Madeira is a volcanic and mountainous island approx 600 miles from Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is beautiful with many exotic flowers ,sugar cane ,vineyards and bananas along the roadside .
There are so many places to visit as you tour the island with picturesque villages nestled in valleys including Sao Vicente .It has been voted the best place to live in the world ,plus you can explore the magnificent caves with underground lake.
The scenery around the island varies greatly as you travel over bridges and through tunnels to get from one area to another.
The coastline is mostly cliffs with occasional black beaches. There are plenty of activities including water sports , sailing and windsurfing to walking the Levada trails (which are spring water gullies )through valleys to 25 water falls ,amazing mountains and forest.
The most famous attraction is the cable car ( 11 euros one or 16 euros return ) which runs from the harbour up to San Monte ( 1600 meters ) .
From here you can visit the botanical garden plus ride on the incredible wicker Toboggans ( 25 euros single , 30 couple or 35 for 3 ) You wizz down the steep road for 2 km .I was screaming but my Mum of 86 was as cool as a cucumber .
We hired a private taxi (Carlos.firstname.lastname@example.org) and toured the west side of the island ,which took a full day and saw lots of different towns and views including the famous fishing village Winston Churchill liked to sit and paint and Eagle Cliff which is the highest cliff in Europe with a glass viewing platform .
There are many events throughout the yearly calendar including a carnival in February ,flower festival in April ,Fireworks every weekend in June and a Wine festival in September .They are renowned for their firework displays on New Year’s Eve .
It’s great to stroll along Rua De Santa Maria in the old town of Funchal to find some fabulous fish restaurants and try the local beer or a tipple of Poncha . We ate at Tabernacle Ruel restaurant .
I stayed at the Belmond Reid Palace which is perched high on a cliff overlooking the ocean and Funchal and set in 10 acres of gardens.This historical hotel has been entertaining their guests for over 120 years including royalty ,politicians and other famous people . It has two wings with 123 rooms and 35 suites . We enjoyed the food at Williams a Michelin stared restaurant and the Cipriani with an Italian menu . They also serve there “famous ” afternoon tea , fabulous cocktail bar and nightly entertainment .
The views of Funchal and villages from the hotel and your room are breath taking especially at night .
There are 3 pools including a freshwater pool at the bottom of the cliff which can be reached by a lift ,where there are bathing areas on many levels with access in the ocean .
The hotel has a daily itinerary of various trips including a drive with champers and canapés in a classic car plus a free shuttle service to Funchal during the day.
The area around the hotel has plenty of high standard restaurants and a few small supermarkets .We ate at Chalet Vicente and Lareira Portuguese restaurants which both were very good . There is a fun bar with live music here called The Hole in One .
I visited the The Cliff Bay Hotel (which is next Door to the Reid ). It is a marvellous modern 5 Star hotel with a Michelin 2 star restaurant (you can have breakfast here with certain room types ) . It has a very large bathing area and 3 pools again with ocean access .It has a great Spa area with indoor pool . There are 202 rooms which are large and most have ocean view .If you have Funchal facing rooms you have the sun in the mornings . I was very impressed with how many monthly events are organised within the hotel throughout the year including a visit from a group of Michelin Chef for cookery classes. The hotel offer a great reward package for returning clients including discount on food and drinks.
I visited the Royal Savoy Hotel, it is a nice hotel but not on the cliff . The 174 rooms all have a ocean view with a mini kitchen with dishwasher . Great if you are staying longer to enjoy the wonderful winter sun . There is a large spa and an indoor heated pool. It has a spacious bathing terrace with rocks to make private areas to enjoy the sun .
The island of Porto Santo which is 2 hours by ferry has great golden sandy beaches.
Madeira is the same time as the UK , the flying time is 3.45 hours from Birmingham or Manchester and from the Airport to Funchal it is approx 20 minutes .
The weather is fantastic as it is never lower than 18 or higher than 28 degrees so it is an ideal all year round destinations .