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Language: Portuguese | Currency: Euros (€) | Local time: UTC | Avg. Flight time: 4 hrs
About half the size of London, Madeira is easy for travellers to get around. However, if you don’t have a rental car, then Funchal is the most ideal place to stay as almost all buses run from here to other towns.
Many resorts are near to the Lido promenade, which has a series of public swimming pools – one of them is a seawater pool. There is also a great number of restaurants around the area. Nearby, the landscaped gardens often host craft fairs and small variety shows.
Many quintas – old manor houses usually surrounded by charming gardens – have been converted into modern 4-star hotels. These often feature swimming pools and large rooms, and some are equipped with on-site wellness centres, meaning you can pay 4-star prices while enjoying maximum comfort.
Another advantage of staying in Funchal is getting to experience ‘Monte sledges’ (Carros de Cestos), a unique form of transport where two men whisk you down a steep hill in a car made of wicker and wood, braking with their boots. This first-rate white-knuckle ride is certainly not for the faint-hearted!
Although much of the accommodation in Madeira is found in the capital, don’t be afraid to venture out of Funchal – there are plenty of other places to choose from based on your budget and tastes.
Affluent Canico on the south coast is home to some of the best holiday resorts. These are ideal for mellow travellers who prefer a quiet hotel-based escape, or those who enjoy a round of golf – the challenging Palheiro course is just a 20-minute drive away. Nightlife is almost non-existent in the town centre.
Machico, on the south-eastern part of the island, is where the first explorers landed on Madeira. The beach is now covered in golden sand imported from Western Sahara. Machico is also a good starting point for a number of nice levada walks (scenic walks along ancient irrigation channels). Hotel prices here are cheaper than Canico.
Madeira is famous for its fortified wine, so if you want to experience the local produce first-hand, opt to stay in Funchal, Câmara de Lobos or San Vicente. Many guide-led, wine-themed day trips around the island also start from Funchal.
Madeira is a highly affordable destination for British holidaymakers; a week-long holiday package may cost you as little as £250 per person. Its small size also makes it an ideal short break destination for travellers – compare prices on TravelSupermarket to secure a cheap hotel package.
Another way to cut costs is to avoid travelling during peak times – from June to September, and over the Christmas holidays. If you must travel during the busier seasons, booking in advance will, as ever, help you secure those elusive rooms before they get snapped up or become overpriced.