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Discover the enchantment of Madeira: A complete guide

Welcome to the enchanting island of Madeira, a true paradise in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. With its breathtaking scenery, exciting activities, delicious food and lively festivals, Madeira is a destination that appeals to travellers from all over the world. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through the island's best activities, hikes, restaurants and festivals, for an unforgettable experience.


History and Culture :

Funchal has a rich history dating back to the 15th century when the first Portuguese settlers landed on the island. The name "Funchal" comes from the Portuguese word "funcho" meaning fennel, due to the abundant presence of this plant at the time of the island's discovery.

The city is packed with historic sites, including the Fort of São Tiago, built in the 17th century to protect the city from pirates. It now houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Palace of São Lourenço, built in the 16th century, is another major attraction, with its magnificent gardens and remarkable architecture.

Nature and Landscapes :

Madeira is often referred to as the "Flower Island" because of its lush flora and breathtaking scenery. In Funchal, don't miss the Botanical Gardens, which offer panoramic views over the city and a stunning variety of exotic plants and flowers.

The famous Monte Palace Tropical Garden is another must-see. Situated high above Funchal, this botanical garden is home to collections of plants from all over the world, peaceful lakes and waterfalls.

Outdoor activities :

Discover lush nature

Madeira is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes. The island's most emblematic natural sites include :

1. The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens:

Located high above Funchal, these gardens offer an explosion of colour and fragrance, with plants from all over the world. Address: Caminho do Monte, 174.

2. Queimada Natural Park :

This park is home to an ancient laurel forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The hiking trails offer breathtaking panoramic views. Address: Parque Natural da Queimada, São Jorge.

3. The Natural Swimming Pools of Porto Moniz :

These seawater pools, formed by lava flows, are a unique place to swim. Address: Rua do Lugar, 9270-156 Porto Moniz.

Must-see activities

As well as discovering its lush natural beauty, Madeira offers a multitude of activities to suit all tastes:

1. Dolphin and whale watching boat trip :

Meet these majestic marine mammals on an unforgettable excursion off the coast of Madeira. Port address: Marina do Funchal, Avenida do Mar.

2. Visit to Madeira's wine cellars:

Discover the history and production of this renowned wine on a guided tour of one of the island's many wine cellars. Address: Blandy's Wine Lodge, Avenida Arriaga, 28.

3. Paragliding over the bay of Funchal :

Treat yourself to a breathtaking view of the city and the Atlantic Ocean on a tandem flight with a qualified instructor. Departure address: Pico dos Barcelos, 9000-073 Funchal.

Ride down the streets of the village of Monte to Funchal in a Carros de Cesto, Madeira's famous wicker sled.

Breathtaking walks

Madeira is a hiker's paradise, with spectacular trails offering breathtaking panoramas. Here are some of the most popular walks:

Levada do Caldeirão Verde

The Levada do Caldeirão Verde is one of Madeira's most emblematic hikes. This 13-kilometre trail takes you through lush forests, along ancient irrigation channels and to a spectacular waterfall nestled in the heart of a volcanic crater.

Pico Ruivo

For a more demanding adventure, head for Madeira's highest point: Pico Ruivo. This hike will take you through lunar landscapes, with breathtaking panoramic views over the whole island.

Ponta de São Lourenço

If you're looking for a unique experience, don't miss the Ponta de São Lourenço hike. This coastal path offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, with its sheer cliffs, secluded coves and unique flora.

Pico Ruivo

For a more demanding adventure, head for Madeira's highest point: Pico Ruivo. This hike will take you through lunar landscapes, with breathtaking panoramic views over the whole island.

Ponta de São Lourenço

If you're looking for a unique experience, don't miss the Ponta de São Lourenço hike. This coastal path offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, with its sheer cliffs, secluded coves and unique flora.


A levada in Madeira is a type of irrigation canal, specific to the Portuguese island of Madeira. These canals are built along mountain slopes to transport water from areas where it is abundant to the more arid regions of the island. Levadas were originally built in the 16th century by Portuguese settlers to irrigate crops and provide drinking water for villages.

Over time, the levadas became essential not only for the island's agriculture, but also for tourism. Today, many hiking trails follow the route of the levadas, offering visitors the chance to discover Madeira's magnificent natural landscapes. These trails are often easy to navigate, offering spectacular views of the mountains, valleys and even waterfalls that dot the island. The levadas are therefore both a crucial part of Madeira's infrastructure and a major tourist attraction.

Water sports :

For water sports enthusiasts, Madeira offers a multitude of options, including scuba diving, surfing, sailing and windsurfing. The island's black sand beaches also offer excellent conditions for swimming and relaxing in the sun.

Gastronomy :

Madeira Gastronomy: A Feast for the Senses

Madeira's cuisine is a delicious blend of Portuguese, African and even South American influences. Through its traditional dishes, you will discover the history and culture of this fascinating island. Here are a few must-try dishes to savour during your visit:

  1. Espetada: A Madeira speciality, espetada is a delicious meat dish, usually beef or lamb, marinated in local spices and then grilled on skewers. Accompanied by baked potatoes and fresh vegetables, it's a treat for carnivores.

  2. Bolo do Caco: This round bread baked on a stone slab is a staple of Madeiran cuisine. Served warm with garlic butter and fresh herbs, it's a simple but incredibly tasty delight.

  3. Lapas: If you're a seafood lover, don't miss lapas, local molluscs that are usually grilled and served with garlic butter. Their firm texture and sea flavour will literally transport you to the waters of the Atlantic.

  4. Poncha: To accompany your meals, try poncha, a traditional Madeira drink made with rum, honey and lemon juice. Refreshing and invigorating, it's the perfect choice for relaxing after a day of exploring.

Traffic on the island

Madeira, one of the pearls of the Atlantic, is famous for its breathtaking scenery, towering cliffs, lush valleys and winding roads offering incomparable panoramic views. Exploring this Portuguese island by car is an unforgettable experience, but it requires a thorough understanding of the roads and driving conditions. Here's everything you need to know about Madeira's roads to make the most of your trip.

1. Types of Road

  • Main Roads (E.R.) : The main roads link the island's main towns and tourist attractions. They are generally well maintained and offer spectacular views.

  • Secondary Roads (SR.) : These roads wind through mountains and valleys, offering stunning views but sometimes narrow and winding.

  • Coastal Roads : These roads offer stunning coastal panoramas but can be narrow with steep bends..

2. Conditions of Conduct.

  • Tight bends : Madeira's roads are famous for their hairpin bends. Drive carefully and respect the speed limits.

  • Narrowness : Some roads can be narrow, especially in mountainous areas. Watch out for oncoming traffic..

  • Weather Conditions : Weather conditions can change rapidly in Madeira. Be prepared for rain, wind and fog, especially at higher altitudes.

  • Road Signs : Road signs are generally in Portuguese. Familiarise yourself with the symbols and directions before you set off.

3. Recommended routes

  • The Encumeada Route : This route links Ribeira Brava to São Vicente, offering magnificent views of the mountains and north coast.

  • The East Coast Road : From Machico to Santana, this road runs along the east coast of the island, offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • The Levadas Route : Explore the levadas accessible by car, such as the Levada dos Tornos near Funchal, for a unique experience in the heart of nature.

4. Driving Tips

  • Hire a car suited to mountain roads, such as a small compact car.

  • Use a GPS or navigation app to find your way.

  • Take frequent breaks to enjoy the views and rest.

  • Respect nature and other drivers on the road.

More than 150 tunnels

Madeira's tunnels, also known as "road tunnels", are road infrastructures specific to the island of Madeira, located in the Atlantic Ocean around 900 kilometres south-west of mainland Portugal. These tunnels play a crucial role in the island's connectivity, providing access routes to some of Madeira's most remote and mountainous regions.

Voici quelques informations détaillées sur les tunnels de Madère :

  1. History : Madeira's tunnels began to be built in the 1950s to improve accessibility across the island, particularly in mountainous areas where winding, narrow roads were often subject to closure due to landslides or other extreme weather conditions.

  2. Engineering : The engineering of Madeira's tunnels is remarkable, as it often involves drilling through steep rocky mountains. Some tunnels are relatively short, while others can stretch for several kilometres. Some even have inclined sections, making driving in Madeira a unique experience.

  3. Safety : Safety is a major priority in the design and maintenance of Madeira's tunnels. Adequate lighting systems, ventilation devices and advanced safety measures are put in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.

  4. Role in tourism : Madeira's tunnels have helped open up previously isolated areas of the island to tourism. Travellers can now easily access destinations such as the mountain village of Curral das Freiras or remote coastal regions.

  5. Challenges and maintenance : Due to the island's mountainous topography and sometimes harsh climate, Madeira's tunnels require regular maintenance to prevent landslides, water ingress and other potential problems. Teams of engineers and technicians are constantly working to ensure that the tunnels remain safe and functional.

  6. Driving Experience : Driving through Madeira's tunnels is often described as a memorable experience. The spectacular views from the tunnel windows and the unique sensations of driving through mountains and coastal landscapes make it an unforgettable experience for many visitors.


Navigating Madeira's roads can be a thrilling adventure, offering breathtaking views and lasting memories. By respecting driving conditions and exploring with care, you'll discover the rugged beauty of this unique island. Prepare to be amazed by every twist and turn and every unexpected view.

Festivals and events :

Madeira is also known for its lively festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Here are some of the island's most popular festivals:

  1. Flower Festival (Festa da Flor) - Usually celebrated in April/May, this festival showcases the beauty of the island's flowers with colourful parades and floral displays.

  2. Madeira Carnival - This lively carnival takes place in February and features street parades, extravagant costumes, music and dancing.

  3. Festival de l'Atlantique (Festival do Atlântico) - This maritime festival takes place in June and July, featuring firework displays, illuminated boat parades and open-air concerts.

  4. Madeira Wine Festival (Festa do Vinho Madeira) - Held in September, this festival celebrates the island's renowned wines with tastings, parades and gastronomic events.

  5. Festival of Hope (Festa da Esperança) - A major religious celebration held in Monte in September, with processions, prayers and religious traditions.

  6. Colombo Festival (Festival Colombo) - In September, this festival pays tribute to the Portuguese explorer Christopher Columbus, who was born in Madeira. It includes cultural and historical events.

  7. Festival de l'Atlantide (Festival Atlântida) - An artistic and cultural event held in July and August, with theatrical, musical and artistic performances.

  8. Christmas - Madeira also celebrates the festive season with brightly lit decorations, Christmas markets and festive events throughout the archipelago.

Don't forget to check the precise dates and details of these events before planning your trip, as they can vary from year to year.

In conclusion: Don't hesitate to visit the island in at least 7 days. The west coast is magnificent for its sunsets, hiking and natural pools. The east coast is greener and the Levadas are incredible. The city of Funchal and the surrounding area are a must-see.


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