Located on a string of islands in the North Atlantic between Portugal and Africa, this resort destination was formed by a massive volcano that rises out of an underwater mountain range. The island's history began in 1419 when Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator set out on what was deemed a foolhardy voyage; since common belief was that the world was flat. The sailors never encountered the edge of the world, but two young captains were blown off course and chanced upon this island. Today, two-thirds of Madeira is protected as a natural ecological reserve.
Celebrated for its handicrafts and festive celebrations, it is currently most known for the export of sweet Madeira wine which back in the 17th and 18th centuries was considered a luxury. Island visitors can also enjoy the gardens spread all over the city, a bustling downtown district or go beachcombing on the pebbled shoreline of Funchal, the Madeira Region's capital.
Places to Explore
- Lido Promenade
This promenade links the Lido area with Praia Formosa beach. Along this avenue, stop to savor the breathtaking ocean view, or sit down for a taste of fresh seafood at one of the shoreline restaurants.
- Madeira Story Centre
This interactive museum goes back 14 million years from the birth of the island to the key moments in its history. Children receive a science lesson while parents find their way to the terrace for a panoramic view of the city from a high-powered telescope.
- Madeira Wine Museum
If you are or have ever considered being a wine connoisseur, this historic Madeira wine cellar is open for your enjoyment. Examine documents, books and machinery covering the history of Madeira winemaking.
- Monte Palace Tropical Gardens
An 18th-century property which is one of the most beautiful estates on the island. Enjoy displays of exotic and indigenous plants, statues and structures from all over the world, plus a series of serene lakes with jewel-toned koi fish. Magnificent tiles on the property were collected from palaces, churches and houses of the former Portuguese empire.
- São Vicente's Volcanic Caves
The lava channels that have flowed through Madeira for a millennia have created one of its most fascinating hotspots. Take a tour of the volcanic tubes from an eruption over 400,000 years ago-they extend over a half-mile!
- Santa Maria Columbus Galleon
Enjoy a sailing trip along the south coast of Madeira in a replica of the Santa Maria, the galleon of Christopher Columbus. Take in the unspoiled beauty while looking out for dolphins and whales. Learn about the folklore of 15th century explorers and children can take part on a fun scavenger hunt around the vessel.
The principal language is Portuguese, but many people speak English.
The Euro is the main currency. Major credit cards are accepted in most restaurants and stores. There are also ATMs on the island. Check with your bank to see if your card is accepted.
- How to Get Around
Taxis operating within Funchal are metered cabs. Those operating outside Funchal usually work on a mileage basis and do not use a meter. The government has issued set prices for pre-defined taxi routes which you'll find listed on the back of the driver's or the passenger's seat. Taxis can be hailed from the street or can usually be found waiting at or approaching taxi stations.