Madeira, the island of wonders: what to do in 12 days 

I have always wanted to go to Madeira. I put the island on my travel list for a dozen times. And I postponed. And thought again. And chose a different island. But, finally, this year I made it there. And Madeira exceeded my expectations. What did I love? Well, everything, from the green and wet forests in the mountains to the beautiful beaches and cute little towns with so much history. 

What to do in 12 days? 

… and to enjoy, still, the holiday vibe of the island? I will propose you one location per day. Yes, you can spend the rest of the time with a book and a laranjada on your side (a Madeira wine or a sip of Poncha, if it’s the case). The distances are not so big, the roads are pretty good (I think more crowded in the summer) and the weather perfect almost in any season. I have more than 30 pictures, below, to prove that Madeira is a place to go. Again.

1. Santana houses. These small, triangular and colourful houses represent a part of the Madeira’s heritage and one of the most popular tourist attractions of the island. There are some cute & restored ones next to he information centre and some well-preserved ones in the town, but also you can see, along the road, some very old houses. 

2. Farol da Ponta & the view. It is, probably, one of the best views over the rocky edges of the island, above the ice-blue ocean and the green valleys. Of course, the far is only the pretext for the ride, even it had an interesting history. The Farol da Ponta do Pargo is an active lighthouse located in Ponta do Pargo, Madeira, Portugal. The lighthouse was built in 1922 on top of Ponta Vigia, a rocky cliff escarpment. (More photos from Madeira on @alinaaliman – see HERE 10 postcards from the island

3. Câmara de Lobos. A charming little village, with a scenery and a calm atmosphere that inspired the famous Winston Churchill to stay and paint here for a while (he has even a statue in the city centre). Some local artists managed to do a beautiful work with old aluminium cans (imagine birds, balloons and other paintings made out of Fanta and Red Bull cans) and I smiled seeing the interesting use of plastic barrels into a wall. And, speaking of art, here is the place where I found another work of Bordalo II, Seal Pup (read about the huge art works made out of trash of the Portuguese artist – HERE). Câmara de Lobos, apart from its wonderful bay, has several points of interest, such as Pico da Torre, Curral das Freiras, Boca dos Namorados, Boca da Corrida and Cabo Girão. Also known as “home of poncha”, the famous drink of Madeira. 

4. Porto da Cruz. It is a former fishing village, with a spectacular scenery around the shore, with waves just perfect for surfing and some cute ducks crossing the street. Porto da Cruz is also famous for its wine. Known as ‘vinho seco americano’ (dry red wine). 

5. Miradouro do Véu da Noiva (Seixal) & Seixal beach and natural waterpools. The first one worths a stop for the best view of the beautiful waterfall. On the beaches, I arrived in a rainy afternoon. And still I couldn’t believe that I stayed there for more than three hours, just fascinated by the surfers trying the waves in a misty and cold day. Not to mention that the natural pools are very instagramable. (See more pictures in the highlights – @alinaaliman) 

6. Porto Moniz and its lava pools. The charming little town is located on the north western tip of Madeira, its main highlight being, for sure, the natural swimming pools. Formed over thousands of years, through the cooling of volcanic lava, the pools naturally filled by the ocean’s high tide have crystal clear water, and the landscape surrounding is unique, due to a panoramic view that the swimmer has over the sea coast and the rocks. (See a reel about Madeira – HERE

7. Calheta port & beach. It is said that Calheta beach is one of the nicest beaches on the island (with black sand on one side, with rocks on the other). The town is cute & pretty, like a little jewel, with local fish restaurants, a nice walkway along the ocean and some trails of 1-2 kilometres (but up to the hills, pay attention!); if all the hiking trails in the world are covered with banana trees, mango and papaya ripping into the sun maybe I would be more happy to do them. To stay: at Savoy Saccharum Resort & Spa (@saccharumresort) with its infinity pool and a very cool night bar with live music. 

8. Fanal Pond and its mist. It is just a pond, do not expect more 🙂 But it’s pretty, the lush green forrest (with 600 year old trees) is so filled with water that you can easily think you’re in a dream. Or a scary movie. A very Madeira nature at its best. 

9. Speaking of nature… Jardim Botânico da Madeira. I have to be honest and to admit that, lately, I have a crush for green stuff – leaves, trees, succulent plants (!). Therefore, a visit in one of the largest botanical gardens in Madeira and one of the most beautiful in Portugal was a must. The garden was laid out in 1881 and moved to its present site in 1960 – (there are some hills to climb, but worth the effort) and there are excellent views over the Bay of Funchal from the garden. There are two thousand exotic plants both endemic and from all over the world (orchids, magnolias, palms, ferns and cacti). 

10. Funchal street art. This is something you cannot miss! First, I thought there were only three or four paintings on the walls. Then I saw the doors: technically, there are few doors in Funchal historical centre left unpainted: from bananas to ballerinas, from scenes of a domestic life to philosophical quotes and fantastic creatures. After the walk, stop for a second over a coffee and a cake by the shore. (See the reel with Funchal art street – HERE)

11. Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Madeira (@mudas.museudeartecontemporanea). In Calheta, an avant-garde building, conceived by the architect Paulo David, has perfectly integrated into the landscape. The museum it is the stage of several exhibitions, musical shows, plays and conferences. For my visit, it happened to be the  exhibition of one of Madeira artists: “Como uma ilha sobre o mar: Lourdes Castro”.

12. Orchid garden at Hotel PortoMare PortoBay (@portobay) – for a day relax and enjoy the sun. Take a walk nearby, to the ocean shore, watch the sunset and enjoy the beautiful orchid garden.