June – August
LCY → FNK
Freedom of movement
Taxi: 19 £GBP (40 min)
Bus: 4 £GBP (45 min)
Known as the Floating Garden, the flower-covered slopes of Madeira make it like Portugal’s answer to the Garden of Eden. Purple jacaranda trees, pink bougainvillea, deep-red poinsettias blanket the island, making it a riot of colour.
That beauty is not limited to interior of Madeira, head to the island’s coast to discover sheltered and compact rocky coves and pebbly bays on Madeira holidays. Don’t expect golden or white sands at the majority of the beaches, but there are some exceptions such as the volcanic sands in Ribeira Brava, and the man-made beach of Calheta, which was constructed with sand especially shipped from Morocco.
The natural charms of the island are matched by that touched by the hand of man. The capital of Madeira, Funchal, is a collection of colonial-era buildings, churches built from basalt and sleepy squares. The old town’s narrow network of backstreets are packed with family-operated tavernas and wine bars, while cafes and seafood restaurants line the marina.
Travel east from Funchal to the Canico de Baixo area - a luxury holiday spot popular with the rich and famous. Canico De Baixo’s old quarter has an 18th century church and square at its heart, while in the new quarter you’ll find it packed with boutique hotels for holidays in Madeira and villas perched on cliff tops.
Madeira’s summer temperatures usually hover around 24 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) between May and September, however highs of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) are not uncommon. In spring and autumn the mercury hovers around the low 20s (from 68 Fahrenheit).
Founded almost 600 years ago in 1424, the capital city of Funchal has comfortably settled in on the south coast of Madeira. It’s a kaleidoscope of a city made up of its famous colourful gardens and charming cobbled old town which features a 15th century cathedral and restaurants serving traditional food. Juxtaposed alongside these are stylish clubs, modern shopping malls to spend time on Madeira holidays, and a smart marina lined with top notch eateries.
Canico de Baixo
Located on Madeira’s southern coast Canico and Canico de Baixo are like flipping a coin. On the hill you discover a traditional old village, complete with square and 18th century church. Travel 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) down a steep and winding road and you get to Canico de Baixo, a modern resort area that is all glitzy hotels and glamorous villas for luxury holidays in Madeira. The steep cliffs and winding roads offer dramatic views as well.
This east coast fishing village has a relaxed feel amid some truly dramatic landscapes – rocky cliffs tumble to the sea, while the pristine surrounding territory makes for world-class hiking experiences. The village has a port where fishing boats are moored, and a small museum devoted to a darker time in Canical’s history – when the main industry was whaling.
Sedate, sea-level Funchal is ideal for walking on – featuring large parks, the Se Cathedral, which dates from the 15th century, stately 18th century mansions and attractive pavements made from white marble and grey basalt.
During your holidays to Madeira hire a car to experience the autoestradas – a triumph of civil engineering these highways traverse the steep terrain of the island offering spectacular views of the lush green countryside.
But you don’t have to go too far to experience the island’s botanical wealth. The Botanical Gardens set on the hill at Quinta do Bom Sucesso, with incredible views over Funchal, have an example of almost every variety of plant and tree on Madeira. A renowned orchid collection can be found in the Quinta da Boa Vista gardens.
Take to the water for some incredible wildlife-spotting on your Madeira holidays. Migrating whales, once an economic lifeblood of the island, pass by. Dolphins play off the bow of the boat. Birds of all kinds soar around the cliffs. But there is one unique species that sets Madeira apart. There are reputed to be only about 500 monk seals in the world, and about 40 of the critically endangered species can be found here. When you are on your holidays in Madeira, you can see some of them in their natural habitat on the Desertas Islands, 19 kilometres (12 miles) south-east of Funchal.