Madeira Islands Travel Guide | Wandering Portugal

The Madeira Islands, known for their wine, colorful gardens, stunning coastlines and more, make a fine destination for wandering travelers.

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Madeira is a group of Portuguese islands west of the coast of Africa (just north of the Canary Islands) in the Atlantic Ocean, “discovered” by Portuguese sailors between 1418 and 1420. Madeira is famous for its fortified Madeira wine, which was a hugely popular import of the early colonies in America.

If you’re coming from the east coast of the US, the islands break up your trip to the European continent.

Map of Madeira Islands Group

The main island you see on the map is Madeira Island, the largest of the island group, with a length of 57kms and 150 kilometers of coastline. Madeira island is about 520 kilometers from the west African coast and 1000 kilometers from Portugal (550 miles from Lisbon, as you can see on the map). Funchal is the largest town and is capital of Madeira Autonomous Region.

There are two airports in the island group, on Madeira and Porto Santo.

Madeira and Porto Santo Islands are the only populated islands in the group. Unlike the green Madeira, Porto Santo, called the “Golden Island” has little vegetation but its 9km long beach and moderate climate makes it a major tourist draw for folks looking for tranquility if not desolation at the edge of Europe.

Europeans have been visiting Madeira for quite a while, especially in the spring months of March and April, when the average high temperatures near 70 degrees F or around 20 degrees C. For detailed Madeira weather information in Funchal, see Madeira Weather and Climate.

Madeira Highlights

Madeira Carnival is a big attraction in Funchal, considered one of the best in Europe.

The adventurous might try Monte Toboggan Rides. The wicker sled ride and sailing on the “Santa Maria”, a real size replica of the original flagship sailed by Christopher Columbus on his expedition to America in 1492 are the subject of my video: Madeira: Unusual Transportation.

Madeira: Unusual Transportation from James Martin on Vimeo.

There are many golf courses on the Madeira Islands, especially on Porto Santo, not to mention the usual water sports: Scuba diving, surfing and boating.

Like wine? Right in the center of beautiful downtown Funchal is the Blandy Wine Lodge, which you can visit. There’s a lot of history here. If you want, you can even stay in one of their apartments.

blandy wine lodge madeira
The Blandy Wine Lodge Entrance in Funchal

The Madeira Story Center in Funchal is an interactive museum that tells the history of the Archpelago.

According to UNESCO, who have awarded it World Heritage Status, “The Laurisilva of Madeira is an outstanding relict of a previously widespread laurel forest type.” You can see the unique Modeiran long-toed pigeon if you look hard enough there. Easily reached from almost anywhere on Madeira island, the Laurisilva is a popular attraction for tourists.

Mercado dos Lavradores, or “farmers market” is a popular Friday indoor market in Funchal where you can see and buy exotic fruits, flowers, fish and legumes. It’s colorful, as are the tropical plants in the suburb of Monte.

Speaking of colorful, the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens) in Funchal displays over two thousand exotic plants both endemic and from all over the world such as Orchids, Magnolias, Azaleas, Palms, Ferns and Cacti. If more color is needed in your life, go to Monte and see even more in the legendary gardens of this Funchal suburb.

tropical flowers

Lavada Walks are popular. What’s a Lavada Walk? Well, since water was scarce on the islands, in the 16th century folks started carving canals to distribute water from the wet areas in the north of Madeira Island to the more parched areas of the south. Since the canals pass through the forest, they tend to be quite scenic.

You can explore the peaks and participate in a Lavada walk with our partner Tiquets: Tickets for Enchanted Terraces: Guided Madeira Excursion

Where to Stay in Madeira

Pousadas like the Pousada Dos Vinhaticos offer traditional cuisine in rural settings, in this case near the Laurissilva forests.

You can check out places to stay in Funchal or find places to stay on the islands on the map below (move the map or zoom in to see more).

Learn of Madeira via a “cosy” mystery novel

Joyce Summer writes, “I aim to immerse readers in the essence of the island while unraveling thrilling mysteries.”

I think it’s a painless way to determine if you’d like to visit. I mean, ignore that someone has likely died during the course of the narrative and give in to the solving of the mystery in an exotic location.

Get the book or the whole series on Amazon: Madeira Grave: A thrilling cozy Portuguese mystery

Enjoy the eternal spring of the Madeira islands!

More on the Madeira islands

The Amazing Collections of Jose Berardo

Madeira Wine Festival

Madeira Island, Reid's Palace, and the Younger Crowd

Categories Madeira Island, Travel Tips

Madeira Islands Travel Guide originally appeared on , updated: Feb 21, 2024 © .