Repeatedly voted the World’s Leading Island Destination, Portugal’s Madeira is guaranteed to leave you in awe.

This pocket-sized volcanic isle is an outdoor utopia shaped by Atlantic waves, deep valleys, forested peaks and black-sand beaches. Madeira is actually closer to the African mainland than it is to Europe, and its year-round warmth is the reason behind its beloved nickname, the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’. It’s a paradise for plant-lovers, with pops of pink bougainvillea blanketing steep hillsides and lilac jacaranda trees lining the pavements. Madeira also has a reputation for being a top spa destination, with its bespoke collection of world-class wellbeing retreats.

Explore on hikes, village walks and strolls around the island’s sweet-scented Botanical Gardens, or head out on the water in search of migrating whales and dolphins. Foodie? Visit one of Madeira’s family-run vineyards for a taste of the isle’s famous fortified wines, and try local favourite ‘espetada’ (sizzling steak skewers cooked over coal or wood). A must-do in Funchal is the capital’s quirky toboggan ride, where you can whizz through the hilly streets of the city on a wicker sledge.

Talk to us today for ideas, inspiration and first-hand recommendations from travel experts who have been there.

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Madeira Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Madeira

Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira

A world-class retreat perched high on a hillside with ‘dive right in’ Atlantic Ocean views.

Quinta da Casa Branca

A romantic retreat with enchanting gardens, sensational views and attentive service.

The Cliff Bay

Soak up spellbinding views, a two Michelin-star restaurant and pools that tumble down to the sea....

Saccharum

Blissful seafront escape at an elegant resort in Calheta, one of Madeira’s prettiest and sunniest...

Castanheiro Boutique Hotel

Overlooking the coastal capital, this hidden gem is bursting with character and history in the ce...

Quinta Splendida Wellness & Botanical Garden

Set in the grounds of a 19th-century manor house, this hotel has beautiful gardens and organic cu...

VidaMar Resort Hotel Madeira

An easy going and well-equipped hotel for an active break on Funchal’ coastline.

Savoy Palace & the Reserve Hotel

Bliss out in the spa’s wellness circuit, chill by the rooftop pool and feed your soul in a clutch...

Sentido Galomar

A contemporary retreat with breathtaking ocean views, a breezy spa and an inspiring eco-aware app...

Holidays in Madeira

Madeira Dolphin Observation

Madeira is on the migratory route of just under 30 species of whales and dolphins, as well as being home to a resident population of sperm whales, and there are few experiences to match the thrill of seeing them in their natural environment. On this two-and-a-half-hour adventure, you’ll have an excellent chance of spotting some of these captivating creatures, along with a host of other marine life including turtles. Starting with a short introductory talk, you’ll head out to sea on a trio of nippy semi-rigid boats with Rota dos Cetáceos’ team of marine biologists, keeping your eyes peeled for the tell-tale glimpse of a fin, tail or blow. In this, you’ll be assisted by lookouts on land who have up-to-the-minute information as to likely locations. It’s a brilliant way to spend a morning or afternoon that will appeal to families with older children as well as couples.

• Duration: 2½ hours
• Time: June to September 9am to 11.30am, 12.30pm to 3pm or 4pm to 6.30pm; October to May 9am to 11.30am or 1.30pm to 3pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The species you’re likely to see depends on the time of year, so do your research if there’s a particular one you’re keen to spot. Transfers are not included.

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Madeira Dolphin Swim

With a resident population of sperm whales and its position on the migratory route of almost 30 species of whales and dolphins, Madeira is an excellent place to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. On this two-and-a-half-hour trip, starting with a short introductory talk, you’ll head out to sea on a trio of nippy semi-rigid boats with Rota dos Cetáceos’ team of marine biologists, keeping your eyes peeled for the giveaway glimpse of a fin, tail or blow. In this, you’ll be helped by lookouts on land who have up-to-the-minute information as to likely locations. As a bonus, you’ll swim in a safe, controlled way with dolphins for 10 minutes or so - a truly memorable experience that will leave you grinning for hours afterwards. It’s a superb way to spend a morning or afternoon that will appeal to families with older children as well as couples.

• Duration: 2½ hours
• Time: June to September 9am to 11.30am, 12.30pm to 3pm or 4pm to 6.30pm; October to May 9am to 11.30am or 1.30pm to 3pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
Be sure to follow the instructions of the crew when interacting with the dolphins to keep the experience as stress-free for them as possible. Transfers are not included.

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A Walk Through Paradise Valley

A walk beside one of the many man-made irrigation channels, or levadas, that crisscross the interior is a quintessential Madeira experience and a great way to explore the island’s spectacular scenery. This gentle morning stroll is the perfect introduction to this unique way of hiking, which takes you along a particularly beautiful stretch of the 100-year-old Serra do Faial. The 5.5km walk starts in Vale do Paraíso - which translates as Paradise Valley - and ends in the pretty village of Rochão. Along the way, you’ll have time to see how generations of farmers have carved out terraced fields from the steep hillsides, admire some glorious gardens and enjoy the panoramic views over Camacha, also known as “the village of basket makers”. It’s a brilliant way to get some exercise without even noticing, and is suitable for all ages.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 8.30am to 11am
• Departs on Tuesday and Friday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The 5.5km walk is graded as easy and is suitable for all. Wear suitable clothing plus walking shoes or boots.

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25 Fontes Walk

The paths that follow the vast network of irrigation channels known as levadas, created over the centuries by Madeira’s farmers, have rightly become popular with those looking to immerse themselves in the island’s most impressive landscapes. This 11km walk, which takes about four hours, kicks off at Paul da Serra, a high plateau where you’ll find extensive areas of rare subtropical laurel forest that UNESCO describes as of “outstanding universal value”. From here, you’ll head downhill towards Rabaçal guesthouse, a popular pitstop that seems almost lost amid the surrounding scenic grandeur, and on to Risco waterfall. You’ll continue on down to the Levada do 25 Fontes, reaching a small lake at the bottom of a cliff fed by 25 natural cascading springs. Picking up another track towards the finish, you’ll pass through a tunnel that carries water to the south side of the island.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 8.15am to 12.15pm
• Departs on Tuesday and Thursday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The 11km walk is graded as moderate. Wear suitable clothing plus walking shoes or boots.

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Landscapes & Villages Walk

Stretch your legs and discover Madeira’s rugged north on a levada walk that features an appealing blend of glorious landscapes and picturesque villages. You’ll set off from Queimadas, in the heart of a protected ancient laurel forest, to trek beside the 18th-century Levada da Serra de São Jorge, from whose heights you’ll be able to drink in the magnificent views over the villages below. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for local birds such as firecrests, long-toed pigeons and even buzzards. Passing cascades and cutting through small tunnels, you’ll arrive at one of the island’s beauty spots: the waterfall of Caldeirão Verde, the “green cauldron”. It’s the perfect venue for a picnic, far from the bustle of modern life. From here, you’ll continue on through pastureland to Santana, a village known for its unusual colourful triangular thatched cottages.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 8.15am to 12.45pm
• Departs Friday
• Year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The 13km walk is graded as moderate. Wear suitable clothing plus walking shoes or boots.

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Madeira Nights

Sample the delights of traditional island hospitality with an evening of good food, wine and music. You and your fellow diners will head to a typical Madeiran restaurant where you’ll enjoy a three-course meal of local specialities. After a light starter - tomato and onion soup, perhaps, or caldo verde - you’ll have a chance to try one of the islanders’ favourite dishes, Espetada, a skewer of tender marinated beef cooked over hot coals or wood chips. It’s usually accompanied by milho frito (fried corn) and bolo do caco, a type of bread roll made with sweet potato and served with garlic butter. During the meal, there’ll be local wines to sip and savour and live music provided by a folkloric group playing traditional instruments such as the guitar-like rajão and the colourful jangling brinquinho.

• Duration: evening
• Start time: 7am
• Departs on Friday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

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Monte Botanical Gardens

Madeira is known for its lush vegetation, and a visit that takes in one of its best-loved gardens provides a perfect insight into the species that grow here. You’ll head first for Monte, perched in the hills above Funchal, which was once a popular health resort and still retains an air of elegance. Nowadays, it’s better known as the starting point for a rather unusual toboggan ride in a two-seater wicker sledge that’s on many visitors’ must-try list. A little closer to the capital, the Botanical Garden opened to the public in 1960. Once part of an estate belonging to the founder of Reid’s Hotel, it was set up to conserve Madeiran plants that were becoming increasingly rare in the wild. Bursting with colour and scent, its six zones are a delight for gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

• Duration: half day
• Departs on Saturday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
Note that this trip does not include a toboggan ride.

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Wine Tour of Madeira

Madeira has a long history of wine-making, and on this eight-hour adventure, you’ll travel across the island touring its vine-growing areas and learning about everything from the terroir to how various vintages are produced. Starting in the south and heading north, you’ll become familiar with names such as Câmara de Lobos, São Vicente, Seixal and Porto Moniz. You’ll visit several producers - and have a typical Madeiran lunch in the house of one - and taste what they make, from whites, reds and rosés to the famous fortified wines we think of when we hear the name “Madeira”. Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy scenic landscapes in parts of the island that most visitors never reach, making it a fascinating way to spend a day whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not.

• Duration: full day
• Departs on Wednesday and Friday
• Operates Year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The tour is not recommended for children.

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Embroidery of Madeira

Madeira has a rich tradition of hand embroidery, which brings together influences from across Europe to exquisite effect. One of the most highly regarded makers on the island is Bordal, founded around 60 years ago, at whose small factory you can spend a few hours learning the history and techniques of this exacting craft. You’ll discover how each piece begins with a unique design hand-drawn on tracing paper, and how the design is transferred to the fabric using tiny perforations and a sponge soaked in special blue ink. From here, the marked-up fabric is passed on to the skilled embroiderers to do their delicate stitchwork - satin stitch, pulled thread fillings, appliqué and the like - before the workshop completes the process with cutwork, washing and ironing. You’ll end the session with a real insight into the amount of hard work that goes into creating every beautiful tablecloth, pillowcase and handkerchief.

• Duration: half day
• Departs on Thursday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
This isn’t a hands-on experience, but Bordal makes kits for beginners who want to try doing Madeiran embroidery for themselves. Transfers are not included.

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Blandy's Wine Tour

Madeira’s namesake fortified wines can trace their development back to the 15th century, and learning about their unique history and ageing process from one of its best-known makers is something that wine lovers are sure to appreciate. At Blandy’s Wine Lodge, the heart of a family-run wine business established in 1811, you’ll get a fascinating insight into the difference between Madeira and other fortified wines as you tour the different areas of the establishment. You’ll tour the warehouse, filled with wooden barrels, where the finest vintages are aged to perfection by the traditional “canteiro” method. You’ll visit the museum, whose collection of artefacts includes letters from Sir Winston Churchill, coins from Blandy’s bank and a 17th-century wooden trough where grapes were once trodden. The visit ends with an enjoyable guided tasting so you can appreciate the end product for yourself.

• Duration: half day
• Departs on Monday to Saturday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
At the tasting, children will be given the choice of a bottle of water or fruit juice. Transfers are not included.

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Afternoon Tea at Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel

Afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace has been an island institution almost from the moment the hotel opened its doors in 1891, and it’s a wonderfully indulgent way to celebrate a special occasion or just treat yourself. Sitting on its elegant shady terrace, gazing at the panoramic sea views, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to a more leisured era when guests arrived by steamship and stayed for weeks. The effect is enhanced by the meal itself: dainty finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with cream and jam, and beautifully crafted cakes and pastries served on delicate china plates. The only difficulty will be choosing which tea to have from the 24 on offer, from China Green Sencha to Darjeeling Second Flush. Reid’s house blend is available to buy at its in-house boutique and makes a suitable reminder of a wonderful experience.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 3pm to 5.30pm
• Departs Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
• Operates year round
• Private experience

Good to know
The dress code is smart casual, as befits a five-star hotel: no shorts, no T-shirts and definitely no flip-flops. Transfers are not included.

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Explore Northern Madeira by Jeep

Get off the beaten track on an expedition by 4x4 to the undeveloped north of the island. On this day-long trip, you’ll travel through some spectacular verdant landscapes dotted with picturesque hamlets surrounded by orchards and vineyards. The imaginative itinerary takes in several small towns and villages known for everything from their dramatic settings to their distinctive local culture: São Vicente with its volcanic caves, Ponta Delgada, sleepy São Jorge, Faial and Poiso. You’ll have time to explore Santana, whose distinctive triangular thatched stone houses are a photographer’s delight, and walk through the UNESCO-listed laurel forest at Queimadas Park keeping a lookout for endemic species such as the Madeiran long-toed pigeon. It’s perfect for anyone who is looking to discover the authentic way of life on the island, and enjoy some of its most unspoiled landscapes.

• Duration: full day
• Start time: 8.45am
• Departs on Friday
• Operates year round
• Group experience

Good to know
The trip is suitable for all ages.

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Explore Southern Madeira

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of southern Madeira with a memorable trip by open-top 4x4. The day begins with a scenic drive up to Paul da Serra, the largest and highest plateau on the island, from where there are incredible vistas. The plateau is home to extensive areas of laurisilva, the indigenous subtropical laurel forest that’s so special it’s UNESCO-listed. From here, the route continues down to Ponta do Pargo on the westernmost point of Madeira - the ideal place to put a lighthouse - and along the coast to fishing villages such as Paul do Mar and Jardim do Mar, both magnets for intrepid surfers. Passing by Calheta, one of the few sandy beaches in Madeira, you’ll conclude the day’s activities with a stop at pretty Ponta do Sol, famous as the sunniest spot on the island and the place where the best bananas are grown.

• Duration: full day
• Start time: 8.45am
• Departs on Sun
• Operates year round
• Group experience

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Get to know Madeira and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.

Capital
TIME DIFFERENCE

GMT -/+ 0 hours

CURRENCY

Euro

FLYING TIME TO DESTINATION

4 hours

RELIGION

Christianity (majority Roman Catholic)

LANGUAGE

Portuguese

Where is Madeira?
Madeira is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the west coast of Africa. It’s the largest of Portugal’s Madeira Archipelago, with Porto Santo its smaller island neighbour. South of the island is Madeira’s capital Funchal, where its international airport is located.

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Funchal
Madeira’s cosmopolitan capital, Funchal sits high on a hillside on the island’s south coast, and orbits around a pretty bay. It has a real mix of old and new; modern boutiques, chic cafés and stylish seafood restaurants can be found around the marina area, whilst amidst the Old Town’s cobbled streets you’ll find colonial buildings and authentic tavernas where you can sample the local ‘espetada’. There are also art galleries, a covered market and a 15th-Century cathedral. Take a dip at the lido, then sample the famous local dessert wine at one of Funchal’s bars.

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Parks and gardens
Visit Madeira Botanical Garden, famed for the vast range of 2500 exotic plant species originating from all over the world, including birds of paradise, dragon trees, sugar cane and medicinal plants. Take the 15-minute cable car from Funchal to the small village of Monte for fantastic sea views. If you have time to spare at the top, wander around the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, while the more adventurous can take a toboggan ride back down to Funchal. In the Santa Catarina Park you can see the statue of Christopher Columbus and enjoy views over the bay of Funchal.

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Walking
Madeira is famed for its walking and hiking, with many visitors spending the entirety of their holiday rambling around the island. When talking about walking in Madeira, the word ‘levada’ will come up a lot. These mini-canals are used as irrigation systems and make perfect paths to walk along as they are relatively flat and offer wonderful views of the interior of Madeira. As some of the paths can be steep with narrow ledges, we recommend guided hikes. Hiking is very popular in Ponta de São Lourenço, a nature reserve in eastern Madeira that’s home to some wonderful volcanic rock formations and unusual plant species as well as featuring great views of the Atlantic.

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Food & drink
Local cuisine in Madeira consists of plenty of meat and fish, cooked in traditional ways to ensure a real taste of authentic Madeiran life. A favourite for walkers is the açorda which is made up of bread, garlic, poached egg, winter savoury and olive oil covered in hot water. If you opt for one of the wonderful local fish or meat dishes, you’ll want to add another local favourite to your meal, miho frito – deep-fried cubes of cornmeal. Visit vineyards and cellars and enjoy tastings of Madeira's famous fortified wine – which is renowned for its longevity and is resistant to oxidation – as well as award-winning reds, whites and rosés.

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Car hire
Hiring your own vehicle in Madeira allows you to easily explore the island’s attractions at your leisure, taking in everything from small villages to rugged mountains and lesser-visited bays. Madeira’s roads range from dual carriageways and newly resurfaced roads to scenic winding roads and tunnels through the mountains.

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Madeira Weather

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Our experts have curated a wide range of handpicked Madeira offers to make your next holiday extra special. Make the most of great-value savings, exclusive upgrades and bespoke touches. 

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