Madeira

Written By Lara Silva

It’s not surprising that over 1 million tourists travel to Madeira every year. Not only is it one of the safest travel destinations in the world, but tourists can also enjoy an all-year-round summer climate, gorgeous landscapes, and tropical-like beaches. Madeira was elected the  “World’s Leading Island Destination” from 2015 to 2021 by the World Travel Awards.

Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal, like the Azores. It’s an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, 400 kilometers to the north of the Canary Islands. The archipelago includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas. Around 250,000 people live on the island and the capital is Funchal. For soccer fans, Funchal is the hometown of Cristiano Ronaldo. The airport is actually named after him!

Things to do in Madeira Portugal

1. Enjoy the Views from Miradouros

Madeira has plenty of miradouros (viewpoints) that provide gorgeous views. The best way to get to these are definitely by car. The most famous viewpoints in Madeira are Miradouro Pico dos Barcelos in Funchal and in Porto Santo, Miradouro da Portela. If you have time, also stop by these miradouros: Balcoes, Veu da Noiva and Eira da Achada.

Photo by Dimitry B (Unsplash)

2. Take a Ride on a Cable Car

The cable cars in Madeira are a great way to see the island and ocean views. This is the perfect activity for the whole family. The best cable car is the one in Funchal, a 20-minute ride that goes up to 560 meters high. We also recommend the Achadas da Cruz cable car, on the Northern part of Madeira in Porto Moniz. This cable car is around 450 meters high and passes through the Fajã da Quebrada Nova where you can see crystal clear waters.

Photo by Daniele Franchi (Unsplash)

3. Madeira Dolphin and Whale Watching

Madeira is known all over the world for dolphin and whale watching. There are over 20 dolphin species and around 3 whale species you can spot. The best time to see whales, in particular, is between April and October, although the pilot and sperm whales can be seen at any season. You won’t have any problem spotting dolphins as these are around all year. You must book a tour to go dolphin and whale watching, where you will learn more about these amazing marine life animals. We recommend the following tours:

Photo by adege (Pixabay)

See more dolphin and whale watching experiences in Madeira

4. Best Beaches in Madeira Portugal

Madeira and Porto Santo are a hotspot for tourists for many reasons, but predominantly its quality beaches. You have beaches all over the island that feature gorgeous rock and mountain views. Water temperatures are warm all year round, rating between 19°(66°F) in the winter and 24°C (75°F) in the summer. The best month to visit for warm water and the perfect beach days is in September. The beach options in Madeira are endless so luckily we have selected the best beaches in Madeira Portugal:

  • Porto do Seixal beach (sandy)
  • Porto Santo Beach (sandy)
  • Praia do Vigário (pebbles)
  • Machico Bay Beach (sandy)
  • Prainha Beach (sandy)
Photo by Daniele Franchi (Unsplash)

5. Experience the “Basket Cars”

A quirky transportation method in Madeira are the “basket cars”, with more than one hundred years of history. These cars are made of wood and wicker and can carry two to three people. The most fun part is that these basket cars are literally a big basket going down a two kilometers hill with no mechanical breaks, only controlled by two specialized men who make this experience unforgettable.

6. Take a Guided Tour

Madeira has a lot to offer and discovering the island with the help of an expert local provides a unique experience. No more spending time in touristy attractions filled with people, it’s time to visit Madeira like a local! Here are the best guided tours in Madeira for a memorable trip:

See All Tours in Madeira

5 Best Restaurants in Madeira Portugal: Where to eat in Madeira?

1. O Celeiro Restaurant

Highly praised by locals, O Celeiro is located in downtown Funchal and was founded in 1986, making it one of the oldest restaurants in the region. Its interior is decorated with dark woods, regional tapestries, and Portuguese tiles. This typical restaurant has a variety of Portuguese food as well as dishes specific to Madeira. You can enjoy their regional dishes on this place’s outdoor terrace. We recommend their codfish and octopus, as well as their steaks. A meal here is around €15.

2. Restaurante Il Gallo D’Oro

This restaurant has two Michelin stars and is part of the 5-star hotel in Funchal called The Cliff Bay. Il Gallo d’Oro was the first restaurant in Madeira to receive a Michelin star in 2009. It is also known for sustainability in its gastronomy and was awarded a “Green Star” by the Michelin guide for this reason. Chef Benoît Sinthon produces aromatic cuisine that is inspired by Iberian cookies and sources many ingredients from the PortoBay garden. The cuisine showcases regional products from Madeira. You can get a meal here for €75.

3. Quinta do Furão

Located in the Quinta do Furão hotel in Santana, this restaurant opened in 1993 and features regional dishes from Madeira, as well as international cuisine. The restaurant has two main spaces: an interior room with high walls, a wooden ceiling, and two fireplaces, as well as an outside area with a terrace offering a breathtaking view. We recommend the oxtail soup and the slow-cooked lamb leg. This restaurant also has plenty of vegetarian options. You can get a meal here for €20.

4. Zarcos

Known for its large portions, Zarcos, located in Funchal, offers Madeirense dishes and traditional Portuguese food. The interior is decorated in an authentic Portuguese atmosphere, with wooden touches and stoned walls. The restaurant also has a terrace where you can try some food and enjoy a sea view. They specialize in meat dishes cooked in a fire barbecue. We recommend their sauce pepper steak. You can get a meal here for €10 to €15.

5. The Snug

The Snug is a modern smokehouse located in the Old Town that has an inviting atmosphere and is well-known for its friendly hospitality. They serve international food like American burgers, as well as traditional Portuguese food and Madeirense dishes. They also offer vegan and vegetarian options. We recommend trying their tasty milkshakes, burgers, and sardines. You can get a meal here for €15.

Transportation in Madeira Portugal: How to get around Madeira

The best way to get around Madeira is by renting a car. You can pick up and return a car at the airport. You can rent a car starting at €35 for 3 days. Are Madeira roads safe to drive on? Definitely. There are three types of roads in Madeira: highways, uphill double lane roads, and narrow steep roads. Make sure to drive slowly on the latter and you will be safe.

You can also make use of public transportation in Madeira. The bus system in Madeira is affordable and very reliable. There are four transport companies in Madeira: Horários do Funchal, SAM, Rodoeste and EACL (Empresa de Autocarros do Caniço). They all offer cheap prices and can get you around the island easily.

Photo by Lili Kovac (Unsplash)

9 Best Hotels in Madeira: Where to stay in Madeira Portugal?

Wondering where to stay in Madeira Portugal? Madeira hotels are some of the best and most affordable in Portugal. From cheap hotels to luxurious 5-star experiences, the accommodation options in Madeira are endless. Here are the best 9 hotels in Madeira, at a variety of price points.

1. Saccharum – Resort & Spa – Savoy Signature

Located on Madeira island, this 5-star hotel offers a mindblowing view of Calheta Beach with a rooftop infinity pool. The Saccharum has all the facilities you need for a luxurious experience. From a restaurant and terraces to four bars and a spa with an indoor pool, the Saccharum is one of the best hotels in Madeira. Every room in this hotel is designed by a different local artist on the theme of sugar cane. The hotel also offers self-catering apartments. A double-room costs €126 a night and prices go up to €350 depending on the room size and the number of guests.

2. Three House Hotel

Three House Hotel is a trendy 4-star hotel in Funchal that does not disappoint. The gorgeous interior features family rooms, a bar, a front desk, and a restaurant. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool with views of the ocean. All units come with a private bathroom and kitchen. You can even play table tennis at the Three House Hostel! This place is only 10 kilometers from the airport and is super close to Marina do Funchal. A room here costs around €120.

3. Savoy Palace – The Leading Hotels of the World – Savoy Signature

Savoy Palace offers one of the best seaside views of Funchal. This 5-star hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, as well as a shared lounge, restaurant, bar, and terrace. What more could you need for a luxury vacation? Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a relaxing seating area, and a large private bathroom. Some units also feature a kitchen with all the necessary appliances. A double room with a buffet breakfast included starts at €200 here. The presidential suite, the most expensive in the whole hotel, costs around €5,000.

4. Pestana Churchill Bay

Located in Câmara de Lobos, Pestana Churchill Bay offers panoramic views of the bay which guests can enjoy from the outdoor swimming pool. This 4-star hotel by Pestana also has a well-renowned restaurant that features traditional Portuguese food, as well as vegan options. Every room is decorated by an interior designer and is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and a balcony. You can book a room here for €150.

5. Hotel Cajú

Hotel Cajú is a 4-star hotel, located in Funchal that is well-reviewed by guests in the region. This hotel is only a few minutes away from Madeira Casino and the Funchal Cathedral. The perfect place to enjoy some room service in bed, this hotel also features an in-house restaurant, a gym, and a bar. Every unit is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and air conditioning for those hot summer days. You can book a room here for €130.

6. Aqua Natura Bay

Located in Porto Moniz, Aqua Natura Bay is a 4-star hotel that feels more like a 5-star hotel. This place has both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a sauna, and a hot tub. Last but not least, Aqua Natura Bay even features an on-site diving center, perfect for nature lovers. The on-site restaurant showcases local products and serves a buffet breakfast every morning. This hotel is only 10 minutes away from the waterfalls and Madeira’s forest. You can get a room here starting at €85.

7. ARTS IN Hotel Conde Carvalhal

A 4-star hotel, ARTS IN Hotel Conde Carvalhal, is situated in a modern mansion, a few minutes from Funchal’s Old Town. This hotel features peaceful botanical gardens and terraces that offer a view of the sea. The modern rooms have beautiful wooden floors and flat-screen TVs. Some of their studios even offer a balcony and a small kitchen for guests to enjoy. The hotel has one of the best breakfasts on the island featuring local and organic products like fruits, pastries, and eggs. You can book a high-quality massage at the spa, as well as book a scooter or bicycle rental to explore the island. You can get a room here for €100.

8. Pestana Casino Park Hotel & Casino

Pestana Casino Park Hotel & Casino is a 5-star hotel that has a view overlooking the Bay of Funchal. A 5-minute walk from the center, this Pestana Hotel features a spa, a casino, and even a disco for dancing. This large hotel has 6 restaurants, the most well-known being the Panoramic Restaurant that provides views of the Bay and pool, as well as the Sunset Restaurant that features a cocktail bar. Each room has a private balcony, a setting area, and a satellite LCD TV. You can get a room here for €110.

9. Vila Camacho Guest House

An affordable guest house in Funchal, Vila Camacho is located close to the Funchal Marina. This quaint Guest House has a communal garden, terrace, and an outdoor swimming pool for guests to enjoy. Each room features a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and a balcony or terrace. Guests are also served a large continental breakfast that is included in the room rate. You can book a room at Vila Camacho for €50.

Frequently Asked Questions about Madeira, Portugal

Madeira Location: Where is Madeira Portugal?

Madeira is an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, in the African plate, over 900 KM south of Portugal and over 700 KM west of the African coast. Even though it is quite far from Portugal, it is considered an autonomous region of Portugal, like the Azores. 

Madeira Weather: What is the weather like in Madeira Portugal?

 

Weather in Madeira Average daytime temperature

 

Madeira Weather in January

  • Average temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • High temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 108 mm
  • Rainfall days 13 days

Madeira Weather in February

  • Average temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • High temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 72 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in March

  • Average temperature 16.5°C (62°F)
  • High temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 52 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in April

  • Average temperature 16.5°C (62°F)
  • High temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 60 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in May

  • Average temperature 18.5°C (65°F)
  • High temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • Low temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • Rainfall 15 mm
  • Rainfall days 8 days

Madeira Weather in June

  • Average temperature 20.5°C (69°F)
  • High temperature 23°C (73°F)
  • Low temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Rainfall 9 mm
  • Rainfall days 5 days

Madeira Weather in July

  • Average temperature 21.5°C (71°F)
  • High temperature 24°C (75°F)
  • Low temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Rainfall 6 mm
  • Rainfall days 4 days

Madeira Weather in August

  • Average temperature 22.5°C (73°F)
  • High temperature 25°C (77°F)
  • Low temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Rainfall 3 mm
  • Rainfall days 4 days

Madeira Weather in September

  • Average temperature 22.5°C (73°F)
  • High temperature 25°C (77°F)
  • Low temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Rainfall 36 mm
  • Rainfall days 9 days

Madeira Weather in October

  • Average temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • High temperature 23°C (73°F)
  • Low temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Rainfall 90 mm
  • Rainfall days 12 days

Madeira Weather in November

  • Average temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • High temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • Low temperature 17°C (63°F)
  • Rainfall 90 mm
  • Rainfall days 12 days

Madeira Weather in December

  • Average temperature 17.5°C (64°F)
  • High temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Low temperature 15°C (59°F)
  • Rainfall 81 mm
  • Rainfall days 16 days

Is Madeira expensive? What is the cost of living in Madeira Portugal?

Madeira is a cheap place and the cost of living is quite low. Let’s go through the prices of most products and services in Madeira.

  • A meal for two people will cost you around €15 to €30
  • A half a liter beer costs €2.
  • A one-way ticket for local transportation will not cost you more than €2.
  • A mid-range bottle of wine costs €3.
  • A one-bedroom in the city center to rent as housing costs between €300 and €700 a month.

Retire in Madeira: Is Madeira Portugal a good place to retire?

Madeira is a good place to retire. The retirement community in Madeira is quite large, with expats coming from all over the world, but mostly from the US and UK. Madeira is not only an affordable place to be, but expats can also access the public healthcare system, as well as other services at a great price. It’s a great place to purchase a house and the climate is mild, making Madeira the perfect place to retire for a slow-paced life.

Madeira COVID Entry Requirements: Can you travel to Madeira Portugal during COVID?

As of January 2021, the COVID entry requirements for Madeira are simple. The thing that all passengers alike must do is complete a survey at madeirasafe.com. This can be done 48h prior to arrival in Madeira. Let’s take a look at the Madeira Covid Entry Requirements.

You can travel to Madeira without testing if:

  • You are completely vaccinated from the labs Astrazeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Sinovac/Instituto Buntantan, Instituto Gambaleya (Sputnik V), and Sinopharm (VeroCell). However, you need to follow the activation period of the immune system of 14 days;
  • Or have a certificate of recovery issued in the last 90 days;
  • Or you have a European Union Digital Covid Certificate.

If these last requirements do not apply to you:

  • You need to carry a negative Rapid Antigen Test (TRAg) for COVID-19, carried out within 48 hours prior to boarding by a certified lab;
  • Or you can take a Rapid Antigen Test (TRAg) at arrival at the airport for free.

If you are traveling between Madeira and Porto Santo:

  • You must show  a vaccination certificate against COVID-19;
  • Or a Rapid Antigen Test (TRAg) screening test, carried out within a maximum period of 7 days prior to boarding.
  • The following are exempt from testing: children up to 11 years old, those carrying a European Union Digital Covid Certificate, and those with a Certificate of Recovery issued in the last 90 days).

What happens if you test positive in Madeira:

  • If a passenger tests positive, they must go into mandatory confinement for 10 days at a hotel, home, or health establishment. This will be decided by the health authorities.

Travel to Madeira from the UK: How can you travel to Madeira Portugal from the UK?

You can easily and affordable travel to Madeira Portugal from the UK. You can travel from various cities in the UK directly to Madeira. The flight is around 4 hours and costs a minimum of €60 usually. The following airports have flights to Madeira:

  • Birmingham Airport
  • Bristol Airport
  • East Midlands Airport
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Glasgow Airport
  • Leeds Airport
  • Luton Airport
  • London Heathrow
  • Manchester Airport

Is Madeira Portugal family-friendly?

Madeira Portugal is a family-friend vacation place. The whole family can enjoy natural pools, beaches, playgrounds, and gardens that are suitable for all ages. Madeira is also incredibly safe and has low crime rates, making it a great place to visit with kids.

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