Earlier this month I had the chance to take in the adventure hotspots of the small but mighty island of Madeira with Jet2 Holidays. Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and discovered only 600 years ago, the tiny volcanic island is full of variety. A subtropical paradise filled with lush landscapes, jagged cliffs, spectacular coastlines, world-renowned gardens and the most charming capital, Funchal.
The island offers plenty of activities, from adrenaline pumpers to foodie walking tours, here are some of the exciting things to do in Madeira:
1. Madeira Hiking
The best way to explore the island of Madeira is via the unique Levada trails. A complex network of man-made water channels that irrigate the mountain slopes. Dating back to the 16th century, they allow water to be carried long distances to the islands banana groves, vineyards, and tropical gardens. Hikers in Madeira can follow the Levada routes to reach remote and magical spots that aren’t accessible by road.
During our 4 day trip, we only had the opportunity to do one Madeira hiking trail called Levada do Rei (PR18). A fairly flat and easy walk but filled with jungle greens and epic mountains that can’t help but remind you of Jurassic Park. The hike ends at a blissful waterfall, before following the trail back.
Across Madeira there are plenty of hiking trails available, varying in length, difficulty, and terrain so if you have time for a few, make sure you sample Ponta de São Lourenço (PR8) and Arieiro (PR1) as well as these hiking tours.
2. Canyoning in Madeira
Canyoning has to be one of the best things to do in Madeira. The island’s terrain calls out for it, so after turning down this experience several times before in Slovenia, Mexico
We spent a lot of time rappelling down the lush green tunnels and taking in the beautiful scenery. All in all, I enjoyed canyoning in Madeira, and would happily try the beginner’s version again. Plenty of options are available for all levels and the tour companies provide all the gear including wetsuits, helmets, harness and waterproof boots.
3. Mountain Biking in Madeira
Madeira island is great for biking enthusiasts. A range of trails are available but come prepared for the weather to change. We learned this the hard way, but look at how beautiful the misty scenery was. Make sure you bring a waterproof jacket, cycling gloves and a GoPro to film all the bumps in the trail!
4. Food and Wine Tour of Madeira
One of the best ways to get to know a city is by eating your way through it! Hence we joined Wine Tours Madeira for a half-day walking food tour around Funchal. We stopped at 9 different places to discover the islands gastronomy, history, wine, and architecture. Led by Sofia, a wonderful local storyteller who brought to life Funchal’s exciting past as we wandered through the cities alleyways, visiting places we would never have discovered on our own. Making this food and wine tour one of my favourite things to do in Funchal, Madeira.
When: 10.30am on Tues and Thur Language: English Duration: 150 Minutes
5. Dolphin and Whale Watching in Madeira
It’s possible to see cetaceans all year round in Madeira, so we joined an afternoon catamaran trip. The tour lasted three hours and we came across several bottlenose dolphins as well as a pod of Pilot whales. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great that day but on sunny days it’s possible to stop and swim in the ocean as part of the sailing trip, but usually this would be possible on a whale watching tour in Madeira.
Best Time to Visit Madeira, Portugal
Madeira island is blessed with eternal Spring-like weather and a mild climate so it can be visited all year round. However, as there are 24 microclimates found throughout the island it is normal for sunny blue skies to bless the capital whilst it’s misty and rainy just outside the city. We experienced this first-hand several times during our trip, so it’s best to be prepared for all seasons in one day.
Due to Madeira’s fertile volcanic soil, the island is famous for its floral diversity. If you’re a plant lover like me, I can personally recommend visiting in April or May, when the annual Madeira Flower Festival takes place. For 3 weeks the streets of the capital are adorned with floral displays, fragrant parades, and even a blossom carpet. If you want to extend your trip in Portugal, Spring is also an ideal time to spend 3 days in Lisbon exploring what the capital has to offer.
How to Get to Madeira, Portugal
The short haul Jet2 Manchester flights to Madeira make it the perfect getaway for a long weekend. However, if you want to test out the Levada trails, there are plenty there to keep you busy for a week (this is what I would do if I return to the island).
Jet2 flights to Madeira run frequently and from several airports in the UK. If you are interested in combining Madeira with other destinations in Portugal check out Jet2Holidays. If you plan to visit more of Portugal with your family check out some of the best things to do in Portugal with kids or if you have more time try this ultimate two week Portugal itinerary.
Where to Stay in Madeira, Portugal
The capital, Funchal is only 45 minutes drive away from the airport. It is a colourful little gem filled with street art, a one of a kind botanical gardens and amazing harbour views.
It is the perfect base for your trip to Madeira and if you are looking for somewhere special to stay try out The Vine Hotel with Jet2holidays. A 5-star hotel with the most amazing rooftop views, as well as spacious rooms with quirky bathtubs. There’s also a spa but the selling point for me has to be the hot tub rooftop pool with panoramic views of the city.
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Have you ever considered visiting Madeira before? Which of the activities mentioned above excite you the most?
This blog post has been created in collaboration with Jet2 and Discover Madeira, but as always opinions are my own.