What makes a vacation awesome? What makes it something rememberable? For me, a vacation wasn’t really a ‘fun’ vacation if I couldn’t break the bank and come home with fantastic goodies in other words: I love(d) going on city trips. With New York topping the ranks. This year I went on a family trip to Madeira, a Portuguese island that is the result of multiple volcano eruptions and is now the top of a volcanic system. Which is obviously the complete opposite of a city trip.
So, let’s first discuss what Madeira is not; Madeira is not a shopping Walhalla. Even the biggest malls in Funchal (the center of the island), Madeira Shopping and Forum Madeira, are quite uninteresting in comparison to the shopping streets or malls in big cities.
Madeira is also not a party island. If you’re expecting an island similar to Ibiza, for example, Madeira might not be your ideal vacation destination. There are clubs, bars, and obviously, a lot of restaurants, but during weekdays the parties are harder to find. Did I give you the impression that Madeira is boring, wait… read on!
Because… it…is…STUNNING. The whole island is beautiful. Especially when you take the time to leave the center (Funchal) to explore the higher grounds or mountains. During my time there I went on a couple of organized tours that were worth every penny. And they weren’t even that expensive.
Madeira is an island that consists out of steep areas and mountains. Even the city of Funchal is pretty steep. If you’ve ever been in Lisbon you can imagine more or less what I mean. The moment you leave the city you’re heading to even higher grounds.
My first tour brought me to one of the highest points of the island: Pico do Arieiro. And the view was amazing. I was quite literally with my head in the clouds. Besides the view on top of the mountain, you get to enjoy the awesome view of the lower points and the ocean during the drive up. I went by car, but if you’re into hiking or climbing you will love Madeira probably even more. There are plenty of possibilities for activities like canoeing and you can add spotting and swimming under waterfalls to the mix.
Other tours brought me to different hotspots (Botanical Garden, Santana, Santa Cruz, Porto do Moniz et cetera.) and those hotspots and the roads leading to them all had a thing in common: beautiful views!
One of my favorite things was getting out into the ocean with a catamaran (a sail boat) to spot whales, dolphins, and turtles. We did this tour with Magic Dolphins. The great part is that they work in an animal-friendly manner. Personally, I’m against swimming with dolphins and such, seeing how this is a form of animal cruelty. However, this is a discussion/ topic for another day. The point is that Magic Dolphins works with marine biologists that teach you about the whales, dolphins, and turtles during the tour and they take the animals into account. Meaning when you do spot a whale or dolphin – during my tour, we spotted three different dolphin species- they only stop for a couple of minutes. They do this to prevent that the animals get disturbed too much. The fun part is that dolphins are really social creatures. They loved showing themselves off and playing around for a while before they continued going their own way.
So if you love a good adventure, a good hike or climb, nature, or beautiful views then Madeira should be your next destination! And for all of you soccer fans out there, Cristiano Ronaldo was born on this beautiful island!