Portugal’s Madeira archipelago is located about 1,000 kilometres from the European mainland. It comprises four groups of islands: Madeira and Porto Santo, the only inhabited ones; and Desertas and Selvagens, nature reserves whose landscapes reflect their names – Deserted and Wild, respectively.
The islands offer magnificent views, with verdant forests and gardens, volcanic mountains, plunging cliffs and azure Atlantic waters. Madeira’s geographic location and mountain orography provide a pleasantly mild climate that varies between 25ºC in summer and 17ºC in winter, with moderate temperatures and humidity.
The most convenient and common way to travel to Madeira is by plane, with the main airport in Funchal connected to major European cities and flights from the Portuguese mainland taking around two hours. More intrepid travellers can opt for a private boat journey to Funchal, which is on one of the main cruise ship routes.
Located in an Atlantic Ocean bay, on Madeira island’s south coast, Funchal has been the capital of the archipelago for more than five centuries. The city has a rich and cosmopolitan history and, with modern cultural and entertainment amenities, it is a popular international tourist destination. Funchal’s name comes from fennel (funcho in Portuguese), a common wild herb found by the early settlers.
Over 100,000 people live in Funchal, inside a natural amphitheater-shaped valley rising gently from the coast to 1,818 metres above sea level at Pico do Areeiro. In addition to the urban area, the municipality includes the Ilhas Selvagen nature reserve 160 kilometres metres south of the capital.
The Carros de Cesto basket rides are one of Funchal’s most famous attractions. Handcrafted using wicker and wood, they are led by two men who take passengers for a thrilling ride over steep inclines.
Mercado dos Lavradores is a key architectural landmark. Located in the city’s historic centre, the market blends art deco and modernism, and sells the island’s finest products: fresh and exotic fruits, flowers, meat, fish, vegetables and regional spices.
Creativity is present in the old town throughout the year, with initiatives including the Portas Pintadas (Painted Doors) project, created when members of the artistic community were invited to paint building doors and façades, thus turning the streets into an open-air art gallery. The area’s welcoming ambience is further enhanced by many restaurants and diverse evening entertainment activities.
More information about Funchal and Madeira is available at Visit Madeira.