Skip To Content

    24 Reasons You Should Visit Madeira, Portugal In This Lifetime

    The birth place of Cristiano Ronaldo and also, many rainbows.

    The coronavirus pandemic is still impacting travel, and destinations around the world have different COVID-19 restrictions in place. Always check and adhere to local government policies as you're planning future trips.

    1. Going sledding on concrete is a perfectly normal mode of transportation.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Imagine going sledding, except A) you’re on concrete, B) your appendages won't freeze, and C) two people are propelling you forward — that’s the traditional sledge toboggan that you can experience *only* in Madeira.

    2. Drinks come with this kind of view.

    hand holding glass of wine
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This glass of wine was enjoyed at Quinta do Furão

    Address: Estrada da Quinta do Furão Nº6, 9230-082 Santana, Portugal

    3. *This* is the constantly changing atmosphere you'll see after a levada hike to the Balcões viewpoint.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Levada = a centuries-old aqueduct system you'll see throughout Madeira mountains.

    After schlepping up a mountain, I was (mildly) disappointed to find everything was overcast — until my tour guide told me to wait a few seconds. From 9:34 a.m. to 9:35 a.m., the sky changed from a thick, murky soup to completely clear.

    If you plan on booking a hike, I highly recommend going through Madeira Adventure Kingdom for friendly guides and fun facts. There are 11 tours available and you can choose one that best suits your difficulty level.

    4. There are rainbows everywhere. The proof was in the pudding as soon as I flew in.

    view of a rainbow from the airplane
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    I felt like I entered another realm of the galaxy when I saw after coming from the pollution that is flying over JFK. 

    5. Here's another photo for good measure.

    a rainbow
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    I stayed at the Savoy Palace, was having breakfast on the rooftop, happened to look up from my coffee, and saw this. 

    6. Passionfruit and black scabbardfish are big menu staples.

    the plate
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Black scabbardfish = a deep sea fish around Madeira that looks creepy but tastes delicious. 

    7. Doggy paddling in the natural infinity pools of Porto Moniz is a perfectly normal way to spend your afternoon.

    the infinity pools
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    In Porto Moniz, salt water flows in from the sea and volcanic rock becomes the camping ground for your towel. Things that will never impress me again: chlorine-filled in-grounds.

    8. Madeira honey cake (aka Christmas cake) and butter biscuits with quince jam. Both things of great beauty.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    9. These three drinks: a fresh passionfruit mojito, Poncha (a traditional shot concoction of rum, honey, sugar, and orange or lemon juice), and Brisa (a passionfruit soda).

    the poncha
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    10. Doors are covered in intricate artwork.

    the door with a painted photo
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    You'll definitely want to meander the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Town Funchal. There are delicious eateries, lively watering holes, local shops, and — see above — doors covered in intricate artwork.

    11. You can face your fear of heights by hopping on the Madeira Cable Car.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This preferred mode of transport departs from Old Town Funchal, ends at Monte Palace Tropical Garden, and allows for 15 uninterrupted minutes of clear skies and terracotta roof views. The NYC 7 train suddenly seems so much worse.

    worse.Ticket cost: 11€ one way, 16€ roundtrip

    12. Driving from place to place = views like this one.

    the view
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    13. And this one.

    the view
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    14. The gelato is delicious *and* cheap.

    hand holding ice cream
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This rice and cinnamon flavor is so. damn. good. and if the quality of the ‘cream weren’t enough to convince you that it’s a must, then read my lips: two scoops costs 2 euro.

    15. Touring traditional straw roof homes and sampling rum-based coffee liqueur = highly encouraged.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    These homes are equipped with straw roofs and, while most are replicas due to the costly upkeep, there is still *one* original: the owner allows visitors to walk right in, and he even serves shots of a rum-based coffee liqueur.

    It’s free to enter (as is the shot!), but you can leave a tip if you'd like. The home has been in the current owner’s family for generations and he upkeeps the property to its original design.

    16. The rum is incredible.

    rum bottles
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Local rum is fantastic and you can swig a few samples at Porto da Cruz Steam Factory. 

    17. Big fan of high tea? Same. *This* is where you can enjoy scones and an English breakfast blend.

    the view from Reids Palace
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This is Reid's Palace, one of the most historic properties in Madeira and also my new dream home. Black tea, scones, and mini sandwiches are great… but coupled with this view? Have mercy.

    Address: Estrada Monumental 139, 9000-098 Funchal, Portugal

    18. There's the multi-level Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

    the garden
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    A visit to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden means your future backyard will never compare. This lush multi-level oasis is 70,000 square meters of biodiversity, intricate architecture, and gorgeous artwork you should dedicate an entire afternoon to exploring.

    Ticket cost: $10€

    Address: Caminho do Monte 174, 9050-288 Funchal, Portugal

    19. Meals look something like this.

    the meal
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This is black scabbardfish in filet form accompanied with a banana and passionfruit sauce. 

    20. And this.

    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Behold this passionfruit soufflé.

    21. And this.

    the rainbow trout
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    All hail the above rainbow trout dish. 

    22. And this.

    the sandwich
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    Madeira has the unique problem of harboring too much good food, which makes signing up for a food and wine tour with Discover Madeira an absolute must. My guide, Raquel, brings folks to seven local-approved spots that are great on your wallet and taste buds — this particular spot (Cristalina Chique Bar) was my favorite. 

    Address: Largo dos Lavradores 3, 9060-157 Funchal, Portugal

    23. One can spend a morning with their head in the clouds. Literally.

    person standing on Pico De Ariero
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    This is Pico do Arieiro, the third highest peak in Madeira. The elevation rests at 5,965 feet and, on clear days, you'll feel as if you're floating above fluffy white cotton balls — I went when it was overcast and didn't get that experience, but tbh, I almost preferred it. This was just as ethereal.

    24. Every corner feels like a photo opp.

    a street
    AnaMaria Glavan / BuzzFeed

    iPhone storage? Full. Instagram followers? Annoyed. 

    What's on *your* travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!