Discover Madeira's highlights and learn why it's known as 'the pearl of the Atlantic'. Our trip is based in the sun drenched coastal city of Funchal. From here we explore the island to find out more about its short, but turbulent history and see the dramatic mountainous scenery criss-crossed by man-made canals (Levadas). We'll also set out on the Atlantic to the Desertas Islands in hope of spotting dolphins and whales. With a mix of full and free days this holiday lets you make the most of your time on the beautiful island.
Funchal - Stay in the centre of this vibrant island capital; explore the atmospheric old back streets and sip a potent glass of 'Poncha' over a plate of freshly cooked fish
Whale and dolphin safari - Enjoy a boat trip to the Desertas Islands
Calheta - Discover the history of Madeira's rum and 'white gold' industries
Wine - Enjoy a wine tasting and tour of Blandy's Wine Lodge
Levada walk - See the beautiful rugged landscapes of the island, including an easy walk along a small part of Madeira's vast levada network
Afternoon tea - Take in the ocean views, as Churchill once did, at Madeira's elite and colonial Reid's Palace Hotel
Why Book this Tour
Why not visit the island of Madeira during its famed Flower Festival? Travel on our departure in April set around the event to see the island in bloom and witness the colourful parades. Or if you prefer a winter break then join our tour at New Year to see Madeira's legendary firework display. It's one of the largest displays in the world and is quite something to see.
- Tours to Madeira
- Tours in Portugal
- Centre Based
- Small Group
Day 1: Join trip in Funchal
Arrive Funchal and check-in to the hotel that will be our base for the next seven nights from which we will explore Madeira's highlights. Funchal takes its name from 'funcho', meaning fennel and according to local legend, when Zarco landed here in 1419, he named this spot after the abundance of the herb he found. Visiting sailors used to call the city 'Little Lisbon' because of the grandeur of its cathedral and the buildings that line its harbour that reminded them of those in Lisbon.
Day 2: Tour of the north of the island and easy levada walk
Today we leave Funchal on a full day tour of the north and north-west of the island including Camara de Lobos, where we see a plaque dedicated to Sir Winston Churchill who used to holiday on the island and would sit at this spot to paint the beautiful coastline scene. We continue to Pico da Torre viewpoint, which offers stunning views of the traditional buildings in Camara de Lobos lining the bay. The 360 degree panoramic views stretch back as far as Funchal. Our next stop is Cabo Girao, which is second highest cliff face in the world and offers yet more captivating sea views. We continue through Ribeira Brava and into the mountains to Encumeada. From here there's the chance to take an easy 3 kilometre walk along Levada Folhadal. Madeira's levadas are a unique series of mini-canals used for irrigation. There are a number of great walking trails on the island that follow these channels. After our walk we journey down through the forested area of Chao dos Louros to the pretty town of Sao Vicente on the north coast. Lastly we'll stop to see Pousada dos Vinhaticos, a heritage hotel, which is the last remaining pousada on the island, before heading back to Funchal for the evening.
Day 3: Walking tour of Funchal and afternoon tea at Reid's Hotel
This morning we go on a walking tour of the island's capital Funchal. We'll see Mercado dos Lavradores - a fascinating fruit market where every fruit and vegetable imaginable offers a huge array of colours and sweet smells. Another market well worth seeing is the fish market where the fresh catches of day will be on sale.
Next we head for Bordal Embroidery Factory, which produces some of the finest traditional embroidery and tapestries to be found on the island. After time to look around we continue into the historic centre of Funchal's Old Town, where you can find a large selection of restaurants and bars and also a permanent outdoor art gallery displaying over 200 works of art by guest artists that are painted onto the doors of Rua de Santa Maria. We'll also have the opportunity to admire the colonial architecture outside Santiago Fort, the Regional Government Palace and the fort and palace of Sao Lourenco.
We'll visit the Municipal Theater and Jardim Municipal - the large garden here is sure to enchant you with its collection of alluring exotic flowers, both endemic and from around the world, and its native ancient trees.
After a morning of exploration we have time to relax and soak up the history at Reid's Hotel, where Churchill used to stay in 1950's, and where we'll partake in afternoon tea before returning to our hotel in the late afternoon. For the afternoon tea please wear smart casual clothing and avoid wearing shorts or sportswear, such as trainers.
Day 4: Visit to a 16th century sugar mill, Ethnographic Museum and wine tasting at Blandy's
This morning en route to Ribeira Brava we will visit the Ethnographic Museum. The museum holds a collection of objects relating to Madeira's culture and traditions such as wine, fishing, transport and much more.
After time to explore the museum we drive on to Calheta to visit one of the last working sugar mills on the island dating back to the 16th century. We'll learn of the 'white gold' and rum making history of the area and have a tasting of the popular local drink 'Poncha', which is made from lemons, honey and rum and also sample honey cake. If you're lucky enough to be here between April and mid-May then we should be able to see the mill working, as it'll be sugar harvesting season and production will be in full swing.
Next we'll head for Prazeres, which is small parish not far from Calheta. Here there is the opportunity to take an easy barefoot walk along an 800 metre path, which is made up of 17 different items sourced from the island including pine, eucalyptus berry, laurel, beach pebbles, black and yellow sand, gravel and mud. It's designed to provide natural reflexology for your feet and offers a completely different sensory experience.
Before returning to Funchal we'll make a stop in Jardim do Mar, a beautiful spot between the sea and the mountains. This small parish preserves the calm of days gone by with its narrow streets and low level houses with beautiful gardens. You'll have free time here for lunch.
This afternoon we head for Blandy's Wine Lodge where we enjoy a premium tour and tasting. The tour will explain the full wine making process from the making of the barrels through to the production and storage of the finished product. Followed by a tasting of, what it arguably the island's most famous export, Madeira wine.
Day 5: Free day to explore or the option to visit Porto Santo by ferry
Today has been left free for you to further explore Funchal or there'll be the chance to go on a full day excursion to the island of Porto Santo by ferry. The journey takes approximately two and half hours each way. Porto Santo is a popular beach destination with the locals and with its 9 kilometre unspoilt white sand beach stretching all the way from Vila Baleira to Ponta de Calheta it's easy to understand why. Whilst on the island you may also choose to visit the Columbus House Museum, which is the former home of the legendary explorer Christopher Columbus.
Day 6: Boat trip to the Desertas Islands, whales and dolphins search
Today we'll travel by boat out to the Desertas Islands and we'll hopefully get to see dolphins and whales along the way. Our boat will be 'Bonita da Madeira', a 23 metre long wooden sailing boat. The Desertas Islands are a group of 3 uninhabited islands, which lie around 25 kilometres off the coast of Madeira. They have been dedicated as a Natural Reserve to protect the rare species of monk seal, monachus monachus, which favours them. Our boat will anchor at Doca where you'll have time to swim in the clear waters and relax in the secluded bay. After lunch on the shore we'll then begin our journey back to the mainland.
Please note that in the event of poor weather it may be necessary to cancel this boat trip or change the day of operation. If the boat trip isn't possible to do during your stay then we'll enjoy an excursion to Pico do Arieiro and Santana on the east of the island instead.
Day 7: Free day with the chance to walk to Caldeirao Verde Waterfall
Today is free for you to do as much or little as you may like. For those who what something more activite then there's the chance to walk to Caldeirao Verde Waterfall. Starting at the Queimadas Guesthouse and walking along the Levada of Caldeirao Verde, we make our way westwards through an emerald green paradise. Soon after the start we see the most spectacular views of the villages far below. Walking further then a waterfall comes into view and soon after passing it, we go through some short tunnels and after a while we arrive at Caldeirao Verde majestic waterfall. Following a short rest, during which we have our picnic, we begin the return journey. This is a highly recommended walk to some of the most remote and beautigul parts of the island.
Difficulty grade: moderate walk, walking time: 5-6 hours and distance: 13 km
If you're looking to take things at a more relaxed pace then you may wish to take the cable car to Monte or to the Monte Botanical Gardens. The cable car to Monte takes approximately 15 minutes and then to the gardens it's a further nine minutes each way. The gardens have been open since the 1960's and are one of Madeira's best known tourist attractions. The huge gardens display over 2500 exotic plants that provide an exuberance of colour and scents. You may decide to return from Monte to Livremento in Funchal (around 15 minutes walk from our hotel) by a ride on a traditional wicker toboggan. The downhill journey takes about 10 minutes along a 2km long road course. The toboggan will be steered by two operators and can reach up to 48kms per hour.
For those looking for the best of both worlds there'll be the chance to join a half day excursion to Quinta Palheiro Gardens with a moderate levada walk at Vale Paraiso. These gardens showcase a variety of plants in a beautiful setting in the hills to the east of Funchal.
Day 8: Trip ends in Funchal
The trip ends at our hotel in Funchal after breakfast.
Touring with Explore
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