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Pocket Guide: Madeira Island

Madeira Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Atlantic so there’s no shortage of excellent hotels to stay in. Madeira’s archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean, about 700 km west of the African coast and 450 km north of the Canary Islands. This archipelago is formed of Madeira Island, Porto Santo Island, the Desertas and the Selvagens Islands. Only the two largest, Madeira and Porto Santo, are inhabited and they can be accessed via Madeira Airport or Porto Santo Airport.

The islands are renowned for good wine, great seafood, beautiful natural scenery, welcoming hospitality, excellent hotels and sun all year round, with average temperatures of 25ºC in the summer and 17ºC in the winter.

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is a city with centuries of history and its location offers easy access to a number of beautiful locations around the island. From great seafood to historic landmarks and beautiful mountain treks, Madeira will surprise you with its diversity and beauty.


The history of Madeira dates back to 1419, when the island was discovered by the Portuguese explorers João Gonçalves Zarco, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and Tristão Vaz Teixeira. The colonisation of the islands began in 1425, soon to become a mandatory port of call for European trade routes, especially for sugar and wine. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Madeira became a popular tourism destination and a retreat for the European aristocracy, thanks to its therapeutic climate, beneficial to the treatment of tuberculosis. In 1976, Madeira became an Autonomous Region of Portugal, having the power to legislate. Today, the main revenue of Madeira’s economy comes from tourism.

Things to Do

Once you reach Madeira, there’s no shortage of things to do. When you find your head above the clouds, you’ll know you have reached one of the highest peaks in Madeira, Pico do Areiro, which stands at 1818 meters altitude. Discover Madeira by walking along ‘levadas’ (man made water channels in the hills), riding an all-terrain bike in the mountains, surfing or diving the ocean, canyoning through streams of water flowing down the mountains, climbing the basaltic rock cliffs or simply strolling along one of Funchal’s beautiful avenues with beautiful jacaranda trees and gardens full of flowers. You can also play golf surrounded by beautiful scenery or take a boat trip along the coast and watch dolphins and whales.

If peace and relaxation is all you want, go birdwatching in the Laurissilva Forest or take a ferry boat to Porto Santo Island and treat yourself to a lazy holiday in the lap of pristine, golden sand beaches.


Madeira’s most popular dishes include black scabbard fish, tuna fish and beef kebabs, locally known as ‘espetada’. ‘Limpets’, small aquatic snails with a shell that is attached to the sea rocks, are also popular delicacies. They’re usually cooked with garlic and lemon juice and served with local garlic bread, ‘bolo do caco’. Don’t forget to sample the local wine and beer.


If you are looking for nightlife a good option is to stay in a hotel near the old town or the Lido area, both in Funchal. Madeira has also a casino, and a great selection of restaurants, bars and clubs.


There's great shopping throughout the city of Funchal. Notable are the Farmer’s Markets for local food and flowers, Rua Fernão de Ornelas or the streets around the Sé Cathedral. Bigger shopping centers like Forum Madeira, Madeira Shopping and ‘La vie’ shopping are excellent places for finding food, clothing and gifts. Madeira is also popular for its honey cake and beautiful handmade embroidery.

Whether you want a cheap Madeira hotel located by the mountains or a luxury 5 star hotel by the sea, Madeira has you covered when it comes to accommodation options.