Madeira

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Madeira Island: One of Portugal’s Jewels

Madeira is one of two islands in the Madeira Archipelago, located in the Atlantic Ocean about 1000 km south by southwest of Lisbon and 600 km off the coast of Morocco, north of the Canary Islands. The island is about 56 km long and 19 km wide with an overall area of 797 sq km. It’s known for its mild climate and beautiful beaches, not to mention the Madeira wine and the incredible lace that is still hand made by locals. It is an ideal vacation spot with natural lava pools and breathtaking coves, hiking and other outdoor sports, great restaurants, villages and museums to visit. It combines old world charm with untouched nature, and water and theme parks with quaint villages. In other words, it is a great place for everyone to visit. The easiest way to get there is by flying into the Madeira Airport on the east side of the island, about 30 minutes from Funchal, the largest town and capitol. There is an Aero bus that shuttles passengers from their flights to the villages around the island. Otherwise, ships and ferries also arrive into the Bay of Machico. Once on the island, it is easy to rent a car and drive around, or there are taxis and buses that go between the different communities. In some parts of the island there are even cable cars and elevators to help pedestrians get up the steep inclines. Once in the towns and villages, visitors can easily explore the areas on foot. If you want to get to nearby Porto Santo Island with its famous golden sandy beaches, there are ferries that go regularly every day between the islands which carry both passengers and their cars. The ferry ride takes about two hours. If you want to get there faster, there are even flights between the islands that only take about 15 minutes and leave regularly during the day.

 The Madeira Archipelago Islands were discovered about 500 years ago by explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira who were sent to map out the African coast by Prince Henry the Navigator. During a storm at sea they stumbled upon Porto Santo Island in 1419, and colonization was immediately begun. One year later they discovered Madeira Island, with its lush green forest, safe harbor and rich land. Families from the Algarve Region of Portugal were brought to colonize the island, and it has been inhabited ever since. Churches and convents were built, the land was cultivated, and because of its isolated location, the traditional culture was maintained. The beautiful Convento de Santa Clara is fascinating to visit. Built for Franciscan nuns over 500 years ago, it also acted as a refuge for noble young ladies and windows when the men were away. On the island of Madeira one can also enjoy traditional music and dance, virtually unchanged over time. While tourism has become important to the local economy, fishing and agriculture are still staples, and the residents take great pride in the local craft work. If you enjoy wine, you may want to visit the Adegas de São Francisco winery where the Madeira wine is still made. They offer a tour that looks at production and history, and they even have a bottle of wine from 1772. Madeira offers a unique experience with its many villages full of history, culture and traditions and its amazing outdoor sports. It is an ideal vacation spot for families and singles a like.

Some Attractions

Funchal

Funchal in Portuguese refers to the abundant fennel plants the settlers found five hundred years ago where they founded the town. This is the largest city on the island and also its capitol. The town stretches from the Bay of Machico 1200 meters up the mountain. It is filled with historic architecture, museums, restaurants, and recreational facilities. Of interest is the Sé Cathedral built from1493-1514 in the southern European Gothic and Manueline styles. Many of the cathedral’s treasures have been removed to the island museums, but the church itself is worth seeing. The Sacred Art Museum has pieces taken from churches throughout the island. The Madeira Story Center, an interactive historical museum that focuses on the island’s past and development is nearby. It is located in the Old Town and its exhibit begins with the volcanic birth of the island 14 million years ago. In the museum one also finds telescopes to view the town, art exhibits, a café and a souvenir shop. On the beach is the Lido Swimming Complex with pools that fill daily with fresh sea water, ocean access, lounge chairs and umbrellas, water slides, table tennis, child care, shops and a restaurant. This is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.

São Lourenço

For those who love the outdoors and nature, this is a great place to visit. São Lourenço is located on the farthest tip of the eastern peninsula of the island, and has been virtually untouched by man. Here you find fantastic rock formations, a crystal clear sea, and fabulous views of both sides of the island and even Porto Santo on a clear day. It is a great place for a hike and possibly even a private swim.

Porto Moniz

This small and charming village is located on the northern most point of the island. It is known for its beautiful natural bathing pools that were formed from lava and are filled by the Atlantic. It also offers a beautiful promenade that links the pools to the pier and some nice restaurants. The Living Science Centre is one of the village’s main attractions and includes a cyber café, traveling exhibitions, and 150 seat auditorium. The area is known for its vineyards, fishing and cattle.

Pico Ruivo

This is the highest peak on the island at 1861 meters and offers a challenge for serious climbers. In the winter there is often snow and poor visibility, but in the summer there is a state run refuge open just below the summit. For those who would like to get out and really flex their muscles, this is sure not to disappoint.

Santana

This village located on the northern coast of the island at the edge of the Laurissima Forest is known for its quaint triangular stone and thatch homes, its crafts work and traditions. Every July it hosts a festival that celebrates the island’s historic dances and music, drawing visitors from around the island and beyond. In addition, the Madeira Theme Park was opened here in 2004, offering 17 acres of amusements for all ages. It has become a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.

Volcanic Centre and Caves of São Vicente

Located in the São Vicente village on the northern coast is this visitor’s center which features audiovisual displays that look at the volcanic eruptions that led to the birth of the Madeira Islands. There are also some amazing gardens here, and volcanic caves that were formed during an eruption. The caves include lava tubes that were formed 400,000 years ago and stretch 1000 meters. Visitors can walk through about 700 meters of the tubes on a 30 minute tour.

Beaches

The island is full of beaches, some sandy but most pebbled. The water is clean and clear and great for bathing anywhere you go. Nearby Porto Santo Island is covered in golden sandy beaches and can be reached by ferry or plane. It boasts therapeutic sands that helps alleviate symptoms of rheumatism and heal broken bones. Many of the beaches will rent sun umbrellas and lounge chairs and have bars or restaurants on the premises. Some may even offer child care.

Santa Cruz Aqua Park

This water park can accommodate up to 1000 visitors at a time and is filled with water slides, swimming pools, toboggan rides, and lazy rivers. It boasts locker rooms and a bar. Kids will love it.


Una Risposta to “Madeira”

  1. I love Madeira!! I miss Funchal!! I have to go back there next year!! If you miss Madeira lika I do go to my website and download wallpaper to your desktop,thanks!

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