Attention all island-, city trip, nature, hiking, road trip, heritage and architecture lovers, I found the perfect destination that combines all this in 1 classy island, less than a 4 hours flight from the Netherlands.
As you could have read in my previous blog I’m in love with Portugal, one of my favourite countries in Europe, and have been there several times already, but keep discovering new hidden gems. Like Madeira, a Portuguese island which I visited last month for the first time in my life and truly amazed me! Madeira is actually located more near Africa than Portugal, next to the Canary Islands. But like the Azores, it's a Portuguese archipelago and has been owned by Portugal for ages.
A big misconception is that this island is mostly interesting for hikers and retirees, but nothing is less true. The year round stable climate and warm temperatures make it perfect to avoid the winter cold of Europe, and the stunning nature and walking trails hold a large appeal on avid hikers, but the island has much more to offer as well.
What the island lacks in beaches is made up by the beautiful viewpoints and variety in nature, and because of its diversity in culture, architecture, heritage, unique cities, quaint villages, and its notability for gastronomy and local wines, Madeira has something for everyone. (click on the smaller pics to see the full version and description)
Let me show you some of my favourite features of the island in this blog through several of my own pictures and tips on what to see & do, and where to stay while visiting Madeira.
Where to stay
Even though Madeira has unique accommodations in the north and amidst its nature reserves, we preferred a stay in the capital so we could combine a cultural, yet buzzing city trip with exploring all the natural beauty that the island has to offer.
Through a city stay at Sé Boutique Hotel in Funchal we were able to do just that. Situated in the historical center of the city we were within walking distance of all the sights and quaint restaurants of Funchal, but also just a 15 - 30 minutes’ drive from beautiful mountain peaks and the many unique Madeiran walking routes called ‘’levadas’’.
You might have noticed that I prefer small scale boutique hotels, but I also love how this hotel combines authenticity with class. Situated in a historic building, owned and run by locals, only using local ingredients in their restaurants, and all the amenities in the hotel are produced and supplied by local brands and companies.
I am happy to say that I can even offer you a unique discount for this hotel when booking a stay directly on the website of the hotel for your next visit to Madeira: Sé Boutique Hotel website
When booked before the end of this year for a stay until the 30th of April of 2018 you will receive 20% off a non-refundable rate, including a welcome drink, with my special code: AUTHENTICCHICA
NB: Make sure to insert the code in the booking engine on the below-left side of the website stating: promotional codes, after selecting your stay dates, and before choosing OK!
A few more reasons why I think this hotel is unique and can highly recommend it:
Unique features Sé Boutique Hotel Funchal
Authentic locally owned boutique hotel in the city center of Funchal, a few meters from the historic Cathedral,
Perfectly located within walking distance of many city sights, the marina, beach, port, cable car, museums, shops and restaurants,
The hotel has a super trendy rooftop bar which offers incredible 360º views of the surrounding city, historic cathedral, the ocean and mountains of Madeira, with the most stunning sunsets, great cocktails and live music events every weekend, as you can see in this video:
The hotel décor is a unique eclectic mix of authentic local furniture combined with Portuguese antiques and artworks,
The rooms are clean, modern and elegant with all the amenities you need, such as Air Conditioning, free super-fast WIFI, large Smart TV, coffee maker, mini bar, fridge and a delicious breakfast included at the eclectic restaurant Cossi Scozzi, as you can see in this gallery, click on the arrows to see all of it and read the descriptions:
If you book full board a choice of 4 different locally owned restaurants is included for your lunch and dinner each day,
A stay here also includes the use of a local mobile phone to catch up on your emails, trip recommendations, webcams weather information’s around the island, and gives you access to free international calls and internet services outside the hotel, how cool is that?!
The staff is super helpful and was constantly connected with us through this phone and at our service throughout the stay.
What to see & do
There is plenty to see and do on the island, so the 4 days we spent here was not nearly enough! We did however manage to see much as the infrastructure is good and many beautiful spots are located near the capital. I rounded up my favourites with many pictures and some videos to give you an impression.
Funchal city sights
Just walking around the city is great already, the boulevard is wide and beautiful, the shopping streets are classy and the old city center with its Fort and restaurants are atmospheric and quaint. Get a taste of the charm of Funchal in this gallery, click on the arrows to see all of it and read the descriptions:
Cable Car - Monte
Only a 10 minutes walk from the hotel you can take the cable car up the mountain for some great views over Funchal on the way, and explore the quaint village Monte with its botanical gardens, viewpoints and beautiful church.
You can even take a traditional wicker sled back down the mountain, if you want to experience something really unique.
Levadas – nature walks of Madeira
‘’Levada’’ is the Portuguese word for mini-canals, which are used as irrigation systems throughout the island. This system was developed in the 16th century to guide rainwater from the north of Madeira to the drier parts in the south. One of the most popular activities on Madeira and one of the reasons why this island attracts so many hiking and outdoor lovers. With a big variation of trails following these irrigation systems, varying from easy to hard, this is a great activity for anyone.
They criss cross the island and cover a distance of 2,500 km, guiding you past beautiful viewpoints, waterfalls and lush nature reserves, most of them inaccessible by car.
The walks even cross 2 of the highest mountain peaks of the island, with stunning views like these from the Pico do Arieiro trail:
What makes Madeira truly special and unique to me are all the stunning cliffs and viewpoints. Within only a 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel in the south of Madeira you will find the highest cliff of Europe, almost 600 meters above the sea:
With its glass floor it's a spectacular sight, especially around sunset as you can see for yourself in this video:
But there are many more great viewpoints, and we managed to see several in just a half day trip by car!
Valley of the Nuns - 25 minutes from Funchal.
Pico do Arieiro – the second highest peak of Madeira, almost 2,000 meters high and only 34 minutes from Funchal.
Such a spectacular sight, definitely one of my favourites, and something you have to experience, that is why I made this video for you:
Ponta de Sao Lourenco – located on the most eastern tip of the island, only a 30 minutes’ drive from Funchal.
This traditional Madeiran village is located more to the north and only 45 minutes from Funchal. Here you can see what the local houses looked like many years ago.
Camacha – wicker works
A quaint town known for its unique wicker heritage, and only a 17 minutes’ drive from Funchal. The wicker material is harvested in the nearby mountains and displayed in the town center in the O Relógio clock building, which houses a wicker shop, a workshop and several unique displays of the wicker works.
Certainly worth a visit to experience the old trades and do some souvenir shopping.
It is said that the Azores are also stunning with overwhelming nature and walking routes, but as the second richest region of Portugal, after Lisbon, it’s evident that Madeira is an island with class and refinement, which matched perfectly with my taste!
Definitely a must visit for island lovers who like to combine a classy city trip with authenticity, and the peace and quiet of nature.
I hope my pictures and description have convinced you of that and provided you with some inspiration for your visit, as I can highly recommend Sé Boutique Hotel.
Did you know this Portuguese island already or would you like to go there after seeing my pictures? And if so would you choose to stay at this unique boutique hotel in Funchal for your visit to Madeira as well?
Let me know in the comments below or find me on social media via the icons at the bottom of this page.