Perfect for a Holiday Any Time of the Year
Madeira is an archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 kilometers from land, in this case the continent of Africa. It’s about a thousand or so miles south from Portugal. Why mention Portugal, not Spain or France or some other European nation? Like another Atlantic Ocean archipelago, the Azores, Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal. Thanks to early 15th century explorations of sea captains under Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal extended its reach far away from its continental home.
Known now for Madeira wine and beautiful gardens, Madeira’s first residents survived and thrived on the growing and export of sugar cane and beets to Europe. Despite its relatively short history, there are plenty of sights for the visitor of historical interest. Added to this are beautiful beaches (though with dark sand), modern and luxurious resorts, many opportunities for sports for the active tourist, and a lovely climate. Madeira boasts a million or more visitors a year and its capital Funchal’s harbor is a popular port of call for many cruise lines.
So what can you do in Funchal should your cruise itinerary include this city?
Funchal occupies land between the Atlantic Ocean on the south side of Madeira and the surrounding hills forcing the city to grow up the gentle slopes to as much as 4000 ft above sea level. Luckily, you can visit much of the city center on foot with no climbing but there are always buses, taxi and cable cars to extend one’s reach. A good place to get the “feel” of Madeira is the museum, Madeira Story Centre, and another is one of the most visited spots on the island, the historical and beautiful Se Cathedral dating from the early 1500’s.
If you tire of wandering the winding streets of the old town take the cable car up to Monte. There you can enjoy the cooler air of the higher altitude, visit the Monte cathedral and the Palace Hotel Gardens which boast a small lake, Chinese Garden and beautiful views down to the sea. You can take a cable car down to another garden, the Madeira Botanical Gardens which has thousands of plants on display plus a collection of brightly hued parrots and parakeets. And don’t miss the Jardins Do Palheiro, another magical green space with plants from all over the world arranged in various themed gardens. For those who like golf, the Palheiro Golf Course is just next door. Like to stroll along the sea? Just outside of the city is a beautiful lido with a walkway that meanders to Praia Formosa beach with a view of Europe’s highest cliff, the Cabo Girao. This area also has marvelous pools and high end resorts and restaurants.
But the best part of visiting Funchal and Madeira is the agreeable climate which is never too hot or too cold for most visitors, and this holds true no matter what time of year you are fortunate to visit here.
This article was written by D. MacIntyre of Compass Media for Set Sail, a blog from Cruise Holidays of Burlington.