Month: June 2021

Our guided tours provide a fascinating insight into the history, landscapes and everyday life on Madeira. Our Porto Moniz tour takes you to the spectacular seacliffs on the north-western coast.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Your first stop of the day is the south coast town of Camara de Lobos – home to some of the island’s largest banana plantations and vineyards.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

The name Lobos comes from Lobos-Marinhos: sea-lions – as the first settlers explored the south coast of the island, they discovered the bay was home to a large colony of Mediterranean monk seals. Colonisation drove the seals away from the main island to the neighbouring Desertas Islands, where their colony is now protected. It’s estimated that fewer than 700 monk seals survive in the world, mainly in the Aegean and the Mediterraean itself, with around 30 individuals here on Deserta Grande.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Winston Churchill visited Camara de Lobos during a stay on the island in 1950 – setting up his canvas and easel on the eastern side of the bay, before spending the day painting. The viewpoint was subsequently named ‘Miradouro de Winston Churchill’ and a commemorative plaque was added in 1981.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

You’ll also visit a much more modern miradouro at Cabo Girao; one of Europe’s highest sea cliffs. A glass skywalk was constructed in 2012, and extends out over the cliff above the 580m sheer drop – it’s not a walk for the fainthearted.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Heading inland, you’ll climb up onto the high Paul de Serra plain. At 1500m it can be quite a desolate part of the island – when the cloud and mist drop, it often feels like you’ve been transported to the highlands of Scotland. This high plain was once considered as a location for Madeira’s airport – however, the serra is prone to flash-flooding in the winter and the airports current location down on the south coast won out.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Following the long, straight road across the serra, you’ll eventually reach the north coast village of Porto Moniz – a good spot for lunch and one of the best swimming spots on the island. The coastline is dotted with natural rock pools, and there are changing facilities at the Complexo Balnear de Porto Moniz.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

After lunch, you’ll pick-up the road along the north-coast – it’s one of our favourite drives on the island, where the road is squeezed hard between sea and land.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

The road brings you to the coastal hamlet of Seixal and the famous Casacata Veu da Noiva: the Bridal Veil waterfall, formed by the Ribeira de Joao Delgada falling 30m from the slopes of the Achada do Cedro into the sea.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Turning inland, your next stop is the village of Sao Vicente, which sits in a narrow valley beneath the high peaks of the central mountains.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north 0

Sao Vicente is home to the island’s Volcanism Centre where you can explore 800,000-year-old lava caves and tunnels. The centre also has some interesting and unusual audio-visual displays that recreate the geological evolution of the island.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

You’ll end your day with a drive up and over the spectacular high pass which dissects the island in two: from Sao Vicente up to the summits of Pico do Cedro and Pico da Encumeada, before dropping down toward Ribeira Brava on the south coast and home.

Guided tours of Madeira - Porto Moniz and the north

Our private tours are flexible – our guides have a plan but they won’t hold you to a strict timetable. If you have any specific interests, we can create a personalised tour just for you. We specialise in personalised holidays to Madeira and Porto Santo. If you’d like to talk to one of our experts, please call on 017687 721070 or drop us a line via our Enquiry Form.

Our guided tours provide a fascinating insight into the history, landscapes and everyday life on Madeira. Our Santana tour explores the coastal villages and river valleys across eastern Madeira.

Our Santana tour begins in the pretty village of Camacha, famous for it’s handmade wicker baskets which were once a household essential for every home on the island. As plastics became more popular, the village diversified into wicker furniture, kitchen utensils, ornaments and even hats – but it’s still the best place to buy a basket on the island.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Heading upwards and inland, you’ll come to one the highest points on the island: the summit of Pico do Arieiro (1816m). Weather-permitting, you’ll have a magnificent panoramic view across Madeira’s central mountains.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

It’s a short drive from Arieiro to the forest park at Ribeiro Frio, where three of the island’s most important levadas converge: the Levada do Furado, the Serra do Faial and the Juncal – making this the ideal spot to preserve and protect Madeira’s endemic plant life. A short walk down the Levada da Serra do Faial will bring you to the famous miradouro at Balcões, overlooking the Ribeira da Metade valley.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Leaving the mountains behind, the road zig-zags down through green valleys of Cruzinha to the east coast village of Faial – a good stopping point for lunch. You’ll begin the afternoon with a visit to the Casas Tradicionais in Santana – the preserved, traditional thatch-and-lavastone buildings that were once common throughout the north-east of the island.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Your next stop is the village of Porto da Cruz – home to one of the island’s few surviving rum distilleries at Engenho do Norte.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

There are three Engenho’s on the island, and the distillery here in Porto da Cruz is the only one still driven by steam. One of Madeira’s best loved cakes is made from a by-product of the distillery – molasses, which is the main ingredient in Bolo de Mel, or ‘Honey Cake’ in English.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Continuing south, you’ll arrive at one of Madeira most-famous natural landmarks: the Ponta de Sao Lourenco peninsula. Whilst the majority of Madeira is green and fertile, Sao Lourenco is a beautifully-barren, desolate finger of desert terrain protruding out into the Atlantic. The peninsula provides a glimpse of a habitat less like the rest of Madeira and more common on the neighbouring Desertas Islands, which are visible to the south.

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Your final stop of the day is the town of Machico, where Joao Goncalves Zarco and Trisao Vaz Texiera first landed when they (re)discovered the island on 1st July 1419.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Madeira appears on maps from as early as 1339 – there’s even archaeological evidence that suggests the Vikings may have visited the island around the year 1030. It wasn’t until the mid-15th Century that the Portuguese prince Infante Henrique, (known more widely outside Portugal as Henry the Navigator), sent his captains out into the Atlantic to claim Madeira and her neighbours for the Portuguese crown.

Guided tours of Madeira - Santana and the east

Our private tours are flexible – our guides have a plan but they won’t hold you to a strict timetable. If you have any specific interests, we can create a personalised tour just for you. We specialise in personalised holidays to Madeira and Porto Santo. If you’d like to talk to one of our experts, please call on 017687 721070 or drop us a line via our Enquiry Form.

Funchal’s New Year’s Eve festival is famous across Portugal for it’s enormous firework display – marking the end of a packed cultural calendar on the island. Here’s our guide to a year of festivals on Madeira.

Festivals on Madeira

The year begins with the week-long Madeira Carnival at the end of February. The first event is the Festa dos Compadres in Santana – a parade of gigantic figurines known as the Compadres and the Comadres. After a brief confrontation and public show-trial for their ‘many infidelities and sins’, the figurines are found guilty and tossed onto a large bonfire in the centre of town. Despite this gruesome end, it’s one of the more fun festivals on the island and an excellent opportunity to sample the island’s street food.

Festivals on Madeira

Ad-hoc celebrations pop up across the whole island during Carnival week, culminating in the main Carnival street party and parade in the capital Funchal on Saturday.

Festivals on Madeira

Carnival ends on the following Tuesday with the Cortejo Trapalão parade – the sillier-side of Carnival and a particular favourite amongst Madeirans.

Festivals on Madeira

The Amo Teatro festival in Santa Cruz and Funchal’s Festival Literaio are in March, followed by April’s Fest da Flor. Funchal’s two-day Flower Festival is well-known and well-loved, celebrating the arrival of spring on the island. Festivities begin with the building of the Muro da Esperança – a ‘Wall of Hope’ flower mural at the Largo do Colegio (on the Praça do Município), constructed by the islands’ school children using blossoms from across the globe.

Festivals on Madeira

You’ll also see carpets of flowers laid throughout the city, covering almost every street and avenida. It’s a common feature of religious festivals throughout Portugal, and Funchal’s fragrant works of art are arguably some of the most memorable. Sunday’s big event is the Flower Parade – 1500 residents, local children and folk-dancers in spectacularly-colourful costumes parade down the Avenida Sá Carneiro on floats lavishly adorned with spring flowers.

Festivals on Madeira

May and June’s highlights include the Madeira Film Festival and Classic Car Revival. June also has two of the island’s most popular music festivals: the world music Raizes do Atlantico festival in Ponta do Sol, and the indie/rock Fica na Cidade festival in Funchal. Madeira’s largest music festival is the NOS Summer Opening in July  – it doesn’t have the big international acts that the mainland’s NOS festival attracts, but it’s a great event that showcases the best of Portugal’s homegrown talent.

Festivals on Madeira

August is another busy month – there’s the Festa dos Fachos torch festival in Machico, one of the oldest celebrations on the island. Dating back to the 16th Century when Madeira was frequently under attack by French Corsairs, strategically-placed fires were lit on the high peaks and mountains to warn the island’s population of imminent attack. Nowadays, the festival’s fires are formed into the shapes of fish, boats and important religous symbols.

Festivals on Madeira

August also sees the start of the wine harvest, celebrated by the island’s Festa do Vinho. The festival can last anything up to four weeks, commencing with the ceremonial pressing of the first grapes of the harvest in the south coast town of Camara da Lobos, followed by music, dance and street food in the capital Funchal. There are four main varieties of wine produced on the island: Sercial is a dry white and a popular aperitif, Verdelho is medium-dry and often served with soups such as caldo verde. Boal is medium-sweet with a strong flavour, great with cheese, and finally there’s sweet Malmsey, which is often served with rich deserts and chocolate.

Festivals on Madeira

The most-popular event of the month (and certainly the noisiest) is the Madeira Vinho Rally – one of the more technical and most scenic stages in the FIA’s European Rally Championship calendar.

Festivals on Madeira

Calm is restored in September with the Canary-Madeira Sailing Regatta, which attracts hundreds of sailing enthusiasts to the island, as fifty crews race the 500km between the Canary Islands and Madeira.

Festivals on Madeira

Also in September, Madeira’s small neighbour Porto Santo plays host to the annual Columbus Festival. It’s a celebration of Christopher Columbus’ time in residence on the island, in the late 1400’s during his marriage to Filipa de Moniz: daughter of the first governor of Porto Santo. There’s street theatre, live music, dances and exhibitions – and  a nightly parade reconstructing Columbus’ celebrated arrival on the island at the Praça do Barqueiro.

Festivals on Madeira

October’s Nature Festival is a must for lovers of outdoor sports such as mountain biking, diving, surfing, kayaking, canyoning and climbing. Weather-wise, October’s one of the best months for mountain and sea-based activities, and there’s an opportunity to try out a new pursuit for free.

Festivals on Madeira

The Feria das Castanhas chestnut festival is at beginning of November. It’s another really popular event with local Madeirans, celebrating the harvesting of chestnut crop in the secluded town of Curral das Freiras. Also know as the Nun’s Valley, this beautiful spot was once a refuge for the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara, who fled inland from Funchal when the island was attacked by French Corsairs in mid-1500’s. Cherries and chestnuts are the main crops grown on the terraces which line the steep sides of the valley. The cherries are used in the production of the island’s fortified wines, whilst the chestnuts find their way into a number of traditional Madeiran recipes for cakes, sweet puddings and soups.

Festivals on Madeira

The Madeiradig Digital Arts Festival is in December – four days of contemporary and electronic music, curated by Digital in Berlin. The line-ups are often eclectic and always interesting, attracting artists from around the globe to the sunny south-coast town of Ponta do Sol. Madeiradig has an excellent compilation available to stream on bandcamp.

Festivals on Madeira

The year ends in explosive style with Funchal’s famous fireworks display. The whole of Madeira descends on the city for the big event – families and friends gathered on every rooftop and balcony, whilst Funchal’s bay is filled with cruise ships bringing travellers from around the world to enjoy the festivities. On the stroke of midnight, the cruise ships sound their sirens and every church bell in the city rings out as the epic firework display begins.

Festivals on Madeira

Whatever your tastes, pick your event and we can build you bespoke Madeira Festival holiday. We specialise in personalised holidays to Madeira and Porto Santo. If you’d like to talk to one of our experts on the best time to visit Madeira, just give us a call on 017687 721070 or drop us a line via our Enquiry Form.

Madeira has some wonderfully wild places to swim

Max and Emily explored Madeira to discover for themselves the amazing wild swimming spots to be found here in this sub-tropical paradise.

Without further ado here are some images to inspire you to dip into Madeira…

 

Wild Waterfall Woman Madeira Holidays
Emily swims the cool waters of the impressive Cascata do Risco at Rabacal.

 

Walking in Madeira Holidays
Walking into the Risco gorge

 

Swimming in waterfalls Madeira Holidays
It’s worth walking to the end of the Levada das 25 Fontes at Rabacal where the eponymous waterfalls spill into the idyllic forest glade. 25 waterfalls and one swimmer.

 

Seawater pools Madeira Holidays
Porto Moniz is an hour – and a world – away from Funchal. The natural volcanic pools are ideal for a morning dip.

 

Dawn at the pools Madeira Holidays
The most famous natural sea water pools are at the Aqua Natura hotel, a short walk from your sea view room for an early morning swim without the crowds.

 

Hidden pools in Madeira - Madeira Holidays
Did she get in? Our guides can show you the hidden pools far from the tourist track.

 

Lido in Madeira Madeira Holidays
Azure infinity: the view from the salt water pool at Porto da Cruz.

 

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Archipelago Choice Madeira Specialists

We specialise in personalised holidays to Madeira and Porto Santo. If you’d like to talk to one of our experts on the best time to visit Madeira, just give us a call on 017687 721070 or drop us a line via our Enquiry Form.

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