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Mystical Mountains of Maderia, the name says it all!

Sunset from the valley of the Nun’s

Homes built into the complex hillsides dot the horizon with banana tree plantations, sugar cane plots, and backyard gardens lining the terraced hillsides of this stunningly beautiful volcanic island. Deep in the island’s interior, chestnut trees cling to the cliffs which remind me of the Hallelujah Mountains from the movie Avatar in the Valley of the Nuns producing a stunning backdrop of fall foliage. Chestnuts are a staple on the island giving nutrition, flavor, and texture to a variety of foods including Alcohol, breads, pastries, and even Chestnut Cheesecake; all of which I recommend trying.

View from Valley of the Nun's

The hydrangea lined winding roads of the cloud forest is an amazing drive with spectacular views of the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean but is not for the faint of heart. Sheer cliffs hundreds or thousands of feet straight down give you an appreciation for the ingenuity and hard work that the islanders had to endure for thousands of years before modern roads and tunnels were installed connecting these small towns. This small 309 square mile island packs options for caves, waterfalls, and dramatic valleys, most of which can be seen from a car, however, get onto the hiking trails for a real treat.

Christmas Tropical Wonderland

Each year, this subtropical paradise converts into a magical island as the Christmas lights accent the trees and city streets of Funcal. Light shows dancing to Christmas music, garland lined archways, festive decorations throughout the city and chestnuts literally roasting on open fires definitely put you in the Christmas spirit. If you are looking for a Christmas getaway, this is a great location for the family at an affordable cost.

Poncha, the drink that will make Grandma dance!


If you like Rum Punch, be very careful with the Poncha (Madeiran Punch). This unsuspecting, small sized fruit concoction is  absolutely delicious and definitely packs a Madeiran Punch (pun intended). Upon first sip, you taste the natural flavors of your chosen drink with the hint of alcohol. Freshly muddled limes, oranges, tangerines, mango, passion fruit and others from the island are combined with raw sugar from the island, rum made on the island, and chestnut honey harvested on the island… the islanders are incredibly proud and don’t import anything for their drinks. You won’t feel the effects until you stand up to use the restroom or get another drink so be careful and don’t drink and drive… see sheer cliffs above.

The locals hangout: Taberna da Poncha, Serra De Agua however, be careful. The cops sit on either sides of the hill waiting for drunkenness! Recommended time by the locals to go is 6pm every Wednesday night.

Painted Doors of Funchal

In the historical center of Funchal, also known as Old Town, the Painted Doors Project has transformed a once declining area into a thriving outdoor permanent art gallery. The once vacant streets are now filled with shops, boutique galleries and a wide variety of restaurants to delight every palate. The food and cocktails in this area are phenomenal with countless restaurants staggered along the alleyways covering nearly 200 doors in the Old Town. This free attraction is a Must See if you appreciate art, food, and historical culture.

*Also known as Open Door project.

Restaurants Worth Visiting

For a list of the best restaurants please see our post : Best Restaurants in Madeira which even includes a great proposal location if you are thinking about taking the plunge guys!

Tips and Tricks For Maderia:

When Arriving By Sea, I usually prefer to stay near the ports as this is where most of the action is. While there is plenty of fun things to do on the island, Madeira’s natural beauty, unique culinary experiences and the people are what makes this island such an amazing place to visit. I highly recommend renting a car to see the interior of the island and take a drive around the exterior loop for some spectacular views.  Make sure to go anticlockwise because some streets are only accessible in this direction on the west end on the island that you won’t want to miss.

Pack a picnic as private (yes, just you!) rest stops along the roadside make for memorable picnics with scenic views you won’t soon forget. You can have your lunch under a waterfall, inside a cave, perched on a cliff overlooking the vast Atlantic, scenic valleys, or among moss lined trees surrounded by clouds all in the same day. I used Avis Rent a Car on the island, the girls at the airport counter were fantastic, prices were competitive, and the cars are small… this is a plus! Call them directly (+351)291524392 before outsourcing, they beat the competitions price. I highly recommend upgrading if you are not an expert at stick shift or just want an easier drive as the hills into and out of the valleys are sometimes 20% grade, very windy and I’ve had golfcarts with more horsepower. Constant shifting and rollback on the hills made for memories that I WOULD like to forget. The drivers here are courteous however, move to the right and use the left lane only to pass. Locals will use their left-hand blinker when approaching from behind to ask you politely to move over, followed by flashing high beams and then letting you know that you are number one in their books as they pass you on the right.

Get lost, don’t plan every moment of the day, and stop at local restaurants along your drive/walk. If they are bragging about their TripAdvisor award before letting you see the menu, turn around and go somewhere else. By far the best food on the island is the local cuisine.

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Benjamin Phillips

Benjamin Phillips

Travel Blogger

I have a passion for sailing, traveling and seeing local attractions; the amazing people I meet and the memories I have are my inspiration to keep going. I seek out local attractions usually not listed on other sites and blogs, visit the places that the locals inhabit and purposely avoid tourist traps.

I hope to see you out there!

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