Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is a bustling and modern city surrounded by hills. Its history and culture attract hordes of visitors, with many cruise ships docking at its port. Visit the many museums in the centre, sample traditional cuisine, relax at botanical gardens, or just walk around to see how the locals live. The picturesque fishing village of Camara de Lobos, reputed to be Winston Churchill’s preferred painting spot, is another must-see. To cool off on hot days, drive inland towards Prazeres, which is surrounded by verdant forests and mountains. If you're into underwater sports, check out the long, sandy beach and excellent dive sites at Porto Santo Island. Its capital, Vila Baleira, is home to the Christopher Columbus House Museum, which houses interesting exhibitions and photos on maritime history.
Surfers will love riding the waves in Sao Vicente, in the north of Madeira. The waves here are reported to be some of the best in Europe. Madeira is also a hiker’s paradise, with over 1,000km of footpaths along the levadas, or aqueducts. The PR1 Vereda do Areeiro trail connects two of the highest summits of Madeira – Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro – and offers stunning vistas. If you're staying in Funchal, venture on a cable-car ride for breathtaking views of the island. The cable car will bring you up to the Madeira Botanical Garden, which was established in 1881 and is considered one of the most picturesque areas in the region. If you have time to spare, swing by the Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal’s main market. The art-deco structure, built in the 1940s, is embellished with striking azulejo tiling from mainland Portugal.
Oval-shaped Madeira is characterised by high peaks, deep ravines, expansive laurel forest, and cliffs. The main island is blessed with a subtropical climate, with the northern part being wetter than the south. The other islands in the archipelago are semi-arid. Although it enjoys a Mediterranean climate, the island is in the north Atlantic Ocean and southwest of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. The beaches are mainly rocky. Madeira’s agriculture sector thrives due to its fertile soil and favourable climate. The Madeiran diet focuses on fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables. Bananas, flowers, and grapes are important crops. Industrial activity on the archipelago is diverse, ranging from dairy to pasta to construction material production. The engine of its economy, however, is the leisure sector – the island is one of Europe's most attractive travel destinations.
|Time-Zones||Western European Time|
There are two airports serving Madeira: Cristiano Ronaldo International and Porto Santo. The former, which services connections to Lisbon and major European cities, is the fourth-busiest airport in the country. Porto Santo receives flights from Funchal and has seasonal connections with mainland Europe and the UK. The ferries in Porto Santo are often used to travel between the islands. As public transport is limited, most visitors rent a car on Madeira. The minimum age to drive is 18, and surcharges apply for drivers under 25 renting a car in Madeira. Drivers must also have held their licence for at least a year. Madeirans drive on the right-hand side of the road, passing on the left. As the islands are mainly mountainous, expect hairpins and bends. Respect the speed limits, which are 50km/h in built-up areas, 90-100km/h on open roads, and 120km/h on motorways. The blood-alcohol limit is 0.05%.