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Guide to holidays in Madeira

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A splash in the sea or a hike up its highest peak? Read through our ultimate guide to this fascinating Portuguese island with year-round warmth.

Can you recall that one hot week in July? We spent the long nights tossing and turning, contemplating whether we had made a huge error not purchasing a fan, or even a last-minute holiday to Cornwall. Some of us might have longed to return to milder climes. If we had known that the weeks that followed would bring a seemingly endless cover of clouds, we might have been content staying in this short-lived summer for a little while longer.

If you are desperate to bump up your sunshine hours and catch some late summer sun, Madeira might have recently come to mind, and potentially floated to the top of your travel list. And why not? The Portuguese island is famed for its idyllic year-round climate, black sand beaches, and delicious cuisine. Of course, it’s less than four hours from London and currently on the green list - meaning you won’t need to quarantine if you have been fully vaccinated.

So what do you need to know before you book your trip to the Portuguese archipelago? Read on to find out.

 

Madeira holidays

 

Madeira is a recurring winner among the world's best island destination awards, and there are plenty of reasons why. Due to its proximity to Northern Africa, the Madeira climate is famously subtropical, meaning the island enjoys long, hot summers and dry winters.

The island is also 459 square miles in size and boasts contrasting scenery, from volcanic peaks to cobblestone towns to the lush greenery which has contributed to the island’s nickname of ‘The Floating Garden’. A holiday in Madeira offers a myriad of opportunities for hiking, dining, relaxing, sight-seeing, and simply catching up on all the sunshine you might have missed this year.

 

Where to stay in Madeira

 

You are off to Madeira, but where to stay? While Funchal, the island’s capital, might seem like the obvious choice with its charming old town and buzzing restaurant scene, the rugged northwestern region of the island is a gem of a location - particularly for nature-lovers. 

Porto Moniz is an excellent spot to base yourself. A gateway to the island’s wildest environments, it’s home to distinctive natural pools, formed over time by volcanic activity and presently filled by the rising tide, giving beachgoers calming, refreshing water to soak in.

If you are hoping to stay somewhere that offers an all-in-one experience, check out the pristine region of Madeira’s southwest coast. Here, you will find Calheta Beach from Savoy Signature, one of the best hotels in Madeira. This prized location offers the duality of dramatic, rough mountainous terrain on one side and a tranquil beach on the other. For a real break from daily life, or even the hustle and bustle of the island, the hotel offers a range of relaxing and indulgent spa facilities.

If you are not into bookings and carrying out piles of online research, a package holiday to Madeira might just be for you. With Newmarket Holidays, you can escape to the archipelago on an exciting cruise journey - simply book and we will take care of the rest.

 

Best beaches in Madeira

 

Before you travel to Madeira, you might like to do some research on the beaches that will best suit you. After all, there’s nothing quite like looking at photos of gorgeous beaches to get you thrilled for an upcoming holiday.

Madeira’s beaches range from volcanic black sand beaches to natural pools and golden sand beaches. Regardless of where you go for a dip or sunset stroll, you are guaranteed to encounter some magical natural views. On the whole, due to the number of jagged, high cliffs which drop off right into the sea, Madeira has few sandy beaches, and is instead home to more pebble beaches.

In the north of the island, between jagged rocks and verdant green mountains, is Laje Beach. Also known as Jamaica Beach, this striking black sand beach twinkles with its pristine, aquamarine waters. Be wary of currents and riptides, as this wild little beach tends to be unpatrolled in the off-season.

If you are craving a sandy beach, a safe bet is an afternoon swim at Machico Beach. This spot is known throughout the island as being one of the only beaches with golden sand (it’s imported!). It can get busy at times, but it’s a great spot to be if you fancy a view of the planes taking off from the airport behind the mountain.

 

Things to do in Madeira

 

There are so many things to do in Madeira - and many of them revolve around the island’s diverse culinary scene. Some of the best Madeira travel advice we can give you is to go with a reasonably empty stomach.

If you are wondering what to eat in Madeira, you might favour the traditionally prepared succulent grilled meats, fresh seafood, or the rich, creamy desserts. But take it from us - start with the bread! The Bolo do Caco can be found at the top of most menus, with locals reaching for these freshly-made flatbreads before most meals. If it is a special occasion, we highly recommend paying a visit to William Restaurant. Known as one of the best restaurants in Madeira, William offers startlingly beautiful views of the coastline while serving up creative, Michelin star meals made from seasonal, local produce.

You might be wondering, what will I use to wash down all of these delicious island meals? Well, you can’t go past a splash of Madeira wine. This fortified beverage was originally made with brandy to survive long oceanic voyages and is a winning formula that has hardly changed over the centuries. The island’s unique grape varieties are what gives the wine its distinctive, memorable notes. The wine is available in a range of dry varieties and sweet styles - so, perfect as an aperitif or served with a satisfying dessert. It helps to do a tasting to determine your preference.

If you are looking to do something more active, like a walking holiday, then you have made the right choice in travelling to Madeira. At 1,861 metres, Pico Ruivo is the island’s highest peak. From the nearby village of Santana, take the strenuous hike up this stunning mountain for a breathtaking coast to coast vista - and not to mention a nice mid-trip workout.

 

When is the best time to visit Madeira?

 

If you like it hot, but not too hot, then spring or autumn might be the ideal time for you to visit Madeira. In these comfortable months, you will be blessed with warmth and plenty of hours of sunshine. Madeira holidays can be a more affordable, quieter affair before the summer crowds settle in, which is what makes April and May ideal months to visit the archipelago.

Considering Madeira’s average temperature rarely dips below the mid-twenties - that’s right, what would be deemed proper summer temperatures over in the UK - you can head to Madeira any time of the year and have an enjoyable holiday. 

While the island’s scenic mountains are great to visit for hiking and panoramic views, these peaks also command the climate, causing weather fluctuations in various regions of the landscape. To the west and south, the island is sheltered from winds coming from the northeast, while the north and east region of the island can get a little cooler and damper without the mountainous shelter.

 

 

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