The Madeira Archipelago is a region of Portugal, but closer to the coast of Morocco and the Canary Islands than Lisbon.
The Madeira Archipelago is a region of Portugal, but closer to the coast of Morocco and the Canary Islands than Lisbon. Madeira’s the main island and just slightly smaller than Lanzarote. World famous for a gloriously lush, green and unspoiled landscape, outdoor adventuring and eco-holidays here are the stuff of legend. The rugged north coast’s a mecca for serious surfers. 500 years of history traces around captivating towns and villages. Beaches are peaceful and dolphin and turtles and whales migrate offshore. All less than four hours flight from the UK and with year round sunshine.
Direct flights from the UK to Madeira year round, take just under four hours.
Madeira was voted ‘World’s Leading Island Destination’ in 2015 and 2016 and nominated again in 2017.
The island’s landscape is designated as a UNESCO Natural Heritage of Humanity site.
The protected Natural Park of Madeira covers more than two thirds of the island.
Santana, on the north coast of Madeira, is a UNESCO World Biosphere.
Destination Madeira has held Quality Excellence status since 2009: the award is made by the World Centre of Excellence in Destinations (CE) governed by the World Tourism Organisation; it encompasses a broad spectrum of categories including culture and heritage, visitor attractions, transport and accommodation.
Even in January, Madeira’s temperatures are seldom lower than 17˚. Summers are long and sunny with highs of 30˚ from May to October.
Relative to its size, Madeira has a good choice of places to stay. Historic 18th and 19th century Quintas (opulent estate houses) have been transformed into charming boutique hotels all over the island. Resorts range from all-inclusive, beachfront luxury to award winning eco-inns: the majority are four and five star. And there are also fun family campsites, holiday villages, pretty independent pensions and good value self-catering villas and waterfront apartments.
Madeira’s pretty capital is number six on the TripAdvisor, ‘Top Ten Cities in Europe’ list. Small enough to walk around easily, it’s packed with 500 years of history. The Portuguese roots are more Alfama than Albufeira, but there’s a strong spirit of independence and very little risk of ever mistaking Funchal for anything but its own delightful self.
The heartland of Madeira’s protected natural landscape and the island’s eco-tourism, this is where to find the Indigenous Garden and some of the quaintest heritage towns and villages.
For best weather, longest hours of hot sunshine and sheltered beaches, Ponta do Sol is Madeira’s holiday heartland. Don’t imagine high-rises and brash nightlife; the town’s elegant and historic; just lively enough to be interesting and has several outstanding hotels and beach resorts.
Sheer hillsides dropping into the Atlantic, sea waterfalls that wash over causeways, gleaming rock pools and soaring cable cars linking sea and mountains, Porto Moniz is breathtakingly beautiful and capable of some of Madeira’s highest visual drama – and the competition across the rest of the island’s strong.
The archipelago’s second largest island lies north east of Madeira, has its own airport and is best known for the enormous golden beach with stretches for an unbroken 9km along its southern coast.
From yachts to cable cars, Madeira has transport well covered but hiring a car is the best way to explore this pretty island properly with kids. It’s not large but the landscape’s very diverse, full of interesting nooks and the variety of beaches are worth a few days self-drive in themselves.
Towns and villages are all easily walkable and guided tours go everywhere. It’s not the best island for road cycling with kids: there are no marked paths or designated lanes. If you want to bike a bit, local mountain bike tours are a good bet.