Madeira Holidays: An Overview

A volcanic outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean, 500 miles southwest of its parent country Portugal, Madeira is an outstandingly beautiful island with a wonderful sub-tropical climate. The year-round warmth provided by Madeira's special micro-climate makes it an ideal luxury holiday destination, with a wide array of activities on offer, from windsurfing to mountain-biking, paragliding and big-game fishing. Madeira is also a renowned destination for walking or hiking. All in all, what was once known as 'God's waiting room' (thanks to the number of visitors of an elderly persuasion) has become somewhere that waits for no man.

Madeira's mountain slopes are irrigated by a network of small canals known as 'levadas', which criss-cross the island. There are over 1,000 miles of these in total, and they double as superb walkways, taking you through dramatic landscapes and past small villages with their vineyards and terraced fields.

Funchal is the small, largely pedestrianised, capital city. Its unspoiled cobbled streets host hundreds of bars, cafés, and restaurants, plus excellent shopping and plenty of cultural attractions. Its hotel scene has improved dramatically in recent years too; with unashamed luxury on hand, as well as more fashion-conscious design options and peaceful rural quintas available in the countryside around the city too. In short, Madeira offers the full package for those seeking short-haul luxury holidays.

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Basket toboggan ride
If You Do Three Things
Basket Toboggan Ride

Take a toboggan ride in a traditional wicker basket sledge from the village of Monte down the hill to Livramento. This tradition dates back to the early 1800s when it was used as an efficient means of transport for local residents. The toboggans are 'driven' by two runners, and you can travel up to nearly 20 miles per hour while enjoying the scenic views on the way down.

Hiking the levadas
If You Do Three Things
Hiking the Levadas

Madeira's steep mountain slopes are irrigated by a network of small canals, known as 'levadas', which make for fantastic hiking routes. There are more than 200 levadas on the island, comprising nearly 1,400 miles in total, and while you walk along them you can enjoy the dramatic landscapes and explore small villages, vineyards and terraced fields. The island's climate of 'eternal spring' also makes for perfect walking conditions year-round.

Dolphins in Madeira
If You Do Three Things
Whale and Dolphin Watching from Funchal

Head out on a boat trip from Funchal, on the south coast of the island, in the hope of spotting whales and dolphins. A marine biologist will accompany you on board to help you better understand their behaviour and where best to see them. You may even have the chance to get in the water and swim with dolphins in their natural habitat, a truly unforgettable experience.

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Map of Madeira

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A Note on Price

A weekend getaway to central Lisbon will start from £400 per person including return flights and transfers. On the other end of the spectrum, a two week long luxury family holiday for four staying in a top hotel in Sagres in a two bedroom suite with private pool will cost around £9,000.

Itinerary Suggestions

Hilltop Hikes & Ocean Adventures: A Luxury Family Holiday to Madeira

7 Days

From £2,815pp