What to see in Portugal
Tourist attractions Madeira
An archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal. With dramatic, tropical landscapes, year-round sunshine and exuberant culture, this island treasure is an incredible vacation destination for any type of traveler. There’s much to see here, from black sand beaches to traditional villages, towering peaks and the cosmopolitan capital of Funchal. The archipelago is composed of two main islands: Madeira and Porto Santo, along with the small Desertas island group.
The appeal of travel to Madeira can be found in its bountiful natural beauty and charming artisan traditions. Stroll through UNESCO protected laurel forests, watch embroiderers hand make intricate wares, go wine tasting and discover the ancient art of basket weaving on a tour of Madiera. Other popular pursuits to enjoy on a vacation to Madeira range from hiking trips through the lush highlands, discovering the intricate network of irrigation canals, known as ‘levadas’, taking a fast-packed basket ride in Monte and visiting the thatched-roof houses of Santana. Furthermore, the Atlantic waters surrounding the islands are rich in marine life, so there are plenty of opportunities to take whale and dolphin-watching cruises if you travel to Madeira.
From the romance of downtown Funchal to the idyllic coastal town of Ponta do Sol and the age-old traditions of Monte, there’s much to explore here. Many choose to travel to Madeira from mainland Portugal, whilst it’s also a perfectly complete travel destination to explore in its own right. Consistently voted as one of the top island vacation destinations on earth, put Madeira on your travel itinerary, you won’t regret it!
If you’re taking a tour of Madeira, a good starting point is the capital city of Funchal. Located on the southern coast, Funchal is backed by rolling hills and is known for its extensive Madeira wine cellars. A fun place to explore, there’s much to see and do in Funchal, from sightseeing in the downtown area to exploring the elaborate Monte Palace Tropical Gardens or soaking up the sunshine on the cities lively beaches. Down in the old town you’ll find charming cobblestone streets and cheerful street murals, the perfect backdrop to a lazy afternoon spent people watching from one of the cafe terraces.
To get to the heart of traditional Madeiran culture, a trip to this island would be incomplete without visiting the village of Santana. Situated on the north coast, Santana is famous for its traditional stone houses, with steep, triangular thatched roofs. The style of these houses dates back to the days of the first settlers on the island when they were used as the homes of local farmers. Today, they are maintained and a source of great interest for tourists. If you visit Santana, be sure to spend some time at the Madeira Theme Park to learn more about the culture and early history of these islands.
One of the most charming places in Madeira, Ponto do Sol is home to picturesque seaside villages and dramatic coastline. Furthermore, it’s considered the sunniest part of the island. Here you can stroll along the seafront and admire the historic buildings, many of which are painted in bright colors. The pebble beach and surrounding hilltop trails are also popular with tourists.
For the more adventurous, one of the best things to do in Madeira is to pay a visit to the mysterious Sao Vicente Caves. Formed by a volcanic eruption, these extraordinary caves can be explored as part of a tour of the Volcanism center. After learning about the unique geology of Madeira, visitors can explore more than 700 meters of the cave system, home to volcanic stalactites and lava accumulations.
To truly appreciate the marvellous natural environment, a visit to Garajau’s Nature Reserve is one of the best things to do if you visit Madeira. A beautiful area of coastline, here you will also find a Marine Reserve, the best place on the island for scuba diving or snorkelling excursions! Some of the most abundant species found in these waters include dusky groupers, moray eels and sea urchins.
Finally, for a further chance to connect with the incredible nature of Madeira, be sure to explore the UNESCO protected Laurisilva of Madeira, an ancient laurel forest situated within the Parque Natural da Madeira. Home to incredible biodiversity, including endemic bird species, a number of walking trails offer spectacular views and the chance to immerse yourself in a natural paradise, often shrouded in an atmospheric mist that only adds to the mystery of this unique environment.
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