Known as the Garden Island, this stunningly beautiful port of call offers so much to see and do, the choices are endless. There is a breathtakingly impressive array of colour here and a magnificent display of sub-tropical flowers and plants. For this reason, it’s not hard to understand why the large and vibrant flower markets are one of the most interesting features of Funchal, Madeira’s capital.
Funchal is the base for the majority of tours, especially to the islands glorious botanical gardens. From here you can also visit the charming fishing village of Camara de Lobos, the location where Churchill went to paint.
Elsewhere, shopping lovers will relish a visit here as there are many unique souvenirs to be found. Locally made wicker, lacework and tapestries are all good buys in Funchal along with the ubiquitous Madeira wine. As you step foot ashore, a good feature of this destination is the close proximity of the port from the islands market town, however, it is worth noting that the further inland you wish to head, the steeper and narrow the streets become.
The scenery here is truly spectacular and many cruise lines offer the perfect excursion choices to make the most of your visit. If it’s the scenery you wish to enjoy then be sure to take your time with it, don’t rush as you will miss some of the hidden gems the island possesses. Many excursions seeking the finest scenic views head for Pico dos Barcelos. From here you have the most incredible views over Funchal and the southern coast of the island. Head further on to Pico do Serrado and you will be at one of Madeira’s highest points, ideal for capturing a unique photograph of the colourful landscapes below.
The choice of excursions when visiting this destination really is outstanding. All cruise lines that visit here provide an excellent range of options from refined luxury to unique and exhilarating. One of the most popular selections is the chance to enjoy one of Madeira’s oldest traditions; tea at Reid’s Palace Hotel, which overlooks the Bay of Funchal. This stunning hotel was built in the last century and boasts a special place in the history of the island. Its location is extraordinarily beautiful as it sits proudly perched on a cliff top overlooking the bay. Set amongst 10 acres of tropical gardens, a mass of colour awaits all who visit. A trip to Reid’s Palace Hotel is the perfect choice for guests looking to relax, unwind and enjoy an unforgettable afternoon tea treat.
Another way to see the sights and an excursion that can be combined with a thrilling toboggan ride is the Madeira cable car experience. It was once the job of a rack and pinion railway to transport passengers to the top of the hillside in Funchal but the railway closed in 1939. This was replaced by the construction of a cable car trip up to Monte and the Funchal station can be found towards the old town area. The journey up the hillside takes approximately 15 minutes and offers amazing views over the bay and surrounding scenery. From the top of the hillside you can enjoy even greater views but it’s the return journey back down the hill that often provokes the most excitement. Experience the ancient wicker-sled transport on a thrilling ten minute long toboggan ride. In this superb experience, the drivers actually run alongside the toboggans in order to steer and use their rubber-soled boots to brake. This is an iconic Madeira experience and definitely worth a go to try something different.
Away from the scenery, botanical gardens and tea at Ried’s Palace Hotel other exciting excursion options include sampling Madeira wine, a deep sea fishing adventure, dolphin watching aboard a RIB boat experience, explore the magnificent Funchal Ecological Park and there’s even a 4x4 jeep adventure to discover the islands paradises.
The island is a wonderful year round destination to visit and enjoy an ever pleasant climate. New Year’s Eve is a spectacular time to visit for the fabulous firework display that takes place at the stroke of midnight.