This year the Flower Festival takes place from the 9th to the 15th of May in Funchal, and the theme is “The Route of Flowers”.
This incredible event begins on Saturday morning with the Children’s Parade, which runs along the main streets of Funchal to the municipal Square for the construction of the “Wall of Hope” that is a wall made by flowers.
On Sunday afternoon the streets of “Avenida do Mar” in Funchal will be filled with music and fun as the parade passes by, with colourfully decorated floats with all kinds of flowers from all parts of the world.
There will be many other entertaining activities going on at the same time: the creation of delicate floral carpets in the main squares of “Avenida Arriaga”, music concerts, performances by regional folklore groups (Bailinho), contests for shop windows decoration and the Flower Exhibition held in the “Largo da Restauração”.
If you want to see the alternative flower festival join us in one of our magical Madeira levada walks and you will see fantastic and colorful flowers along the way with an certified mountain guide.
Here you can see the complete programme and hours of the event:
The tourism board of Madeira created a new section in their website about the Free APP for Android and iPhones. We are present in this list of “Free APPs” and we are very proud of this. Don´t forget that Madeira Activities is the newest project of Madeira Adventure Kingdom.
Download this App and you will able to Book the following activities:
And you will have a complete acces to our Madeira Island Guide (Soon).
From adrenaline-fuelled jeep safaris to spotting dolphins, there’s more to Madeira than sedate high teas and pretty gardens…
As our boat smacked down on the waves, I turned to check on the elderly couple straddling the seats behind me. They were well into their seventies and had been expecting a gentle pootle around the harbour in search of dolphins and whales on a calm catamaran.
Instead here they were, clinging on for dear life as the Atlantic swells churned and sprayed them with icy needles. But both were grinning madly, and I swear I heard the husband let out a little whoop.
I had expected slightly more reserved behaviour from visitors to Madeira. Let’s be honest… it’s not exactly Ibiza, is it?
Yet the next day, on a bone-shaking jeep safari halfway up one of the island’s jagged mountains, another 70-something with sensible shoes and her hair in a neat bun turned to me and said: “I simply love off- roading… I’ve done loads of it in Africa!”
So, far from being an island full of old people indulging in high tea at Reid’s Palace Hotel and wafting around the botanical gardens, Madeira is full of British retirees blowing their kids’ inheritance on hurtling down mountains in muddy Land Rovers and taking to the high seas to spot wildlife. That’ll teach me to have preconceived ideas about places… and people.
Defenders: Off-roading in 4x4s
It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to engage in the more sedate activities. We spent a wonderful few hours exploring the magnificent Monte Palace Tropical Gardens… reached by the fabulous Monte cable car. You won’t get better views of the capital Funchal than on the ride up or from the gardens themselves.Exquisite floral displays is what Madeira is famous for, so spring is the perfect time to visit. The flower festival runs from May 9 to 15, when the city comes to life with parades and festivities.
My boyfriend James and I spent a week at the couples-only Savoy Gardens hotel, just up from the Lido. From our balcony we had cracking views of the sea, the harbour, the city and the mountains. There’s a great pool, games, a spa, a terrace for lunch, entertainment and sundowners on the roof with panoramic views.
Panoramic views at the Savoy Gardens rooftop bar
The Savoy Gardens is just for Thomson travellers, so everyone is on the same page and superbly looked after by brilliant rep Paula, who books excursions, recommends restaurants and advises on everything from bus times to where to buy the best chocolate brownies.I usually steer clear of restaurants with “tourist menus”, but Paula was so enthusiastic about the food at Solar Da Ajuda, close to the hotel, we signed up for their four-course special, with wine and coffee. For just £20 we feasted on garlic bread, soup and salad, succulent steaks cooked DIY on a sizzling hot stone plus sticky desserts and a decent red.
That set the culinary bar very high on the first night… and I’m delighted to say most of the restaurants we tried were on a par. From the delicious picanha (whole rump steaks served on an enormous sword, sliced straight on to your plate) at Beef & Wines to the delicious local speciality espatada (meat on a slightly smaller skewer) at Cidade Velha in the Old Town, these people know how to cook meat. Fish eaters will also love the tuna smothered in onions and the espada – tender fish served, bizarrely, with fried banana.
The White House pub, also near the hotel, serves superb lunches and great late-night drinking, especially in the form of poncha – a potent cocktail containing local rum (aguardente da cana), fresh lemon juice and honey. Yum.
There is also the island’s most famous export: Madeira wine. Visit Blandy’s Wine Lodge for an informative tour and a tasty taste. The local Coral lager and the home brew at Beerhouse, on the harbour, are also great thirst quenchers.
Madeira may not be a very large island (it’s just 35 miles long and 13 miles wide), but there’s plenty to see, and the best way to do this is to hire a car from Holiday Autos. Driving here is loads of fun… but the island is basically one huge range of volcanic mountains (the highest eight peaks are all taller than Ben Nevis), so don’t try to do it all in one day.
Those tiny squiggles on the map are actually a series of hair-raising hairpins taking you ever higher, across misty plateaus and plunging you (hopefully not literally!) into spectacular valleys, with houses and farming terraces clinging to impossible cliffs that sweep into the sea. One minute you’re driving above the clouds, the next you’re hugging a road seemingly made for donkeys.
But from the lovely town of Sao Vincente in the north, to the spectacular west coast, from the lush central forests to the bleak Ponta de Sao Lourenco jutting out to the east, every inch is worth exploring for dramatic scenery and dizzying views.
If you don’t fancy a DIY driving expedition, let the experts take the wheel on a jeep safari. We did ours on a Sunday to include the food market at Santo de Serra, followed by off-roading and a pit stop for homemade wine and snacks.
A slightly less adrenaline-fuelled way of exploring the island is on a levada walk. These ancient irrigation channels – all 1,300 miles of them – criss-cross the island, perfect for walks ranging from an easy hour to an epic week-long hike.
Enjoying a stroll along a levada
Although it wouldn’t surprise me to find my elderly friend from the boat swinging down a canyon, whooping with joy…
Madeira is lovely all year round, but is particularly pretty in spring, when the whole island resembles one huge botanical garden.
Thomson offers seven-night half-board couples holidays to Funchal staying at 4 star Hotel Savoy Gardens from £529pp sharing.
Includes Gatwick flights on April 29.
Call: 0871 230 2555
Car hire from £90 a week for a small two-door compact from Holiday Autos.
Call: 0800 093 3111
Madeira Adventure Kingdom arranges levada walks, whale-watching trips, jeep safaris and canyoning.
A volcanic island that juts majestically out of the ocean, the geographical tapestry of Madeira is amazing; sheer cliffs, ancient laurel forests, a jagged and rocky coastline and mountain tops cloaked in mist. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to reach. Ankita Mahabir checks out the scenic isle.
For outdoor lovers:
Madeira is full of contradictions; you could be sitting on a sunny beach one moment and driving through rain and rainbows the next. Its high mountains and low valleys make it a great destination for hikers. Few man-made creations can rival nature’s work but the levadas (water channels) of Madeira might just be one of them. Built almost 400 years ago, this 2,000km-long (1,242 miles) network also substitutes as a walking path.
Madeira Adventure Kingdom organises some fantastic walks. My guide, Samuel knows the island, its history and ecosystem intimately. All through the walk, we drink water straight from the streams, pluck fresh herbs and eat naturally ripened fruit. My hike was a pleasant 15km (9 miles) walk along Levada Do Rei in the valleys of São Jorge all the while enjoying beautiful views of the São Jorge village, the laurel-covered mountains and the ocean.
Another way to explore the levadas is on horseback. Quinta Do Riacho, run by animal lovers Paolo and Paula, offer small group tours (four people maximum) on horses that are all well groomed and full of personality, so you get the most out of your experience and are able to enjoy the stunning vistas with minimum intrusion.
The island also has amazing canyoning, which involves swimming, jumping and rappelling down waterfalls. Madeira Adventure Kingdom provides the wetsuits along with all of the equipment and moral support you might need. I was canyoning in Ribeira des Cales and I’ll admit it’s a little scary in the beginning but after negotiating a couple of waterfalls, I began to feel like a pro. At some point, the fear is eased out and you begin to focus on the fun (the natural water slide we went on might have had something to do with this).
For those who can’t get enough of Madeiran nature, why not stay in the lovely Quinta Jardim do Lago. The property is a colonial home located just on the outskirts of Funchal and is set within 2.5 hectares (6 acres) of botanical gardens. The breakfast on the veranda overlooking the gardens is lovely and then there is the communal outdoor Jacuzzi with a view. Throw in the impeccable service and you’ll never want to leave.
Everyone knows about Madeiran wine but if there is one thing the Madeirans love, it’s their poncha. A mix of sugarcane rum, honey and lime, this sweet and seemingly innocent drink is potent. For some traditional homemade stuff, head to “Taberna de
Poncha” near Serra Agua en route to Sao Vicente from Ribeira Brava. I am travelling with a self proclaimed cocktail connoisseur and am assured that the cocktails in Madeira are top notch. Not only are they delicious but at €3 a cocktail they are also an absolute bargain. The best mojitos we had were in a lovely surfers bar right at the end of a the Paul do Mar beach stretch called Maktub run by Fabio Afonso, who can also provide surfing tips if you want to catch some waves on the island.
A dining experience not to miss when in Madeira is Restaurant Armazem Do Sal. Dining under the 400-year-old wooden beams of this former salt warehouse, the restaurant specialises in fresh, organic ingredients. From my fig and serrano ham ravioli served in a melon sauce to my white chocolate panna cotta and wild berries dessert, I am pleased through and through. What’s more, it doesn’t even burn a Michelin star sized hole in my pocket. A three-course meal for two, plus two glasses of wine, sets us back only €75 (£60). The owner Carlos Caires wanted to make fine dining accessible to everyone and he has well and truly succeeded.
For culture vultures:
When in Funchal, don’t forget to visit the cobbled streets of the Old Town, which has undergone a renaissance thanks to a project called “Painted Doors” in which all the doors on Rua Santa Maria have been given a lick of paint by artists from the island.
For those heading to Madeira in December don’t miss the all-night market on the 23rd. This is an event loved by locals where they take in a couple of ponchas, mingle, dance and get ready for Christmas and a truly happy New Year (remember the world famous fireworks?). You can find more information about the cultural agenda at www.visitmadeira.pt.
If you want a truly culturally-rich experience, Madeira Rural offers hand-picked accommodation. I found Quinta Das Vinhas, a charming property surrounded by vineyards with marvellous ocean views. The Main House features original tiles and furniture and even a chapel from the 17th century.
For spa aficiandos:
At first glance, the Reid’s Palace in Funchal doesn’t look imposing at all, but the moment you step out of the car everything changes. We were met by the lovely head concierge Rui Azevedo, who led us through the Afternoon Tea Rooms featuring exquisitely colonial décor, complete with grand chandeliers and Victorian furniture, to our rooms.
In our rooms we were welcomed with traditional Madeiran cakes and a decanter of Madeiran Port Wine. All rooms, like the rest of the hotel, reflect the Reid’s Anglo-Portuguese heritage. We were in the Superior Room which is not only incredibly spacious but also offers magnificent ocean views from its covered balconies. The hotel has been graced by many European royals whose photos adorn its walls. Winston Churchill stayed and painted here, too, while George Bernard Shaw learnt the tango (there is a suite named after each of them).
I also managed to make a pit stop at the Reid Spa. I opted for the Regional Spa Treatment that uses balsam from the island and it did wonders for my aches and pains; my therapist was exceptionally good. With the end of my spa treatment, my stay at the Reid ended too and I felt a tinge of sadness because I didn’t quite know when I’d ever feel so pampered again.
Best time to visit: Madeira is a year-round destination. But visit between April and July for flora, fauna and sunshine; December for record breaking fireworks and August to November for balmy pleasant weather.
24 December 2012