Madeira Island is considered for the 4h time the Worldâ€™s Leading Island Destination, so you may pack already your stuff and visit this â€śAtlantic pearlâ€ť, as tourists like to call it. This Portugalâ€™s archipelago is full of breathtaking landscapes, sunny days and loving, caring people. I lived in Madeira Island for 18 years and it still surprises me, as Iâ€™m always finding new places to explore. There are plenty of things you can do on this island paradise and you are probably wondering what to do in Madeira Island. ItÂ´s funny because it is not a big island but you never run out of things to do, see and visit. Full of mountainÂ areas, waterfalls, lagoons, small villages, and amazing weather conditions, this place wonâ€™t let you stay in bed even on Sundays. Iâ€™m certain that you will feel at home as much as I do when I revisit this place. But letâ€™s get into action. What should (must!) you do while visiting Madeira Island?
Nature and Sports
Have you ever dreamed of swimming next to the fishes? Or even touching and petting them? Well, you found the right place. Madeira Island has a natural sea reserve in Garajau, Santa Cruz and it is one of the best places to scuba dive. The main species of fish you will find while scuba diving is a grouper and they are so used to people diving there that they come close to you so you can pet them. It is an experience you just wonâ€™t forget.
Scuba Diving in Garajau, Madeira Island.
What about exploring a stream watercourse in LaurissilvaÂ´s forest? This is an activity full of adrenaline and wonder, as you will feel like an authentic explorer of nature. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete the route and you may swim, jump, climb and rappel. All of it combined in one activity, how cool is that? Itâ€™s an experience available all times of the year, depending on weather conditions.
Madeira is known for its walking routes across the mountains, or â€ślevadasâ€ť as it is known on the island. There are more than twenty routes and the majority of them are accessible to anyone. You canâ€™t help feeling amazed by its fantastic views, waterfalls, and lagoons that often stand at the end of the routes. Originally created to carry water from the northern region, today they are walking routes where tourists and locals find the most beautiful spots and hidden views of the island. You can try walking the little ones (4km) or the big ones (22km).
â€śLevada do Reiâ€ť or Kingâ€™s Levada. Madeira Island
Whale and DolphinÂ watching
Madeiraâ€™s location makes possible to watch dolphins and whales (and sometimes turtles), all times of the year. If you ever dreamedÂ of seeing these majestic beings in their natural habitat, Madeiraâ€™s seas are the right place to do it.
Madeiraâ€™s best sightseeing
And of course, you must experience the best sightseeingsÂ of the island. You can go to the highest peaks like Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo (the highest one), or to the Cabo Girao viewpoint (highest cape in Europe), or to the â€śVĂ©u da Noivaâ€ť (where you can see a waterfall crossing an old road). There are a lot more viewpoints, but honestly, you get a beautiful view of the sea or the mountains anywhere on this island.
The highest peak in Madeira Island: Pico Ruivo
Culture and History
There are some interesting museumsÂ you can visit while on your trip, but you canâ€™t miss these: the CR7 Museum (the museum of the worldâ€™s greater footballÂ player, Cristiano Ronaldo); The Whale Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art (great views from this museum too!) and The Embroidery and Handicrafts Museum (Madeiraâ€™s embroidery is known all over the world and it is a very traditional and cultural thing there).
Churches and Chapels
Madeira has a very religious background so you can expect a lot of churches and chapels to visit. You donâ€™t even have to look for them because even in the smaller villages there is some kind of chapel or religious infrastructure you can enter. The most famous one is the SĂ© Cathedral and the Monte Church, both in Funchal. But there are a lot more, like the Chapel of Our Lady of Grace, Carmo Churchâ€¦
One curious thing about monuments in Madeira is that it has always a history attached to it. You have for example the TristĂŁo Vaz Statue (one of the discoverers of the archipelago), the Statue of Christ-King (with an amazing view as well), the Jesuitâ€™s Collegeâ€¦ There are also many forts and fortlets, like the Saint James Fortress, remembering back the days when pirates were close to the island. Besides that, there are other interesting places to visit like the Farmerâ€™s Market in Funchal, SĂŁo Jorge Ruins and SĂŁo Jorge Watermill.
Cristiano Ronaldoâ€™s Statue near CR7 Museum
Farmerâ€™s Market in Funchal, Madeira Island.
Events in Madeira Island
Madeira Carnival is one of the most colored times of the year. It is a time of the year with a lot of activities, and you can choose to be a spectator or to participate actively in theÂ festivities. The Carnival seasonÂ is experienced with joy andÂ in a festive atmosphere all over the island, with street festivities both official and spontaneous. This festival happens in February and/or March.
Happening at the beginning of May, this festival is a true celebration of Spring and of the abundance of flowers that bloom in that season. Thousands of children and adults dress in the appropriate fashion flock and it is created a mural of flowers in the center of Funchal, containing flowers of all kinds. After that, there is a beautiful flower parade and artists create floral carpets that are exhibited in the streets of the city. If youâ€™re looking for a festival to fill your heart, this one is appropriated for you.
New Yearâ€™s Eve
The Guinness World Records attributed to the 8-minute firework show in Madeira Island the â€śGreatest Fireworks Show in the Worldâ€ť. Known as one of the most beautiful and memorable New Yearâ€™s Eve in the world, the city of Funchal is crowded with tourists who cross the world to experience this breathtaking show. You can even watch it on a cruise, or simply in the center of Funchal. With more than 30 stations of launch, the city bay transforms into a giant amphitheater of firework.