Portugal’s island of Madeira is an adventure junkie’s paradise. Explore this unique island by land, sea or air. Trek the levandas, the island’s open canal system, and take in panoramic views of the mountains and the ocean. Dive into the deep blue sea to swim with fish and rare seals with your Madeira cruise. If you’re looking for something to spike your adrenaline, soar above the island while hang-gliding or paragliding. In the mood for more low-key exploration? Stop by a local bakery for a slice of queijada, a regional cheescake, and walk along the harbor in Funchal, taking in the 17th-century architecture.
THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA (FUNCHAL)
A trip to Madeira isn’t complete until you’ve walked along a levanda. With over 3,000 kilometers of irrigation channels around the island, the routes are endless. Wander deep into chasms, across mountains or through long tunnels, and discover some of the best views on the island.
Strap on your diving gear and jump into the crystal-clear waters of Madeira. Explore shipwrecks like Bowbelle, and observe sea life like anemones, fish and seals with a front-row seat to one of the best diving locations in all of Europe.
VIEW FROM THE AIR
Take to the sky to catch a glimpse of Madeira Island from above. Adrenaline junkies will soar through the heavens while hang-gliding or paragliding over massive mountains and bewitching blue waters. First-timers are welcome, and tandem options with a guide are available.
On Madeira island, you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood to sink your teeth into. Try filete de espada, a swordfish filet prepared the Madeiran way, with passion fruit and banana sauce. If that’s too sweet for you, try the smoky espetada madeirense, beef cubes on a skewer cooked over wood or charcoal. Got a sweet tooth? Cruise to Madeira to try bolo de mel de cana, the local honey cake.
Shop till you drop on Funchal’s main streets. Find regional goods, Portuguese delicacies and international shops in the capital city. For a more local feel, head to Feira da Lagartixa. Cruise to Madeira and try your bartering skills at the flea market on Saturdays, and discover unique treasures to bring back home with you.
An island so beautiful it looks like a painting!
As you arrive in Funchal on a cruise, your ship will cast anchor in a bay protected by mountains rising straight up behind the port. The name, Funchal, derives from that of the fennel plant, the funcho still used today in the traditional sweets known as rebuçados de funcho, that one can find anywhere on the island of Madeira.
An excursion will take you around the town centre, to visit historic churches, from the A Sé Cathedral, with its inlaid ceiling, to the majestic Church of the Incarnation, to the church of Carmo without a vault.
Another excursion will take you up to the village of Monte, from where one can admire a spectacular view of the Funchal bay. You can visit its 18th century church and the tomb of the last Austrian emperor, Charles I, and stroll around the magnificent botanic gardens. But if you like heights, there’s nothing more impressive than the Cabo Girão and its 589 metre tall cliffs, amongst the highest in the world, at the foot of which lie the cultivated lands known as Fajãs do Cabo Girão.
If you’re looking for an equipped beach during your cruise, another excursion will take you to Machico. Founded in the 15th century, it hosts the oldest religious building on the island, the Capela dos Milagres, and the fortresses of São João Baptista and Nossa Senhora do Amparo built in the beginning of the 16th century.
The more lively tourist attraction is instead in Calheta, on the south-west coast. Splendid yachts cruising across the Atlantic are moored in the port and if you want to go for a swim there are two beautiful beaches of golden sand; in spite of the modern structures Calheta dates back to the mid-15th century. This is where they make the “Aguardente”, the best white rhum, and fundamental ingredient of Madeira’s typical drink, the “Poncha” .
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