Surrounded by the Atlantic and sitting just off Africa’s northwest coast, Madeira experiences springlike temperatures all year round and over 300 days of annual sunshine. This Portuguese archipelago has a short flight time of just four hours, which means you could be basking in its sub-tropical heat in no time.
Madeira is a nature lover’s paradise with Levada pathways, volcanic rock pools, protected parks alongside botanical gardens filled with vibrant fauna and flora. In fact, the fertile landscape plays a major part in the island’s gastronomy, which is defined by fresh, locally-sourced ingredients as well as their famous fortified wine, which is the star of an annual festival - not to mention a Rio-style carnival!
On top of its countless lures, you can explore Madeira with complete peace of mind knowing that all protective measures have been put in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19, with tests required on arrival or 72 hours before you depart. No wonder Madeira has been awarded the Safest Destination in Europe for Christmas, on top of winning the World’s Best Island Destination for five years running.
If you thought Madeira wasn’t a family destination, think again! Despite its far-flung appearance, those with babies will be relieved to discover it’s less than four hours away. And as one of the safest destinations in Portugal with tons of child-friendly activities on offer, you can make memories in the shallow waters at Porto Santo beach or head out on a whale watching adventure.
If you’re looking for things to do with your little ones, you won’t have to look far. There’s a long list of outdoor activities to get stuck into, whether that’s fishing for trout, swimming in the rock pools or exploring the tropical terrain from the seat of a jeep. The 3D Fun Art Museum is another must with children.
Madeira’s capital, Funchal is just the spot for a family day out. Take the cable from the Old Town and wind up at Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, where kids will love spotting the wide variety of wildlife including peacocks, swans and even chickens.
On the descent, a toboggan ride is a must: get ready for the race of a lifetime as you slide through the streets on a wicker sledge. Once back in the city centre, mini football fans can visit the CR7 Museum, an attraction dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo, who was born in Madeira.
Holidays to Madeira are action-packed from start to finish. Discover those Atlantic blues with a sea kayaking adventure, take in the island’s spectacular scenery from its elevated hiking trails or hop on a bike and ride along the rocky coastline.
For the ultimate open air experience, you can explore Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO site that is celebrated for its incredible natural beauty and abundance of water. Canyoning, climbing and abseiling are all possible for those who want to get their adrenaline pumping.
If you want to witness Madeira’s beauty from its highest peak, head to Pico Ruivo which towers above the island at a staggering 1,862 metres. This six-hour-long trail will reward you with some spectacular views, particularly if you time your visit with the setting sun. Madeira is also home to Cabo Girão, the highest sea cliff in Europe and a glass skywalk which even the most daring travellers will find unsettling as they look down the 580-metre drop into the shimmering ocean below.
Madeira is also considered one of Europe’s top diving spots. With comfortable sea temperatures all year, there are plenty of chances to catch a glimpse of marine life. Octopus, moray eels and grouper are just some of the creatures you may see living among the coral.
Those who like to keep their heads above water can relax in one of the island’s four natural lava pools, which are replenished every day with crystal-clear sea water during high tide. And if you prefer to stay out of the water altogether, you can go on a boat tour to spot whales, dolphins and, if you’re lucky, the elusive Mediterranean monk seal.
Food and drink
Madeira relies heavily on its fertile land, subtropical climate and the surrounding seas to source and produce its high-quality ingredients.
A dish that is unique to the island is the Black Scabbardfish. Found deep in the Atlantic, fishermen tend to catch this regional delicacy after dark. Despite its unsavoury appearance, it tastes delicious, especially alongside the island’s small, tasty bananas. Those who don't do seafood can go for the skewered beef, known locally as espetada, or bolo de caco, a type of sweet potato flatbread that is usually paired with fries of a salad.
As for drinks, Madeira’s fortified wine has a history spanning five centuries and is recognised all over the world for its distinct taste. Wondering what makes it so different? It’s aged under heat, grown in the Demarcated Region and made from five grape varieties. Though, it’s not all about the wine. Poncha (made with citrus juice, honey and aguardente or rum) can be found on just about every cocktail menu. Its refreshing flavour is perfect on those mild Madeira nights - but be warned it’s strong!