Madeira is unlike most of its European island rivals in that it is not overly touristy with a hat and beach ball stand on every corner. It is in-fact an island full of history and culture, gourmet food and speciality drinks and of course some of the best surf and hiking you will find anywhere in the world.
This gives it a point of difference. Something that the others havn’t got. It has a reputation for having an older more mature tourist and this is partly true as it does not have many beaches nor does it have " The Street”. You know the one…..? the street that is just a line of bars, clubs and annoying touts, offering you the world if only you will buy a drink. If this is what you are looking for then Madeira is definitely not for you. If you like to have a great meal, some good wines and a chilled out atmosphere, then it’s certainly a place to consider for your next holiday. You don't have to be old to enjoy relaxing amongst stunning scenery and allowing yourself a real holiday of leisure over a holiday of “full on” recreation.
Here are a few tips about holidaying in Madeira.
1. Pick the right resort
- There are three main areas to stay on the island and picking the correct place is key. Although the whole island is quiet and chilled out, I would suggest Funchal for those of you who really want restaurants and bars a plenty. Funchal has lots of places to eat out, many bars and also a couple of nightclubs if you fancy it. If your looking for somewhere that's got a couple of places to walk to in the evening but is mainly quiet and a perfect base for touring the island then I would suggest Canico or Canico de Baixo. Then for those of you who want to be fairly secluded and want nothing but sea and sun then I would suggest Calheta. Calheta is a very quiet spot on the island with lots of villas and sun a plenty.
2. Eating out
- The “just off the boat” freshness of the seafood and the ripe and exotic fruit make Madeira the perfect place for foodies. With a number of local specialities, its important that you try at least one. Espada
- is a fabulous “melt in the mouth” fish. It is served usually with banana and is absolutely delicious but be sure to eat it before you see it whole, its distinct look may put you off. Espetada
– Chunks of steak are placed on a skewer with Bay leaves and Garlic butter and cooked over a grill. These are brought to the table still on the skewer and are a must if you like beef. Picado
– a sharing platter of beef cooked normally in a cream, garlic and tomato sauce (varies from region to region) with chips arranged all around the outside of the dish.
3. Road trips
– It really is a great idea to hire a car in Madeira. The island has an abundance of newly laid roads, which make it easy to get around plus it is truly beautiful and well worth getting out of the towns and cities and exploring. The cliffs, the mountains, the old world ways all add up to make great stay, a perfect holiday.
4. Porto Santo
– If you are on the island long enough (2 weeks) then you should think about a visit to its sister island - Porto Santo. This small island takes around 3 hours to get to from Funchal harbor but it’s definitely worth it for anyone missing the beach. The golden sands stretch for miles and the beach has a number of little cafes and bars dotted along it. So it’s perfect for a day of rest!
5. Cable cars and Toboggan rides
– Madeira has a number of cable cars dotted around the island but the most well known is based in Funchal. You can take the cable car to Monte and see the magnificent gardens on arrival or if that's not your thing you can just enjoy the views and a go on the famous “Toboggan” on the way back down. A popular way of getting around the island dating back to the 1800’s the Toboggan is a well-known attraction and is visited by tourists daily.
6. Winter Sun
- Madeira is known for having an all year round British Summer Time. This basically means that the temperature is fairly consistent and it often still feels like summer well into January. February and March are probably the wettest months but it never really feels as cold as the UK.
All in all Madeira is a gem of an island that has modernised rapidly without losing too much of its charm. It is a haven of tranquility and definitely somewhere you should visit if your reason for going on holiday is that you need a change of pace or somewhere to simply relax!