Madeira … The Green Pearl of the Atlantic

Madeira, “The Green Pearl of the Atlantic”, with its spectacular variety of landscapes, the island that they say it sometimes is 6 different continents in one mini-continent. The friendly locals and the picturesque villages make Madeira a perfect island for those seeking a combination of adventure, sports, nature, sun and rest.

An island with many faces, that is Madeira. Still famous for its Levada, miles-long irrigation channels, ideal for walkers. But Madeira is more: there are beautiful hiking trails through vast Eucalyptus and Laurel Forest, “cobbled roads” between friendly villages and narrow roads on sunny slopes.

Madeira Levada Walking

In the East, Madeira Island is very woody and you can visit the many nature reserves. Middle Madeira is also known as the Rocky Mountains because this part of the island is not very easy to access, but certainly worthwhile to take the challenge. The south coast of Madeira makes you think you are on the sunny coast of southern Europe. There are many fishing villages and (pebble) beaches where you can enjoy the sun. In the west you can find a more efficient environment, but once you have arrived on the plateau above, you will certainly enjoy the beautiful view over the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The north coast is more a jungle of steep cliffs, interrupted by deep green valleys.

Nature lovers will really love this island. You can explore one of the many protected reserves or gardens for colourful flowering fauna and discover why Madeira is also referred to as ‘The Floating Garden of the Atlantic’. You could start your holiday with a trip to the Botanical gardens of Madeira located in Funchal, or the Ponta de Sao Lourenco – a peninsular located on the East of the island that boasts amazing coastal views and a variety of flowering fauna perfect for the botanist in you.

Ponta São Lourenço, Madeira island

Various secondary roads winds through banana plantations and agricultural lands, taking you higher up through forests of fragrant eucalyptus trees. The roadsides are full flowering Agapanthus, Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Begonias and the houses, which are scarcer towards the top, have Roses and Orchids in large quantities in their gardens and/or balconies.

Festa da Flor – Flower Festival 2010

The Flower Festival, one of the Islands’ most colorful celebrations, is more than just a tribute to the flowers of the Madeira Islands. It provides the opportunity to keep genuine Madeiran traditions alive and transforms the city of Funchal, for a few days, into a magnificent stage for all kinds of artistic and cultural expression.

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This iconic tourist festival will be celebrated by its locals with a special feeling as this is considered to be a decisive turning point for the Archipelagos rebirth since the storm of February 20th.

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What visitors really want?

The German television company WDR has broadcast at the beginning of this month in their weekly travel program Wunderschön! (Beautiful!), a 90 minutes report of Madeira “Blumeninsel im Atlantik” (Island of Flowers), presented by Tamina Kallert.

WebTV Madeira “Blumeninsel im Atlantik” (90 min. German)

Although it is in German and 1 hour and a half long … it is worth to watch this webTV program.

One thing I noticed when watching this German travel report ….. from it you can learn what visitors want to see and visit. Remember, this is a 1 hour and a half long TV program, so it should cover the most important attractions and things-to-do that a German traveler will be looking for in Madeira. I got a good impression of what that is … but I leave it up to you to find it out yourself. I am curious if you come to the same conclusion as I did.

After watching the TV report one will learn that all the attractions that were covered by the German Wunderschön! group had one thing in common …. they all missed one characteristic …. namely “modern”. Talking in Internet-terms … if you could tag all the attractions mentioned in the TV program … the word “modern”, “new-flanged” or “futuristic” would not be one of them. In the German travel coverage I missed things like modern entities such as Story Center, Casa das Mudas, Madeira Magic, Santana Theme park, trip with one of the catamarans, double deck buses, shopping malls/centers, and also none of the modern hotels were mentioned.

My conclusion is that visitors prefer to experience the old-fashioned. Searching for old traditions and typical things that they do not get to see in their home country or have been lost during the modernization. Just ask a Madeira visitor to name the characteristics of Madeira …. and you will hear most of them mentioning the same subjects that were covered in the German TV program. This is a lesson that one can learn from.

My advice to (future) entrepreneurs on Madeira: learn first the Madeiran (old) culture …. search for images of (lost) traditions …. and if you can restore (part of it) back …. then you will be a winner in the area of tourism.

Do you know a secret about Funchal?

Do you know the best garden to visit? Where the best Madeirense food can be found? Or do you fancy trying something new?

Well … we just created a Facebook page for all curious and underground things that can be found in Funchal (capital of Madeira). It is called Secret Funchal (on Facebook)

Secret Funchal invites everyone to share the hidden, and also “not-so-hidden”, gems of the city. The objective is that all Funchalenses that are active in Facebook joins and share their knowledge of the city. However … FB-ers from outside the city are also most welcome.

Lots of people that are visiting Madeira are looking for new things to do in Funchal. Experience is that they are always searching online for different things … that normally one would not find out about.

Join Secret Funchal …. but don’t forget to keep it a secret ….

Noite do Mercado – Christmas Night Market

Noite do Mercado (Night of the Market) is a traditional celebration in Funchal that will take place tonight and will last all night long. The location of this event will take place in the famous Funchal market (Mercado dos Lavradores) and the streets surrounding the market. It will be crowded with joyful people creating a real festive happening …. with lots of singing Christmas carols, dancing, drinking and having fun.

The bars in the area are opened all night and will be serving traditional drinks. Also the Christmas traditional carne vinho alhos (meat with wine and garlic) will go from hand to the mouth. Also present is a vast display of regional fruit and vegetable being sold … handy for those who want to do a last minute grocery shopping.
Continue reading “Noite do Mercado – Christmas Night Market”

Start of the Christmas Illuminations

The preparations for the Christmas and end-of-year celebrations are in full progress at this moment. The official opening of the New Year’s Eve Festivities in Madeira will take place on the 27th of November (Friday). If you do not want to miss this then you need to be in the area of Avenida Arriaga (Funchal) and watch the switching on of the Christmas illuminations.

Funchals Christmas Illuminations

From this day on, the main streets in the center of Funchal will be invaded by lights of all sizes and colors to produce designs that are very representative of the island’s characteristic and the time of year. One week later, on 4th of December, the outskirts of Funchal will also be lit up transforming Funchal into a real, life-size “nativity scene”.

In early December, the squares are decked with flowers. Poinsettias, holly and lady’s slipper orchids all help to brighten up the city’s streets. And then there are the Christmas carols ringing out in all the streets as if by magic inspiring everyone with the festive spirit. The streets fill with people in this atmosphere of great joy. Some are here to do their Christmas shopping, while others just want to enjoy the holiday buzz and atmosphere emanating throughout the city

With the center of the city lit up for Christmas, as then begins Festa (Festivities), the term used by the people of Madeira to call the celebration period of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The Festa is lived intensively by the people of Madeira right up to 6th January.

The official program includes exhibitions, concerts, and many more. The following are the most important dates:

  • 27th November – opening of the Christmas illuminations in the centre of Funchal
  • 04th December – general illumination of the entire amphitheatre of Funchal
  • 11th December – beginning of the Christmas exhibitions on Avenida Arriaga and other central locations of the city
  • 23rd December – Market Night
  • 28th December – St. Sylvester Race
  • 31st December – New Year’s Eve Firework Display
  • 6th January, 2009 – Twelfth Night Festival and End of the Madeira Festivities

World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day

27th of September is World Tourism Day. The purpose of this day is to display awareness that tourism is vital to the international community (especially for the Madeira Islands) and to show how it affects the social, cultural, political and economic values.

And that is why the island of Madeira offers on this particular day FREE entrance to all tourists to most of the gardens, museums, galleries, exhibitions etc. Funchal city center will be decorated with flags especially for the occasion apart from other cultural activities.

Upon the arrival at the airport of Madeira and some official tourist offices, tourists will be greeted with flowers and gifts.

For the complete programme visit the Madeira Islands Official Tourism Website

Events for this month

14th and 15th – Feast of Our Lady of Monte – Funchal
This is considered to be the Region’s main feast concerning the people’s devotion, famous all over the world where emigrants from Madeira have settled. Great popular entertainment during the two festival days, transforms the picturesque and romantic parish of Monte into one of the liveliest places in the island.

14th and 15th – Feast of Our Lady of Grace – Porto Santo
Our Lady of “Graça” Chapel, erected on a hill below the belvedere of Portela, opens its doors to an open air festival which is carried out every year on 14th and 15th August. After the liturgy, which includes the religious ceremonies and a procession, follows the open air popular festival with the traditional stands selling food and drink, music and lots of entertainment.

21st – Grand Parade to Commemorate the Day of the City of Funchal
Celebrations to commemorate the Day of the City, on 21 August, will once again feature a historical procession, entitled “The History of Funchal in the Street”. Several periods and events from the history of Funchal and the Region will be recreated. The parade will involve hundreds of participants, dressed in the styles of the different periods and will go along the main streets of the city, as part of an exciting event to promote the city by remembering the past and enabling us to reflect on the future.
The complete programme can be seen at www.funchal21deagosto.com.

21st to 30th- Caniço Promenade Nights – Caniço de Baixo
A Gastronomic Week which is held every year on the Promenade in Caniço-de-Baixo, with the participation of various music bands and some of the hotels, restaurants and bars of Caniço.

22nd – XXVIII Faial International Song Festival -“Voices of the Atlantic” – Faial
This is a Festival of original songs, held at Faial Polidesportivo (multi-faced sport Pavillion), organised by the Sports and Cultural Association of this parish, Faial, which belongs to the municipality of Santana.

25th to 30th – São Vicente – Municipal Festivities
An exciting programme of cultural and social events will take place for a week in the picturesque town of São Vicente, on the north coast of the Island of Madeira. Highlights of the various concerts are Jorge Palma on the 27 th and the Dutch Hermes House Band, on the 28th. The complete programme can be seen at www.svicente.com.

25th to 30th – XVIII Round Madeira by Canoe 2009
Organised by the Centro de Treino Mar of Madeira, this is an international race of the F.P.C. and I.C.F. This event is internationally known for its difficulty, but also for its good organization and natural beauty offered by the coast of the island. The race covers 141 Km distributed along 9 laps. Enrollment is open only to Sea Kayak – K1 and K2.
Further information at www.madeiraemcanoa.com

28th– Wine Harvest Festival – Porto Santo
This festival provides all its visitors with information on the different varieties of grape produced in Porto Santo. It is held, by 10 p.m. at `Largo das Palmeiras’, where a public wine press will be assembled, with wine tasting, demonstrations on the wine making process and an exhibition of the utensils related to vine growing and caring. There will also be musical entertainment with traditional singing groups.

29 th- XIX National and XII International Folklore Festival – Ponta do Sol
This event has been organised by the Ponta do Sol Folklore Group and the local City Hall. The festival will feature regional, national and foreign groups such as: the Ponta do Sol Folklore Group, and groups from Figueira da Foz, the Algarve, the Azores, Ribatejo, Sweden, Spain and Italy.

Source: Madeira Tourism