After travelling through northern Italy for about 1 week , we flew from Venice to Madeira (map). Our airline was called TAP (Portuguese, national airline) and we had to stop in Lisbon on both ways. Sadly all of our four flights were delayed. Still we would recommend TAP as it is a solid airline. We touched down in Funchal which is something like the ´capital´of Madeira. Pilots who fly to Funchal need a certain certificate, as the airstrip is quite short and right above the ocean. The Landing can therefore be a bit rough.
We hired a car via check24 and didn´t have any problems with it. We are always looking for the best insurances, no limited kms and cars without excess/ contribution. Most car rental agencies have their cars right next to the airport of Funchal. Sometimes the agents try to sell you extra insurances or some kind of an upgrade of your car. As Madeira has a lot of hills and mountains and as the streets go up and down, they sometimes try to convince you of a car that runs on diesel. This is not necessary.
We booked a flat close to the shopping centre ´Forum Madeira´, just outside of Funchal. We believe that this is the perfect location on Madeira and that it is a good idea to book a flat with your own kitchen. And if you don´t want to cook yourself, you will find the restaurant ´real canoe´ close to the shopping centre. It offers meat from a hot stone (traditional dish on Madeira) and a lot of excellent sea food. You will also find shops, cafés and other restaurants close by and it only takes about 30 min. by foot to the inner city part of Funchal. Besides that, you will find access to the ocean in walking distance. Madeira in general doesn´t have many beaches. Usually you will find some kind of a swimming pool that offers sun beds etc. and a safe ´entrance´ to the ocean. As Madeira is in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, the sea can get rough.
Funchal is the biggest city on Madeira and offers a lot of attractions. The whole city was built in colonial style and is just bursting with colours. You will find palms and flowers everywhere. Funchal also provides old English tea houses, traditional and modern restaurants and loads of little shops. In the evenings it is worth going there for a drink. One of our favourite bars is called Venda Velha. They serve homemade and fresh drinks.
But of course most people don´t come to Madeira to stay in Funchal. There are many different hiking tours on the island that often go alongside small channels. These tours are called levada hiking tracks. But you can also go for tours around the Pico Ruivo which is the highest point of Madeira. Up there it often look surreal, especially when the clouds come up the mountains.
But there are some more attraction. One is located in Porto Moniz. There you will find a beautiful, natural pool. It is even more fun when it is stormy and the waves come over the surrounding walls. Furthermore you will find two botanical parcs/ gardens just above Funchal (Monte). You can either drive there, or you can take the cable car. Both are worth a visit. Madeira also has the highest cliff of Europe. It is called Cabo Girao and is close to Camara de Lobos. They have a platform with a transparent ground up there. Camara de Lobos is also the place where Winston Churchill came to paint. It is interesting to see this place, but it is very touristic. We would recommend to just stop by for a short period of time.
In general, Madeira is an absolutely unique island. From its position it belongs to West-Africa, but politically and culturally it belongs to Europe. It is surrounded by rough seas and sometimes strong winds, but has a warm climate of around 20-25 degrees throughout the whole year. Madeira has palms, banana trees and colourful flowers everywhere and the inhabitants are absolutely friendly and outgoing. This island used to be a typical destination for hikers aged 50+, but we believe this is about to change. Madeira is just a stunning destination for all kind of travellers.