The island of Madeira is a really magical place. It still belongs to Europe, but is already exotic for us, europeans. Easy reachable with flights from Portugal or charter flights organised by Tui or other tour agencies. As it belongs to Portugal there is Euro there. So this magical place was long time on my list to do and finally I can share my experience there and share my mistakes and advices so your trip would bring you only joy and great emotions.
Stay with Airbnb
Airbnb is a great idea almost all the time while traveling, but in Madeira especially. As there are not so many jobs, people rent their places and they are amazing! I mean most of the hotels I checked, were close to Funchal (the capital), so that means touristic prices around, difficult to drive and park and so on. Of course, if you do not want to rent a car – stay in a hotel and you can book tours in all island. Airbnb we have stayed, had a parking, was in a cosy little town 40min from Funchal and even had a terrace and a pool. We had it all for ourselves. Also when staying with Airbnb most of the time you get a kitchen and you can cook and save for the restaurants. And it is so much cheaper. For 1 week we paid 100 eur/pp
Rent a good car
To rent a car is always tricky for me. Because what if you choose a car and then in the airport you have to pay extra? This happens if you try to save – that’s what I tried to do and failed. If you book a car super cheap (90 eur a week), it is without insurance and honestly – you do not want to drive in Madeira without insurance. So it is better to pay 200- 250 eur a week for a 1.6 or at least 1.4 litres car with insurance. Otherwise you will pay extra 200-300 eur for only insurance. 1.2l car could work but you will spend a lot on fuel and it will be more stressful to drive to the mountain road.
Don’t go there if you want 5* hotel with All Inclusive and a beach
Yes in Madeira you can find 5* hotels with All Inclusive but I would not go this far just for the hotel, there are nice hotels in Turkey too. In the island there is only 1 artificial sandy beach and 1 natural black lava sandy beach.
Go if you love nature and hiking
Madeira is all about nature. Flora and fauna is very unique and even you are not super into gardening you will find it amazing. It is an island of spring so it is always green and something is always blooming. There are many hiking paths, I met some people just walking on the roads. But i would recommend to go to Vereda or Levada.
Go on at least few levadas
Levada is this water path that was made to bring water from the mountains down and all in all around the island. You can still see the water there and it is very relaxing to go together with the flow of the water. There are many different levadas, some in the mountains, some in the valleys. For each you need at least 3-4 hours so it is difficult to do 2 per day, because you get tired. The best website I found with all levadas was Madeira walks. So then you can choose yourself what you want according to duration, difficulty and location. My absolute favourite was ’’Vereda da ponta do Sao Lorenco’’ – it is the east point of the island.
Swim in a natural pool
When I saw the pictures I was like oh well, nice but nothing special. But when you get to Porto Moniz and you see the waves splashing and you can be in the safe part. But the best that you can go where the pool meets the ocean and wait for the waves to splash on you – they are so strong! A lot of times the pools are closed because the ocean is just to strong – so check out the weather before you go there. And also it was very challenging to get it – the water is only 18 degrees in April.
Try Madeiran food
Portugal has a really nice cuisine but Madeira has her own. There is a lot of sea food ( I mean it is in the middle of the Atlantic ocean!) in different forms. But you have to try codfish. Codfish is prepared in many different ways. From the delicious bacalhau com natas (cod fish with sliced potatoes and cream) to bacalhau à Braz, bacalhau à Gomes de Sá or just simply grilled cod, bacalhau is a perennial favourite of the Portuguese. More about what to try in Madeira.
Enjoy the sunset
In Madeira you can enjoy sunrise and sunset if you want to – just wake up early enough to go to the east side of the island. At least for me to catch the sunset was easier. One of the best places is in Paul do Mar the pub called Maktub. Many locals are coming there to grab a Poncha and sit outside the bar. More about the Poncha that you must try and Maktub bar.
Give yourself some rest
Most of the people do not know how to balance. Or they go for vacation and do nothing except lay on the beach or they do everything. Obviously I am the second category and trust me – it is so tiring. 😀 Sometimes I want to rest but do not know how as I am in the place with many things to do so how can I just sleep until noon? The thing is that how can you enjoy that awesome place if you are tired and grumpy? That is when it comes to planning the rest in active vacation. Go to a beach for half a day or watch a movie or read a book and recharge. Then you can enjoy any vacation better, especially if you are there for a week or longer.
As I was preparing the trip myself I have made some routes of the best way to explore the island. Links below:
East side of Madeira
West side of Madeira
Top Peaks to visit in Madeira