At 600 km off the coast of Morocco, Madeira is a region of mountains surrounded by warm waters, from which rises one of the largest promontories in the world (Cabo Girão). Machico was the 1st capital of the island, near the peninsula Ponta de São Lourenço.
Funchal is the modern capital of the archipelago, from where you will discover three fantastic gardens: 2 reached by the charming cable car that takes us to Monte. In the Northeast, you find Santana, its triangular houses and the dramatic Pico Arieiro (Ariero Peak) and Pico Ruivo (Ruivo Peak).
The northwest is untamed – steep slopes cut by waterfalls that flow into the Atlantic; home to refreshing natural pools (Porto Moniz) and magnificent volcanic caves (São Vicente).
- Coordinates: 32.693956, -16.774952
The busy International Airport (Funchal Airport, Officially named Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport) is 20 minutes from Funchal, just outside the town of Santa Cruz. A taxi is the fastest way to Funchal (it costs about 35 euros).
Flying from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, takes an hour and forty-five minutes – from Porto, a couple of hours. It is a 20-minute flight from the Funchal Airport to get to Porto Santo Island. Ferry options are also available, which take about 2hrs 15 mins.
What to visit on the Island:
Church of San Salvador
- Coordinates: 32.688276, -16.792378
Close to the airport, in the center of Santa Cruz, is the ancient Church of San Salvador; one of the oldest on the island (15th century) and exceptionally well-preserved with touches of the Manueline Renaissance style.
Christ the King Viewpoint
- Coordinates: 32.638286, -16.850722
10 km from Santa Cruz, you can see the miniature replica of the statue that stands in Rio de Janeiro. It was built in the early 20th century on a slope with magnificent sea views. Along the promenade, you discover snack tables accompanied by bushes.
- Coordinates: 32.638372, -16.852088
Very close to Cristo Rei, in Ponta do Garajau, the coast ends in the lovely Garajau beach. It is reached by car or cable car (costs about 3 euros). The small beach is watched over by lifeguards in the summer and has a bar.
- Coordinates: 32.646357, -16.911522
Funchal began to be populated around six hundred years ago when it was part of the lands of the Order of Christ (in Portugal, it was this Order that succeeded the Templars) and of its governor – Prince Henry the Navigator.
In the 16th century, the aristocracy of Funchal made an unexpected fortune from refining sugar. Later in the 17th century, wine attracted merchants from England.
- Coordinates: 32.64819, -16.908251
Funchal’s exquisite cathedral was built between the 15th and 16th centuries on the orders of Dom Manuel I. At the back, it has the spiral tower, witnesses of the golden age of the Portuguese empire.
In the middle of the 16th century, for two decades, it was the largest diocese in the world: Goa (India), São Tomé e Príncipe (Africa), São Salvador (Brazil), Angra do Heroísmo (Azores) – all answered to the archdiocese of Funchal.
Blandy’s Wine Lodge
- Coordinates: 32.647802, -16.910596
Close by is the oldest winery in town, Blandy’s Wine Lodge, which sits on a historic island street through which barrels have rolled down to the harbour.
In the museum, you will see a letter from Sir Winston Churchill, a great fan of this fortified wine (16 to 22% alcohol).