Where is this island located? South America? Anywhere South Africa? All wrong.
Welcome to our Madeira Post with things to do in Funchal!
Madeira is located around 310 miles North the Canary Islands and on equatorial line between Marrakesh and Casablanca, 370 miles from the African West coast.
We travelled with the cruise ship to Madeira, which was the second station being part of our Canary Island hopping.
After discovering Gran Canary first and spending a whole day at high sea, we were really looking forward to the exotic superstar of our journey and only non-Spanish, but Portuguese isle.
We reached Madeira in the morning hours of July 11th 2016 by a bright shining sun at the port of Funchal, the Capital of Madeira, located in the South of the island.
“The sea on one side, the mountains on the other, and between these two majestic splendours, the city smiles like a child sleeping, safe and warm, between its parents.”
This quote from Jûlio Dinis, a Portuguese medical doctor and writer is describing this jewel quite good.
With the cruise ship to Madeira
But before we describe our wonderful day on this island, lets check out some interesting facts about Madeira:
Madeira has a subtropical climate. Because of its volcanic origin, the isle is very fruitful and contains an enormous rain forest.
Characteristics for Madeira are the laurel woods, which are even nowadays part of the UNESCO World nature heritages. By the way, “Madeira” means translated into English “Wood“.
History of Madeira
Madeira was discovered in the year 1419 by the Portuguese Mariner João Gonçalves Zarco, the official colonization started one year later by the Portuguese “Heinrich the Mariner”.
The isle offered due to its richness ideal cultivation of sugar cane and cereals. Later then the residents started with wine growing. This special Madeiric Wine is still today a good seller in export.
Next to wine there is also the so called Poncha – the famous and popular National drink. More on this later…
So lets start with the post!
We had only one day time to discover Madeira, so we decided to split it into two parts.
On the one hand we wanted to discover the capital Funchal, but we wanted to explore the island as well.
So we started with Funchal.
Some of you might know Funchal as the home place of Football player Christiano Ronaldo. But let me tell you, that Funchal has a lot more to offer.
With its around 100,000 citizen Funchal offers on the one hand an interesting mix of impressive traditions and rich culture and on the other hand it consists of modern elements like many other European metropolises.
A very unique charm, many colors, hustle and bustle, friendly people… it is hard not to like this place.
The city – and this is quite obvious – is living from tourism. In the year 2005 around one million tourists came to visit the island, 200,000 just by cruise ships.
Funchal means translated “fennel”. And its because of the wide fields of this herb when the first Portuguese people came to colonize the island.
The capital Funchal
The city welcomed us with a partly cloudy morning and some interesting sun rays.
Things to do in Funchal
First task on the list was a walk on the harbor promenade.
Our first impression: Clean, lively, friendly.
Busy things here and there, many small little details, discovering here and there…
What we definitely did not want to miss, was the art district in the old town of Funchal. It is an area that by request of the city administration was painted and re-created by local artists.
Such colours! One, who would not get into a good mood by seeing this must be blind or emotionless.
Mercado dos Lavradores
In general, Funchal is tempting as a cozy, nice old town. Small alleys, colorful doors everywhere, small selling places and a peaceful nice atmosphere above all this.
After visiting the Art district we wanted to see the famous market hall of Funchal, the Mercado dos Lavradores.
A lot of exquisite culinary delicacies is awaiting you here.
Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices. Flowers, so diverse and colorful. Fresh, delicious fish.
Well, to be honest sometimes a little bit too many pushy local sellers, but that is probably part of the game.
The fortress São Tiago
As the third highlight for our visit in Funchal we chose the São Tiago Fortress and the museum of Contemporary Art.
An old fort directly at the coast, screaming in yellow and with a fantastic view over the Atlantic ocean and the city as well. It was fun to discover the fortress and the size is manageable without getting lost. The Art exhibition was not that spectacular to be honest.
Well – the day was nearly half over. Highest time to go on a Safari to discover the rest of the Island.
On Tour with Green Devil Safari
Therefor we went back to the port of Funchal and chose an information point. It was the one from Green Devil Safari that we somehow liked the most.
We could not have chosen better. Green Devil Safari is offering different kinds of Offroad tracks. Half- or full day, all based on your personal taste, time schedule and budget.
Find more out here: greendevilsafari.com
We chose the half day tour. 35 EUR per Person, cruising in open jeep. To make it short, such a tour offers everyone the unique possibility to discover many interesting things in a very short time. Background stories, history of the island, spectacular hidden places – all included!
Our tour as part of the things to do in Funchal led us along the coastline to a place called “Little Beverly Hills”, a sophisticated living area, bit outside of Funchal and nearby the Cristo Rei (Garajau) a Statue of Christ.
The road continued deeper into the island east- and northwards.
We went up high above more than 3,000 feet. Through endless eucalyptus forests (which are nowadays a serious problem since they displace a lot of the origin flora). We saw impressive gorges and valleys, Wine areas. And all this by having perfect sunny summer weather.
The national drink of Madeira
Do you remember the Poncha, the national drink of Madeira?
A small highlight of the tour was the stop at one of the many small taverns along the way, where you can get an original Poncha for 3 EUR.
The drink consists of honey, lemon juice and sugar cane schnapps. But there are also some variations out there.
For us it tasted amazingly fine, fresh and juicy.But beware – because of the sugar and the high amount of Alcohol this goes straight up into the head 🙂
Best served to Poncha are the so called Tremoços. Yellow, bean-like lupine seeds.
Potted they have a very nice tasty own flavour. Delicious!
With this now a long and impressive day on Madeira ended. We saw and experienced a lot!
Let me mention at this point, that Madeira is first class tip for wanderers. The routes here are some of the best worldwide. Well for us, Madeira was anyway the absolute highlight of our journey so far.
If we should have the chance in the future, we would definitely re-visit Madeira!
See you soon on our next cruise ship station – Lanzarote!
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Thank you sincerely, Birdie & Hendrik.