Flowers in the capital Funchal. It is not without reason that Madeira is called the island of eternal spring.
The capital of Madeira is a big city by Swiss standards and logically the center of the small island. Funchal’s many highlights include: the 1517 Cathedral, the botanical gardens and the Vicentes Photographic Museum. Another special feature are the azulejos, painted ceramic tiles that were imported to Portugal from Moorish workshops around 1500. Particularly fine specimens can be found around the old farmer’s market, in the Funchal main post office and in the castle gardens of Monte.
2. Cabo Girão
If you stand on the cliff of Cabo Girão, you can look almost exactly 580 meters down. Below, the sea breaks onto the coast, and somewhere in between, at the foot of the cliff, farmers even cultivate a few fields. According to sources, Cabo Girão is said to be the second highest cliff in the world. The rush of visitors is great, the view is spectacular. Especially from the so-called Skywalk, a glass platform that juts out over the actual cliff. In the style of a similar visitor bridge over the Grand Canyon. Pure thrill. And because of the glass floor only for visitors with a head for heights.
Just a few decades ago, Caniço in the southeast of the island was a small fishing village with a tiny port. Today, the town of 23,000 has lost its romantic miniature charm, but there are good reasons for this: the bays, which are part of an underwater national park, are extremely popular with divers. With a bit of luck and patience you can even see manta rays and dolphins. Several diving schools offer courses and excursions.
4. Câmara de Lobos
270,000 people live in Madeira, almost half of them in Funchal, the capital. Some Madeirans, however, prefer the neighboring fishing village of Câmara de Lobos (translated: Cave of the Seals) for good reason. Nobody would deny that Câmara de Lobos is a picturesque spot. British ex-Prime Minister Winston Churchill also recognized this. When he visited the place in 1950, he began to paint: colorful fishing boats with the Cabo Girão in the background. Several places in the region are still associated with Churchill today. His Madeira vacation lasted only twelve days.
5. Ronaldo’s bust
Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is Madeira’s most famous son. And as such, it always makes headlines. There is even a bronze bust dedicated to him at Madeira Airport, now called Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport. The island wanted to honor its superstar, but managed to cast a version of his face in bronze, seemingly distorted by various Snapchat filters. Always worth a selfie.
6. Basket sled ride from Monte
Anyone visiting the capital should take a detour to its local mountain, Monte. Apart from the splendid view, Karl I is buried here, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, who died here in exile in 1922. The descent with the basket sled, the Carros de Cesto, a kind of adventurous Madeiran public transport, is also really exciting: Two locals dressed in white steer the passengers down the mountain at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
7. Sao Vicente
Not exactly to the core, but still amazingly far into the interior of the earth you penetrate in São Vicente. The largest known cave system in Madeira was discovered here in 1885 and is more than 400,000 years old. Mini-expeditions led by trained guides last around 30 minutes and give an insight into the geology and history of the island. Also pretty: The town of the same name with promenade cafés that seem to be stuck to the rock face, fish plates and Atlantic flair.
8. Porto Moniz
What looks like a fancy hotel pool in photos is actually a natural rock pool. The island’s rugged volcanic rock formations jut out into the sea here, forming a hollow that has been reinforced with a wall. The waves crashed violently over the bathers. The brave ones dare to step up instead of just behind the wall, and the more relaxed stay in the nearby Aquanatura Madeira Hotel – and follow the spectacle in the dry.
9. Basket weaving tradition
Baskets are not only needed for the descent from Monte to Funchal in Madeira; they were also intended for work in the fields. The village of Camacha is the center of basketry with demonstration workshops. Since 1850, the peeled and bundled willows have been woven into baskets. Once again, the English provided a boost: They brought their favorite models from Italy and had them copied in Camacha. In addition, there are still many small handicraft workshops. Tip: the Café Relógio.
10. Water pipes as in the Valais
We Swiss have the suonen in Valais, the Madeirans are proud of their levadas. The artificial irrigation systems direct fresh water from the humid north to the drier south. Hiking trails lead along these canals through the most beautiful regions of the island. The advantage: the incline along the levadas is consistently moderate. Ideal conditions for leisurely hikes – with some spectacular views of the coast.