November 16, 2022
Enveloped by swathes of moist laurel forest, Madeira rises majestically out of the Atlantic in riotous shades of green. Generous layers of ferns, mosses and lichens cover volcanic rocks and ancient trees, creating a dense jungle habitat. Funchal, the island’s capital, is set in a natural amphitheatre on the sunny south coast. It couldn’t have a more idyllic location.
A quaint and yet cosmopolitan city, Funchal has lost none of its old-world charms. Wander down the narrow winding streets of the historic Old Town and delight in the painted woodwork of houses, shops, cafés, galleries, and museums. Be sure to sample Madeira’s famed fortified wines in one of the many bars and restaurants.
A visit to Funchal Cathedral is a must. Dating back to 1485, it has a beautiful wooden ceiling and is a classic example of Manueline architecture. A short walk from the cathedral is the historic farmers’ market, bursting with the vibrant sights and sounds of traders selling their fresh produce. Why not sample some local delights, including the exotic ananas-banana, literally – pineapple banana, which only grows in Madeira.
You’ll want to take the cable car to the picturesque village of Monte for glorious views of Funchal and the bay. While you’re up there, visit the 18th century Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, and the Monte Palace tropical garden. As you stroll around this landscaped haven, you’ll see its vast exotic plant collection, as well as art exhibitions from around the world.
For something truly memorable, slide your way back down to Funchal in exhilarating carros de cesto, or ‘basket carts.’ Essentially wicker baskets with seats set on wooden skis, hold on tight as you descend over a mile from Monte to Funchal!
To discover Madeira’s isolated hamlets, terraced agriculture fields and dramatic topography, feel free to join an optional excursion that takes you further into the interior.