culture and charming towns with plenty of history. Here you find 8 places (or things to do) on Madeira that should be on your bucket list.


1. Funchal

Cable car over Funchal, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Let’s start with the capital city of Madeira: Funchal. This cute town breathes history and charm. The Portuguese influences can be found everywhere in town with its winding streets with small tiles and inviting terraces. Due to its small size, Funchal can be perfectly explored on your own. Be sure to visit the Mercado dos Lavradores, Sé Cathedral, Jardins de Funchal, Museu Quinta das Cruzes, Museo de Vinho, and the quaint alley Rua Santa Maria, which inspires with its brightly colored and artsy front doors.


2. Quinta do Bom Successo

With the perfect climate for blossoms to flourish, Madeira counts itself with not less than 3,000 species of flowers, for which the island is also given its nickname the Flower Island. In spring, a myriad of flowers and trees are in bloom giving an amazing colorful touch to the towns and valleys. Besides, you can find various landscaped gardens on Madeira one of which is the botanical garden Quinta do Bom Successo. It is located on a hill with fantastic views over the city of Funchal. It is no less than 80,000 square meters (!) and is completely covered with peculiar flowers and plants.

Flower festival Funchal, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Tip!

If you plan a visit to Madeira in Spring, you might want to visit the yearly Flower Festival. The festival is a tribute to the flowers of the island and there are thousands and thousands of them. The most important events take place in Funchal such as the flower exhibition at the Praça da Restauração and the parade towards the Praça do Município where thousands of children place a flower at the 'Wall of Hope', to ask for peace in the world. In 2023 the Flower Festival is held between Apr 27 - May 21!


3. Hiking the Levadas

Probably the most famous and unique hiking trails in Madeira are the 'Levadas'. Madeiras 'Levadas' are historic water channels built into the mountainside to direct rainwater to the fields. Along these water channels, you find hiking trails that lead through amazing nature. A beautiful Levada walk goes along the cliffs of Ponta de São Lourenço, one of the best places on the island to admire Madeira's volcanic origins up close.

View from Pico Ruivo, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Keen hikers can as well indulge themselves in the challenging walk (8 km) called Vereda do Areeiro which connects the two highest peaks in Madeira from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. It is a spectacular walk, notable for the incredible landscapes and views.


4. Miradouro da Rocha do Navio

Cable car to Miradouro da Rocha do Navio, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

There are many amazing viewpoints on Madeira, but Miradouro da Rocha do Navio is one of the most scenic beauty spots on the northern coast of the island. It can be found between Ponta de São Jorge and Ponta do Clérigo. It is set in a Nature Reserve that was created to protect the marine fauna of this coastal area. The reserve is home to impressive cliffs, lush vegetation, and waterfalls with turquoise water.


Tip! Get up by the small cable car and enjoy the walk down a pathway to relax at the water.


5. Madeira’s traditional homes

On Madeira you can find some unique historic dwellings that were used by its inhabitants in past times, such as the cave houses of Calhau da Lapa. These historic fishermen's houses can be reached only on foot (via 700 steps), or by boat. They are set at the foot of the volcanic cliffs - near a small beach - and completely carved out of the rocks.

Traditional Palheiro Houses Santana, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Also, the town of Santana is home to some eye-catching houses: The Palheiros. These triangular-shaped houses have become the highlight of the village. The houses were made of wood and their thatched roofs are of straw; both materials were found abundantly in the region. Nowadays most houses are no anymore used as homes but as shops or museums.

Santana celebrates an annual Lemon Festival, in the parish of Ilha. Ilha produces about 25% of the island’s production! At the Lemon Festival (Festa do Limão), farmers exhibit their produce in stalls and sell cakes and traditional food with lemon as main the ingredient.


6. Get on an outdoor adventure

Madeira is an outdoor paradise not only for hikers and mountain bikers, but also watersport lovers are here on the right spot. Apart from swimming you can opt for diving, kayaking, SUP and more.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Madeira is as well excellent for snorkeling, and with water temperatures between 19 and 25 degrees celsius, it is never really cold. On your underwater adventure, you can spot moray eels, starfish and barracuda. A good snorkeling spot is Garajau Beach, east of Funchal. The beach is at the foot of a steep cliff, but you don't have to climb down yourself. A cable car takes you down after which the crystal clear waters await.

Madeira is also a good destination for surfers, both for the experienced surfers and for beginners. Paul do Mar in the Southwest of the island is known as the expert surf spot on Madeira, because of its big waves. If you are newby on the surfboard, Porto da Cruz, Machico or Seixal are the best places to go.


7. Explore the beaches

Your visit to Madeira isn't complete without enjoying some sunny moments at the beach. In addition to regular beaches with white sand, there are also beaches with black colored sand and natural pools amid the (lava) rocks in the sea. Beaches not to be missed are Seixal, Machico, Calheta, Praia Formosa, Ponta do Sol and Faial.

Seixal Beach, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

8. Taste local wine

Ponta de Sol, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Ponta do Sol - as the name suggests - is the city on the island of Madeira that has the most hours of sunshine. Incidentally, Ponta de Sol is also an excellent place to taste Madeira wine, at one of the Quintas. Here you can also experience up close how the grapes are harvested and processed. August is the month in which starts the wine harvest, and during the month you will find various wine festivals (Festa do Vinho) celebrating the new harvest.


When to go?

The best time to go to Madeira is probably in spring and autumn, with pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. The days are longer and drier in April and May and everything is in bloom. In summer and at the end of December - due to the magnificent New Year's fireworks - there are more visitors on the island.


How to go around?

If you want to see a lot of the island, a rental car is the best choice, giving you the freedom to explore the island on your own pace and enjoy its natural and cultural sights at the coast and inlands. In addition, the views while driving are spectacular and the roads are well-maintained.

How to get there?

The best way to get to Madeira is by plane. You will find direct flights from the main European cities, or you can take a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Lisbon.

Funchal Market, Madeira | The Small Adventure - adventure and family holidays

Contact us and discover more hidden gems of Madeira and find some inspiration for your next Madeira holiday in our Madeira Adventure Weeks, Madeira Family Adventures and Madeira Adventure Getaways.

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