Yes, even in January it’s so warm, you can walk in a dress. Madeira is also very known as an island of eternal spring and a perfect direction for a quick winter escape. It’s only a few hours flying from northern Europe and you can enjoy the sun in the middle of January. Of course, at that time you won’t be able to swim in the ocean. And yet there is so much you would enjoy on the island.
Madeira – is the top of a giant underwater volcano. Like at any vertex there is no flat surface. Therefore, local houses are located directly on the slopes of the mountains in the most specific places. First, the orange roofs spoil natural views. But then you realize an advantage. In every beautiful place, would it be a cliff or the jungle there would be a bus stop or view-point cafes. Therefore Madeira is often considered a retirees recreation destination.
11 best things you have to do and to try in Madeira
1. Take a walk along the streets of Funchal.
Feel the atmosphere of the island of Portugal, listen to the music of street musicians, look at the buildings and envy the European pensioners who can afford to relax here. Do not wait for a riot of exotic and natural colors, it will start tomorrow!
2. Climb Mount Monte
Enter the Botanical Garden. There are amazing views. And right on the top, you can relax in a cafe on a balcony. Get back on a toboggan. It is super extremal and unique.
3. Try exotic fruits in a central market.
There are a million varieties of passion fruit (attention, just try, not all of them are tasty and deserve to be bought at this sky-high price), some types of ananas and a very unique fruit – bananas, which is a mix of banana and ananas.
4. Eat pastel de nata with coffee in a cozy cafe
These pasteles de nata… You can’t find the same taste of this pasty anywhere else.
I even wrote about this dessert in my article: Food worth traveling for – The best meals all around the world.
P.S.: the drink on the photo is called poncho. It is also a local alcoholic maracuja drink. Must-try.
5. Get to the Cape San Lorenzo
From Funchal there is a regular bus, cross the trail with breathtaking views. Cape San Lorenzo is the only place on the island where turning around its entire axis, you will not see anything but huge mountains with cliffs, an immense ocean, and flying gulls, and finally, you can feel at the edge of the world.
Attention: get to the very end, otherwise, it’s not fair. Do not forget to bring water and food for a picnic! And check the schedule of the return bus, so as not to hang even longer.
6. Watch the planes
The airport of Madeira is one of the most difficult to land the plane. So the airplanes landing is kind of a real extreme show.
7. Try local cuisine
I recommend you to have dinner in one of the Funchal restaurants. There you can try a famous meal which is Espada fish and fried bananas. Then have a walk around the promenade.
8. Visit Capo Girao
There you will find another amazing view and a viewpoint. You can have a lunch with a view in the cafe on the cape.
9. Climb the trail Areira Peak – Ruivo Peak
Get up early! Take the full day to climb the trail Areira Peak – Ruivo Peak. Cross the track “above the sky” in one direction and never again say that Madeira is for pensioners.
10. Swim in the lava pool at Porto Moniz
Lava pool in Madeira is kind of the same thing as a natural pool in Aruba or Caribbeans but more civil. Here you have the changing rooms and the pool is decorated with hand-made materials, so it is not basically lava pool.
11. Go off-road
Take a car or a jeep or a jeep-tour for 1 day and drive off-road. Take the direction to the north of the island, so you will see the most different views: mountains, plains, forests, and the coast. The good option is to have a picnic in nature.
ATTENTION: Here, roads are often duplicated. So there are the concepts of “old tunnel” and “new tunnel” and “old road” and “new road”. The island has very strong and unpredictable underground currents. They erode the roads in the mountains, so people have to build a new one next to the collapsed tunnel, and close the old one.
How to economize on Madeira?
Remember one word – “bus”. There are bus stops even at the edge of the world places. Therefore, to get to a cool place: Cape San Lorenzo, Cabo Girao, Mount Monte – you do not need to pay extra for excursions and funiculars, just take the bus.
Car rental. Madeira is perhaps the only island where I will not advise renting a car. Yes, this would facilitate time planning, but to drive here you need to be too advanced an extreme. Too narrow roads, too strong serpentine, too difficult to park.
Rent an apartment. Not a hotel. We paid 120 euros for 5 nights in a studio apartment in the center of Funchal. So I would really advise you to rent Airbnb. Besides you can have my special 30$ discount for the first purchase.