I have just got back from a fabulous week away in Madeira – an island in the North Atlantic ocean, south west of Portugal.
We chose to stay at the Pestana Village Garden Resort in Funchal which was connected to the Pestana Miramar Hotel which allowed us to use the facilities of both. The surroundings of the hotel were beautiful tropical gardens with outdoor pools and an indoor one. The hotel also had a gym, Jacuzzi and sauna. There was also an onsite hairdresser and beautician.
The atmosphere was very relaxed and peaceful. We stayed in an apartment with a balcony that overlooked the pool area. The apartment had a kitchenette which allowed us to buy food from the supermarket and cook at our convenience. We were able to sit on the balcony on an evening and enjoy the warm summer breeze.
These hotels were in an excellent location – 20 minutes walk left to Funchal Town and the harbour with a further 10 minute walk to the Old Town. There are various cafes to sit and watch the ferries as they come into the harbour. There are stalls situated along the seafront for you to buy gifts and souvenirs.
When turning right out of the hotel, within 5 minutes you were surrounded by a variety of restaurants, shops and supermarkets. Another ten minute walk and you would be at the seafront where the popular lido is situated.
Taxis are in abundance in Funchal, the bright yellow cabs are lined up along the street so you can always find a taxi to take you where you want to go. A taxi back from the Old Town to the hotel was 6 Euros. There are also sightseeing open top bus tours which take you to various places on the island. These yellow or red buses offer you different tours and price ranges to accommodate all needs. The buses operate every 20 minutes. We went on the open top red bus tour which took us to Funchal town, around the Old Town, up into the hills for an amazing view of the island and then to Camara De Lobos where we got off for lunch. There is a restaurant in Camara De Lobos known as Churchill’s Place – named after the former British Prime minister Winston Churchill who liked to visit Madeira to paint.
We also chose to visit the West Coast of the island. This trip was 9am to 5pm with Madeira Mini Tours. The cost of this trip was 68 Euros for two people which included a three course lunch with wine. The minibus collected us from our hotel and returned us at the end of the day. There was plenty of opportunity on this trip to walk around, take pictures and explore the areas we visited. Benjamin was our tour guide and he did an amazing job. The tour took us from Funchal to Carmara De Lobos, Cabo Girao, Ribeira Brava, Paul Da Serra, Porto Moniz, Seixal, Sao Vicente and Encumeada. The views were stunning and the trip included a visit to the glass sky-walk which offers breathtaking views and a visit to see the Bride’s Veil waterfall. We also went up into the mountains before partaking in a short levada walk.
There are various other trips you can partake in, such as the cable cars, the basket ride, visit to Nuns Valley, the East Coast of the island, a ferry to Porto Santo, boat trips, visits to caves and dolphin and whale watching…to name a few! There are also pools situated next to the ocean that you can swim in.
Eating out in Madeira is as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. There are a variety of restaurants including Italian, Chinese and Indian. A lot of restaurants have fish freshly caught that morning. There are various supermarkets which means you can buy fresh produce and eat in your apartment on occasion. There are a variety of drinks on offer including the famous Poncha which is made of sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon and different fruit juice. The passion-fruit one was lovely and it packed a punch!
The people of Madeira are very welcoming and friendly. The flowers are beautiful and smell amazing. The island is populated with banana plants and palm trees. There are lizards scuttling about and the birdsong is somewhat therapeutic. There are parks and botanical gardens for you to enjoy and some restaurants have rooftop terraces for you to have an ocean view whilst you eat.
The weather in May was hot with bursts of intermittent cloud. Despite this cloud cover, the temperature was still around 22 degrees Celsius and I would definitely advise still wearing sun-cream!
I absolutely loved Madeira and would go back in a heartbeat. The island is known as the “Hawaii of Europe” and I can see why. We visited for 7 days, but there is so much to do and see that you could extend your trip by a few extra nights.
Below is a gallery of more pictures of this beautiful island that deserves to be visited at least once.