Madeira has been voted by National Geography the most beautiful island in Europe and they can’t be more right. This place is literally Heaven. The moment I stepped on the island, I fell in love with it, this is also one of my favourite island in Europe. Warm water, colourful flowers wherever you go, super green, the mysterious Atlantic Ocean, dolphins, stunning mountains.. a dream for sure. Madeira is one of the most mesmerizing destinations we’ve ever visited.
where is Madeira
Madeira it’s located in the East of Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North West Africa and due to its location Madeira has a hot, wet climate and is very green. The perfect place or the island of eternal spring how many refer to it. But moving around the island you will find that there are actually three different major climates, depending on altitude.
moving around the island
Renting a car is one of the best options to move around the island. I’ve been in Madeira a few times, but I have never used public transport, so I can’t tell you to much about it. We moved on the island by car because we wanted to have the freedom to stop at any viewpoint we wanted and spend the time we felt like in a place. By car you also have access to more places, so I recommend you renting a car.
MADEIRA EVERGREEN FORESTS, LAURISILVA
Curled trees and mysterious fog, this forest looks exactly like a fairy tale scene. This is for sure the most mysterious and mystical place I’ve ever visited.
You can get to the forest by car. From Funchal it is about an hour drive to Fanal Forest. It has two parking lots at different entrances at the forest and both are free of charge. One of the parkings is directly next to the road with picnic tables and the other parking is on a little side road near a white building.
This place is an isolated pocket of land, human hands had not interfered with the process of nature, so here you’ll enjoy nature in it’s pure state and you’ll breath fresh air. It’s not hard to notice how lush, green and beautiful this place is. The forest is moist, with moss decorating the tree trunks and rocks with a lush green mantle. While you will walk around making your way into the forest, you can expect to encounter some cute cows, eating grass or resting.
The forest is home to many species of plants. I’ve been amazed by their leaves with many tones of green and the perfect harmonious balance between the trees and plants. It’s amazing how it’s changing the variance of vegetation as you go through the altitudes. Everything around here it’s mystical and magical.
Next to the road, close to tone of the parking lot, there are picnic tables. If you want to have a picnic here you better bring your own food and water, because there are no facilities at all near the forest.
the importance of Laurel forest in the island of Madeira is high
Research from fossils shows that ‘laurislava’ flora covered much of the southern Europe during the Tertiary Era, about 15 to 40 million years ago.
What is left in Madeira today is the largest surviving relict of a species that is virtually extinct. Climatic changes had a big impact on it, leading to its extinction in the continental Europe. The relatively ocean moderated climate in the island of Madeira and the islands surrounding it, had been able to maintain this beautiful and so important forest.
From sea level to about 600m it is often cloudy or at least partially cloudy and not very warm, sometimes it may rain a few drops, but this is what gives the moisture which is what makes Madeira and in particular the laurisilva such a special place. The vegetation here is very lush and it smells amazing. Here you have the opportunity to spot the typical birds of this area, like Maderian race kestrel, Atlantic canary and plain swift and yes they fly even around the highest peaks.
I just loved the low cloud and fog covering the forest, the mysterious atmosphere, creating scenes straight out of a fairytale story. All around you can see all the different specimens of trees, dazzling and interesting that keep your eyes exploring around. You have to keep in mind that in order to experience the mysterious atmosphere depended on the weather.
Anyway, this place is beautiful with or without fog.
As you can see, Madeira is a lush green island and here you can discover unique flora. The real taste of just how leafy it gets is by exploring as many forests as you can. Only thinking at the crystal clear waterfalls, birds singing, colourful flowers and the peace brought by the forests, makes me wanna go and explore again this natural wonders.
Another dazzling forest is the forest of eucalyptus. Out of pure enthusiasm I walked among the old crooked trees enjoying this enchanted place thinking to myself that I must be in a fairytale story. How many times did I say fairytale?? I lost the count. But my oh my… it feels like it.
PICO DE AREIRO
Pico de Areiro is the third highest peak in Madeira and here you are practically walking above the clouds at the height of 1500 meters. This route is absolutely amazing and one of the most famous hiking routes in Madeira, spoiling the hikers with stunning and unique views of the island.
To complete this route requires plenty of energy because it is one of the heaviest hiking routes. It starts with the viewpoint which is impressive. The total incline is about 1000 meters throughout the trail, so if you are untrained it’s going to be really really rough. Along the route you can expect to see narrow cliff paths, lots of uneven surfaces and dark tunnels. Don’t worry, the trail is safe and well maintained with hand rails and signs along the way. But still, try to always be cautious because nature can sometimes be really rough! If you get at the end of the route is very rewarding because the views are fabulous.
It’s a 45 minutes drive from Funchal, but we came here from another destinations and it took us 20 minutes only. When you will arrive there you will see an enormous parking lot, free of charge.
BEST BEACHES IN MADEIRA
With a stunning backdrop of green mountains, blue ocean water combined with the soft black sand, this beach quickly became one of our favourite beaches in Madeira. Being surrounded by the mountains the water here is calm, so it’s great for swimming even for those who are not pro’s. What I found amazing is that the rocks are made of lava, being the reason why the beach is black. The water was warm even in January and the soft sand invites you to just lay down and relax.
Close to the beach is a small parking lot, so if you come here on a busy day maybe you can’t find any free spots. If you want to use the shower, there are showers, toilets and a cafe next to the beach.
RIBEIRA DE JANELA
This is an epic beach with a stunning backdrop and two impressive unique rock formations. Not the typical beach with soft sand, but it’s what makes it special. Here you can expect to see a wild dramatic look of a huge beach made of big rocks, blue waters and amazing mountains in the back. And I don’t think is a good idea to swim.
Ribeira da Janela is located close to Porto Moniz, a 20-minute walk from the beach, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with natural pools made of lava, a paradise of clear water through the volcanic rocks.
NATURAL POOLS MADE OF LAVA
The volcanic natural pools are located in the small town of Porto Moniz, in the north western of Madeira, around 50 minutes car drive from Funchal.
How does it feel to swim in such a natural wonder? Awesome! The pools are filled with fresh sea water which flows into the pools naturally, so the pools are always clean. The water is a little bit cold, even in summer, but when we came here the first time was June and we enjoyed a nice swim into this unique pools, the second time we didn’t had the courage to go into the water as it was very cold. This had a good side because we could enjoy the place in its emptiness, without noisy people around and it gave a magical vibe, it was definitely something else.
They have changing facilities and lockers and even sun beds for those wanting to relax for the day. There are plenty of restaurants around and even souvenir shops.
I have to start by saying that seeing dolphins in the wild ocean where they belong, happy and with all the ocean to swim in, it’s a magical experience. This was my first time watching dolphins in their natural habitat (I have always seen them on TV), in 2014 when I visited for the first time Madeira, so it made my visit even more special. This was the moment when I fell in love with islands and I decided I would visit as many tropical islands I can, also the moment when I became even more connected with nature. I have always had a special connection with nature, but this time the feeling was more intense.
During the tour, if you are lucky you can spot whales too.
MONTE PALACE TROPICAL GARDENS
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a gorgeous garden with about 100.000 different plant species from exotic trees and flowers. Here they mix perfectly the exotic plants with a dazzling collection of Portuguese tiles. They are placed throughout the walkways and vegetation.
While you’ll walk around, you will notice that a big part of the garden is inspired by Japanese and Chinese gardening style which makes the tropical garden so interesting to explore. Right in the middle of the garden is the most prominent building.. the Monte Palace with a beautiful lake with man made waterfall and a few cute swans and ducks swimming in it.
In this charming village you’ll find the famous and pretty small thatched triangular houses. This house is one of the symbols of Madeira. A unique and cute architecture that will leave you pretty amazed. This type of construction is originating from the 16th century but nowadays most of them are kept as a tourist attraction.
They were mainly rural homes used by local farmers during the settlement of the island. Many of them had been kept in perfect conditions thanks to a tourism initiative to reward the best kept house in the town. Some houses open their doors to visitors, others had been transformed in souvenir shops. Anyways all of them are super cute.
thoughts about Madeira
Madeira is a dream destination, ideal for romantic getaways, family trips and fun vacations with friends. It is full of postcard like landscapes, fabulous beaches, tasty food and amazing hiking routes. We had an amazing time in Madeira and I hope I helped you to plan better your trip to Madeira. Any questions or tips are more than welcome into the comment area.