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8 things to do in Madeira – from the Laurel Forest to Funchal's toboggan rides


IF you want Hawaii-like islands that are just four hours from the UK, you’re in luck.

With flights for as little as £39, here’s eight things to do on Madeira.

Madeira's Laurel forest is estimated to be 20 million years old


Madeira’s Laurel forest is estimated to be 20 million years old

1) Hike in the Laurel Forest

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the Laurel Forest (or Laurissilva Forest as it is also known) is a must-do.

The subtropical forest, located on the northwest side of the island, is perfect for hiking, biking, and climbing.

When the forest mist lifts, visitors will be able to see views over the valley of Sao Jorge.

In 2020, Sun Online Travel experienced the Madeira Natural Park (where the Laurel Forest is located) first-hand.

2) Brave a toboggan run

The ride from Monte to Funchal takes 10 minutes


The ride from Monte to Funchal takes 10 minutesCredit: Getty

Dating back to the early 19th century, toboggan rides have become the basis of any tourists’ Madeira to-do list.

Initially used by residents of the upper village of Monte as a way to quickly travel down to the city of Funchal, toboggan rides have turned into a much-loved tourist attraction.

Brave holidaymakers must sit in a traditional basket sledge while being driven down a hill by two runners who are dressed in white and wear straw hats.

3) Stroll the sleepy streets of Funchal

The city of Funchal dates back to the 1420s


The city of Funchal dates back to the 1420sCredit: Getty

After flying down a slope on a tobbagan, you may want a laid-back day in Funchal.

Most read in Beach holidays

The capital city of Madeira, Funchal sits on a slope that faces the Atlantic Ocean, offering amazing views.

From a quaint old town to the bustling Lavradores market, this ancient capital is where most of the island’s hotels will be located.

It is also a much-loved spot for football fans.

The sports legend Cristiano Ronaldo was born on the picturesque Portuguese island, and you can even find a statue of him in the CR7 museum.

4) Explore the explosive tastes of Madeira’s food and wine scene

What to do and see on a mid-winter break on Madeira

If you have not heard of the island of Madeira, you have probably heard of Madeira’s wine, which can be found in almost any UK supermarket.

It is no wonder then that food and wine-tasting tours are so popular on the Portuguese island.

From grilled limpets (a mollusc similar to mussels) to hearty meat and fish stews and warming wheat soap, there’s everything for food lovers to enjoy.

And there’s no better place to try these dishes than at the Lavradores Market in Funchal.

5) Get jaw-dropping photos from the Funchal Cable Car

The Funchal cable car costs 12.5€ one way


The Funchal cable car costs 12.5€ one wayCredit: Getty

While not for those afraid of heights, Funchal’s cable cars boast some of the best sights of the city.

Trawling from Funchal to Monte and back in only 15 minutes, the cable cars are the perfect way to snap pictures of the orange-roofed capital and the hills surrounding it.

6) Sunbathe on Madeira’s photogenic beaches

The natural pools of Porto Moniz were formed by a volcano


The natural pools of Porto Moniz were formed by a volcanoCredit: Alamy

Like most of the coast of Portugal, Madeira’s beaches are much-loved by tourists.

Fancy dipping your toes in volcanic black sand? Praia do Porto do Seixal is an unusual but jaw-dropping natural beach located in the north of Madeira.

Madeira also hosts several natural pools, the most famous of which has to be the Porto Moniz swimming pools.

With crystal clear waters and a backdrop of jagged rocks, these saltwater pools are ideal for a peaceful sunset swim.

7) Escape to a paradise at the Monte Palace Tropical Garden

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is reachable by the Funchal cable car


The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is reachable by the Funchal cable carCredit: Alamy

Located on the northern heights of Funchal, this botanist’s paradise is reachable by the Funchal cable car and contains lush greens and glittering waters.

And if the the exotic plants of Monte Place Tropical Garden is not enough, you can also pay a visit to the Madeira Botanical Garden.

8) Become friends with a dolphin or whale

Whale and dolphin watching is a year-round activity


Whale and dolphin watching is a year-round activityCredit: Getty

The Madeira archipelago is host to a diverse range of fauna of animals.

Surrounded by the sea, there is no better environment than the water to catch a glimpse of the island’s budding wildlife.

Dolphin and whale-watching boat trips can be found in most of Madeira’s major ports, and because of Madeira’s unique position, this is a year-round activity.

As the warm Madeira water is so inviting, some tour companies even offer the chance to snorkel and swim with dolphins.

The Sun’s Fabulous Beauty Assistant Mia Lyndon visited the stunning European island back in November 2023.

And on November 14, 2023, new flights were launched to a golden sandy island known as ‘Madeira’s little sister’.

Things you need to know about visiting Madeira, Portugal in 2024

Located off the northwest coast of Africa, the island offers picturesque landscapes due to it’s volcanic origins.

  • There is no time difference between Madeira and the UK.
  • Madeiran locals speak Portuguese and many also speak English.
  • Like Portugal, Madeira uses the euro.
  • Summer is the best time to visit the island.
  • On average you can expect temperatures of 25C in the Summer, while 20C to 24C in the Spring and Autumn.
  • The main airport is called Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport.

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