Madeira: 12-13th January 2023

WHERE IS MADEIRA? Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic and on the Africa tectonic plate.   

WHAT LANGUAGES  ARE SPOKEN THERE AND WHAT'S THE CURRENCY? The official language is Portuguese and the Euro is the currency.

3 INTERESTING FACTS: 1) There's a museum dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo but you'll see references to him all over the island such as a statue at the airport. 2) Madeira hosts one of Europe's best Mardi Gras on the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday. 3) Pilots must undergo specialist training to land at Funchal Airport which often appears on lists of the world's top 10 most dangerous airports due to its short runway, the cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. 

HOW TO GET THERE? Funchal Airport is around 11 miles from the capital city. The hourly bus takes you into Funchal, costs 5 Euros and takes around 40 minutes. As I've mentioned, it's one of the world's most dangerous airports to land at so don't be surprised if the passengers around you applaud the captain on landing! That happened on my flight!

WHAT DID I DO AND WHAT DID I THINK? I always preface these sections by saying that my whirlwind visits don't even touch on what these destinations have to offer. Too early to check into my hotel, I took the cable car up to Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Gardens. Oh wow! It's beautiful but the most mesmorising part I feel is at the very bottom (see the photo below) and you'll have to walk down so many uneven steps. That might sound off-putting as the only exit is back up at the top but there's a golf buggy at the bottom where you can ask to be taken back to the gate. If walking, I think the easiest way to make your way back up is by following the wide path that's really aimed at the golf buggy.

I almost chickened out but I went on the Monte wicker basket cars (toboggan run) where you sit in a large basket on wooden runners and two uniformed men steer the basket as you hurtle down the hill and around the corners using only the soles of their special shoes as brakes! It costs 15 Euros for one person and takes around 15 minutes. It takes you to the town of Livramento but there're usually taxis around. When you get off, there'll be pressure to buy the photos taken of you (I ducked my head the 2 times I saw a camera) so you just need to be firm if saying "no". I also went on a whale and dolphin watching trip, went to the 3D Fun Art Museum, took in the stunning views from Cabo Girao and did the hop-on hop-off bus. My hotel for 2 nights was the Hotel Porto Santa Maria which is right on the beach and by the old town which is just full of flowers and wall art.

Would I go back? Yes, definitely. Lovely people, warm and I'd like to explore the north of the island.  

Monte Palace Madeira Tropical Gardens