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5-Day Madeira Itinerary: Uncover the Best of Madeira Portugal

Last updated on February 24th, 2024 at 08:18 am

5-Day Madeira Itinerary

Planning a trip to Madeira, Portugal, for 5 days? You’ve chosen wisely. This guide is your key to unlocking the island’s wonders, ensuring you discover Madeira in all its glory. From the lush trails of its famed levadas to the vibrant streets of Funchal, every day is an opportunity to explore Madeira’s top attractions and uncover hidden gems.

Whether you’re drawn to the breathtaking landscapes, the rich tapestry of culture, or the delightful local cuisine, our 5-day Madeira itinerary is designed to offer a blend of adventure, relaxation, and discovery. Get ready to experience the best of Madeira, an island that captivates with its diversity and charm.

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Is Madeira Worth Visiting

Before we embark on the detailed journey across Madeira, let’s pause to appreciate why this island stands out as a premier travel destination. Madeira, often referred to as the “Island of Eternal Spring,” is a place where nature’s beauty is on full display, from the dramatic cliffs that meet the Atlantic Ocean to the ancient forests that whisper tales of the past.

A Tapestry of Experiences

Madeira’s allure isn’t just in its stunning landscapes; it’s also in the rich tapestry of experiences it offers. Here’s what makes Madeira a unique backdrop for your adventure:

  • Diverse Landscapes: From the serene Laurisilva forests, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the volcanic pools of Porto Moniz, Madeira’s varied landscapes invite exploration and awe.
  • Levada Walks: The island’s network of levadas (irrigation channels) offers miles of scenic trails, making it a hiker’s paradise. These paths lead you through lush greenery, alongside waterfalls, and offer breathtaking mountain views.
  • Cultural Vibrancy: Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is a hub of cultural activity, where traditional markets, historic architecture, and colorful gardens blend with contemporary art and dining scenes.
  • Gastronomic Delights: The island’s cuisine is a celebration of local flavors, from the fresh seafood to the famous Madeira wine. Dining in Madeira is an experience in itself, offering tastes that are as varied and vibrant as the island.

Our Experience and Why We love this Madeira Itinerary

Our curated itinerary for Madeira is born from firsthand experiences and a deep love for the island. We’ve designed this guide to encompass not only the iconic sights but also the hidden nooks and local favorites that give Madeira its character. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a food enthusiast, or someone looking to unwind in nature’s lap, this guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive and enriching experience of Madeira.

In the following sections, we’ll guide you through a journey that captures the essence of Madeira, tailored to fit a 7-day visit but flexible enough to adapt to 5 or even 10 days. From the must-visit landmarks to recommendations on where to eat and stay, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the heart of Madeira, exploring its beauty, culture, and spirit.

Day 1 of Madeira Itinerary 5 Days: Exploring Funchal

Morning: Historical and Cultural Start

Funchal Market in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days
Funchal Market in Madeira Portugal – Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

Kick off your Madeira adventure in Funchal, the island’s lively capital. Begin with a visit to the Mercado dos Lavradores, a vibrant farmers’ market where you can immerse yourself in local life. Next, explore the Sé Cathedral, a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture, to get a taste of Madeira’s rich history.

Afternoon: Gardens and Views

Funchal Cable Cars in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days
Funchal Cable Cars in Madeira Portugal – Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

After lunch, head to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Ride the Funchal Cable Car for stunning city and ocean views on your way there. The garden offers a peaceful escape with its exotic plants and historical tiles.

Evening: Taste of Madeira

Conclude your first day with a dinner in Funchal’s Old Town. Choose a restaurant that serves Espetada Madeirense, a local specialty, and pair it with a glass of world-famous Madeira wine.

Day 2: Nature’s Embrace – Levada Walks and Coastal Beauty

Morning: Levada Walks

Levada do Caldeirão Verde in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days
Levada do Caldeirão Verde in Madeira Portugal – Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

Embrace Madeira’s natural beauty with a morning levada walk, one of the island’s signature experiences. Choose the Levada do Caldeirão Verde for its stunning waterfalls and lush scenery. These irrigation channels offer unique paths through the heart of Madeira’s landscapes, making for an unforgettable hiking experience.

Afternoon: Coastal Wonders

Porto Moniz in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days
Porto Moniz in Madeira Portugal – Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

After lunch, head to the charming village of Porto Moniz to witness its famous natural lava pools. These pools offer a refreshing swim with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, providing a perfect blend of relaxation and natural beauty.

Evening: Sunset and Seafood

Cap off the day with a seaside dinner at Porto Moniz. Enjoy the fresh catch of the day while watching the sunset over the ocean. This is the ideal moment to reflect on the day’s adventures and the island’s serene beauty.

Day 3: Adventure and Culture in the Heart of Madeira

Morning: Canyoning in Ribeira das Cales

Ribeira das Cales in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days
Ribeira das Cales in Madeira Portugal – Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

Start your third day with an adrenaline-pumping adventure: canyoning in Ribeira das Cales. This activity allows you to explore Madeira’s rugged terrain by rappelling down waterfalls, jumping into crystal-clear pools, and sliding through natural water slides. It’s an exhilarating way to connect with the island’s wild side.

Afternoon: Explore Câmara de Lobos

Black Stone Beach - Câmara de Lobos in Madeira Portugal - Madeira Itinerary 5 Days

After the morning’s thrills, take a gentler pace in the afternoon by visiting Câmara de Lobos. This picturesque fishing village inspired Winston Churchill’s paintings and is the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch. Don’t miss trying the local specialty, Espada com Banana (black scabbard fish with banana), at one of the waterfront restaurants.

Evening: Traditional Folklore Show

End your day with a cultural immersion by attending a traditional Madeiran folklore show in Funchal. These performances offer a glimpse into the island’s rich cultural heritage, featuring colorful costumes, lively music, and traditional dances. It’s a delightful way to experience Madeira’s traditions and enjoy a local dinner.

Day 4: Relaxation and Scenic Beauty

Morning: Spa and Wellness at PortoBay

Begin Day 4 with a focus on relaxation and rejuvenation. Visit the PortoBay Spa for a morning of pampering. Choose from a range of treatments that incorporate Madeira’s natural resources, like the unique grape or passion fruit massages, ensuring a tranquil start to your day.

Afternoon: Scenic Drive to Ponta de São Lourenço

Refreshed from your spa morning, take a scenic drive to Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of Madeira. The drive itself offers breathtaking views, and the destination promises dramatic landscapes where you can enjoy a leisurely walk along the cliffs, capturing the essence of Madeira’s natural beauty.

Evening: Wine Tasting and Dinner in Funchal

Conclude your day with a visit to a traditional Madeira wine lodge in Funchal for an evening of wine tasting. Learn about the island’s centuries-old wine-making tradition and sample a selection of its finest wines. Following the tasting, enjoy a dinner at one of Funchal’s renowned restaurants, offering a perfect blend of local and international cuisine.

Day 5: Cultural Immersion and Farewell

Morning: Guided Tour of Monte

Begin your final day in Madeira with a guided tour of Monte, an area renowned for its historical and cultural significance. Visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden for a glimpse into exotic plant species and historical artifacts. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the traditional Monte Toboggan ride, a unique and thrilling way to descend towards Funchal.

Afternoon: Last-Minute Shopping in Funchal

Spend your afternoon in Funchal indulging in some last-minute shopping. Visit local artisans and shops for authentic Madeiran crafts, such as embroidery, wickerwork, and the famed Madeira wine. This is the perfect time to pick up souvenirs and gifts that capture the essence of your Madeira journey.

Evening: Farewell Dinner at a Quinta

For your farewell dinner, choose one of Madeira’s quintas—traditional estates turned restaurants offering exquisite local cuisine in a charming setting. Reflect on your Madeiran adventure over dishes that blend traditional flavors with contemporary culinary techniques, offering a fitting end to your journey.

Optional Day 6: Exploring Beyond Funchal

For those who have the luxury of an extra day or are considering extending their Madeira adventure, Day 6 offers the chance to explore beyond the main attractions and delve deeper into the island’s charm.

Morning: Visit to Santana

Start your day with a trip to Santana, famous for its traditional A-frame houses. These colorful and unique constructions are emblematic of Madeira’s architectural heritage. Take your time wandering through the village, enjoying the picturesque settings that seem straight out of a storybook.

Afternoon: Hiking at Pico Ruivo

After exploring Santana, gear up for a hike to Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak. The journey offers some of the most spectacular views on the island, encompassing sweeping landscapes of mountains and clouds. It’s a challenging but rewarding hike, suitable for those looking to immerse themselves in Madeira’s natural grandeur.

Evening: Relaxing at Porto da Cruz

Wind down your day in the coastal village of Porto da Cruz. This area is known for its black sand beaches and the impressive Engenho do Porto da Cruz, a historic rum distillery where you can learn about the production of Madeira’s sugarcane spirit. Enjoy a relaxed dinner by the sea, tasting local dishes and perhaps a glass of the locally produced rum.

Navigating Madeira: Getting Around

Exploring Madeira, Portugal, with ease is key to enjoying all the island has to offer. Whether you’re following our 5-day Madeira itinerary or venturing off the beaten path, knowing your transportation options will enhance your experience. Here’s how to get around Madeira efficiently and enjoyably.

By Car: The Path to Freedom

Renting a car in Madeira gives you the ultimate freedom to explore the island at your own pace. It’s ideal for reaching remote levadas, secluded beaches, and hilltop villages that public transport might not cover. Roads in Madeira are well-maintained but can be winding and steep, so a confident driver is a must.

Public Transportation: An Affordable Journey

Madeira’s public bus network is extensive, connecting major tourist spots and offering an affordable way to travel. Buses are frequent in Funchal but less so in rural areas. For those planning to stick to the main attractions and Funchal’s highlights, buses are an economical choice.

Walking and Hiking: Madeira’s Natural Pace

For the active traveler, Madeira’s extensive network of levadas (irrigation channels) offers unparalleled walking and hiking opportunities. From easy strolls to challenging treks, you can explore the island’s lush landscapes and stunning vistas on foot. It’s the best way to connect with Madeira’s natural beauty.

Taxis and Rideshares: Convenient but Costly

Taxis and rideshare services in Madeira provide the convenience of door-to-door service, perfect for when you’re tired after a day of exploring or heading out for a nice dinner. While more expensive than public transportation, they offer flexibility and comfort, especially in areas less serviced by buses.

Cable Cars and Other Unique Modes of Transportation

Madeira offers some unique transportation options that are attractions in themselves. The cable car from Funchal to Monte not only provides easy access to the tropical gardens but also offers panoramic views of the city and sea. Don’t miss the traditional Monte Toboggan ride for a thrilling descent back to Funchal.

Navigating Madeira is an integral part of the travel experience, with each mode of transportation offering a different perspective of the island. Whether you prefer the independence of driving, the eco-friendly option of public transport, or the adventure of hiking, Madeira is accessible and welcoming to all.

Madeira’s Gastronomic Delights: What and Where to Eat

Embarking on a culinary journey through Madeira, Portugal, is as much a part of the adventure as exploring its landscapes. The island’s cuisine is a tantalizing fusion of traditional Portuguese flavors with unique local twists. Here’s your guide to not just what to eat, but where to find the best gastronomic experiences during your 5-day Madeira itinerary.

Espetada Madeirense: A Must-Try Delicacy

No visit to Madeira would be complete without trying Espetada Madeirense – succulent beef skewers seasoned with garlic and bay leaves, grilled over wood fires. For an authentic experience, head to Restaurante Santo António in Funchal, known for its traditional preparation of this dish.

Bolo do Caco: The Beloved Bread

Bolo do Caco is a delicious garlic butter-slathered flatbread, often served as a side or with fillings like octopus or espetada. Mercado dos Lavradores offers a chance to taste this bread fresh from local vendors, providing a quick and tasty snack while exploring.

Scabbard Fish with Banana: A Surprising Combination

One of Madeira’s most unique dishes is Espada com Banana, the deep-sea scabbard fish paired with banana. It’s a testament to Madeira’s innovative use of local ingredients. O Polar in Camara de Lobos is famed for its rendition of this distinctive dish.

Madeira Wine: An Exquisite Taste

Madeira wine, with its rich history and variety of styles, from dry to sweet, is an essential taste of the island. Visit Blandy’s Wine Lodge for a comprehensive tour and tasting session, where you can delve into the world of Madeira wine.

Poncha: The Traditional Drink

Experience Madeira’s traditional spirit with a glass of Poncha, a potent concoction of sugar cane spirit, honey, and lemon or orange juice. Bar O Avo in Serra de Agua is a local favorite for trying this invigorating drink.

Madeira’s culinary scene is a vibrant blend of flavors, textures, and traditions, offering something for every palate. From the streets of Funchal to the terraced vineyards, each meal and drink is an opportunity to delve deeper into the island’s culture and history.

Things to Know About Madeira Before Visiting

Madeira, Portugal, is an island of immense beauty, rich culture, and unique traditions. Whether you’re planning to explore its rugged landscapes, dive into its culinary delights, or simply soak in its serene ambiance, here are essential things to know before your visit.

Madeira’s Climate: A Year-Round Destination

Madeira enjoys a subtropical climate, making it a fantastic year-round destination. Summers are warm but not excessively hot, while winters are mild. However, the weather can vary greatly depending on where you are on the island, so packing layers is advisable.

Language and Communication

Portuguese is the official language of Madeira. While English is widely spoken in tourist areas and among younger generations, learning a few basic Portuguese phrases can enhance your experience and help you connect with locals.

Currency and Payments

The Euro (€) is the currency in Madeira. Credit cards are accepted in most places, but having cash on hand is useful, especially in smaller towns or for public transportation. ATMs are readily available throughout the island.

Getting Around: Transportation Tips

Madeira’s diverse geography makes getting around part of the adventure. Renting a car offers the most flexibility, but the island also has an extensive network of buses and taxis. For unique travel experiences, try the cable cars or the traditional Monte toboggans.

Local Cuisine: Beyond the Ordinary

Madeira’s cuisine is a highlight, featuring fresh seafood, exotic fruits, and the famous Madeira wine. Don’t leave without trying specialties like Espetada, Bolo do Caco, and Poncha. Local markets and festivals are great places to sample traditional dishes.

Nature and Outdoor Activities

Madeira is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The island is renowned for its levada walks—unique irrigation channels that offer scenic hiking trails. Additionally, Madeira’s coastline and mountainous terrain provide opportunities for water sports, paragliding, and mountain biking.

Cultural Etiquette: Respect and Enjoy

Madeirans are known for their warm hospitality. When visiting, be mindful of local customs and traditions. Simple gestures like greeting locals in Portuguese and showing appreciation for their culture can make your interactions more meaningful.

When to Visit Madeira: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the perfect time to visit Madeira, Portugal, can enhance your travel experience, allowing you to fully enjoy the island’s lush landscapes, vibrant festivals, and outdoor activities. Madeira’s mild climate makes it a year-round destination, but certain times of the year may suit your travel preferences better depending on what you want to do and see.

Spring (March to May): The Flower Festival

Spring in Madeira is a spectacle of color, with flowers blooming across the island, making it a fantastic time for nature lovers and photographers. The Madeira Flower Festival, held shortly after Easter, is a highlight, featuring parades, flower carpets, and various events celebrating the island’s floral abundance.

Summer (June to August): Peak Season

Summer brings the warmest weather, ideal for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts. It’s peak tourist season, so expect more crowds, especially in popular spots like Funchal. The Atlantic Festival in June, with its fireworks competitions and music concerts, adds to the island’s lively summer atmosphere.

Autumn (September to November): Wine Harvest and Mild Weather

Autumn is the season of the grape harvest, making it a perfect time for wine enthusiasts to visit. The Madeira Wine Festival in September celebrates the island’s rich viniculture with tastings, traditional music, and live performances. The weather remains warm and sunny, ideal for hiking and exploring the outdoors.

Winter (December to February): Christmas Lights and New Year’s Fireworks

Winter in Madeira is mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 15°C (59°F). Funchal is adorned with spectacular Christmas lights, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks display is recognized as one of the world’s best. It’s a magical time to visit, with fewer tourists and a cozy atmosphere.

Where to Stay in Madeira: Accommodations for Every Traveler

You can see the map below for the updated locations and pricing of hotels and accommodation in Madeira. There is also a list of accommodations on the left side of the map. For our recommended Madeira stays for every budget, we have listed them below.

Madeira’s hospitality scene is as diverse as its landscapes, offering accommodations that cater to every preference and budget. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel with panoramic ocean views, a cozy family-run guesthouse nestled in the mountains, or a convenient city apartment, Madeira has it all.

Luxury: Indulge in Madeira’s Finest

Belmond Reid’s Palace: A symbol of elegance and history, this iconic hotel offers exquisite rooms, gourmet dining, and stunning sea views, all wrapped in lush gardens.

Savoy Palace: Experience modern luxury with this recently opened hotel, featuring sophisticated design, a world-class spa, and an infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic.

Mid-Range: Comfort and Value Combined

Quinta da Casa Branca: Set in a beautiful garden, this boutique hotel provides a peaceful retreat with stylish rooms and excellent service, just a short distance from Funchal’s center.

Hotel Porto Santa Maria (Adults Only): Located in the heart of the old town, this hotel is perfect for those who wish to explore Funchal’s cultural sites and enjoy easy access to local restaurants and bars.

Budget-Friendly: Quality Stays at Great Value

Santa Maria Hostel: This trendy hostel, set in a renovated historic building, offers both dorms and private rooms, making it an ideal choice for budget-conscious travelers and backpackers.

Vila Vicência: A charming guesthouse offering comfortable accommodation in a quiet residential area, with easy access to Funchal and nearby beaches.

Unique Stays: Experience Madeira Uniquely

Quinta das Vinhas: Stay in a traditional Madeiran Quinta (farmhouse) surrounded by vineyards, offering rustic charm and a serene countryside experience.

Fajã dos Padres – Two Fathers Girdle: Accessible only by cable car, these exclusive seafront cottages provide a unique escape in a secluded location, perfect for a tranquil retreat close to nature.

No matter where you choose to stay, Madeira’s accommodations are sure to enhance your visit with their warmth, hospitality, and unique charm. From waking up to breathtaking ocean views to enjoying a nightcap under the stars in a mountain hideaway, your Madeira accommodation is more than just a place to sleep—it’s a key part of your island experience.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations: Embracing Madeira’s Enchantment

As you prepare to embark on your journey to Madeira, Portugal, let this guide serve not just as a roadmap to the island’s physical wonders but as an invitation to immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of experiences that await. Madeira, often hailed as the “Island of Eternal Spring,” is a place where every turn on a mountain trail, every stroll through cobblestone streets, and every bite of its gastronomic offerings opens up a new chapter in your travel story.

Embrace the Adventure: Madeira’s diverse landscapes, from the serene Laurisilva forests to the dramatic cliffs of Cabo Girão, are a playground for the adventurous soul. The levada walks, in particular, are a must-do, offering a unique way to explore the island’s stunning natural beauty. Each trail, with its own set of waterfalls, green tunnels, and panoramic views, tells a tale of Madeira’s rich ecological tapestry.

Savor the Flavors: The island’s cuisine is a testament to its rich cultural heritage and the bounty of its land and sea. From the traditional Espetada Madeirense to the innovative Espada com Banana, Madeira’s culinary landscape is as diverse as it is delicious. We highly recommend indulging in a Madeira wine tasting session, where the storied history of the island’s wine production comes to life in every sip.

Engage with the Culture: Madeira’s cultural vibrancy is reflected in its festivals, music, and art. The Flower Festival and the Madeira Wine Festival are just a few examples of events that offer a glimpse into the island’s traditions and community spirit. Take time to explore Funchal’s museums, markets, and galleries to connect with the heart and soul of Madeira.

Travel Tips for a Seamless Experience:

  • Weather Preparedness: The island’s microclimates mean weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains. Packing layers and waterproof gear will keep you comfortable on your adventures.
  • Flexibility: While our 5-day itinerary offers a curated experience of Madeira’s highlights, staying flexible allows you to discover hidden gems and spontaneous moments that make travel memorable.
  • Sustainability: As travelers, we have a responsibility to protect the places we visit. Practicing eco-friendly habits, supporting local businesses, and respecting wildlife and natural areas ensure Madeira remains a paradise for future generations.

In Closing: Madeira awaits to enchant you with its blend of natural wonders, culinary delights, and cultural richness. Whether you’re tracing the paths of ancient levadas, savoring the island’s gastronomic treasures, or celebrating its vibrant traditions, Madeira offers an unforgettable escape into a world where nature and culture harmonize beautifully. Let this guide be the start of your Madeiran adventure—a journey of discovery, enjoyment, and inspiration.

Madeira is not just a destination; it’s an experience that will capture your heart and linger in your memories long after you’ve returned home. Safe travels, and may your time in Madeira be filled with wonder and joy.

FAQs on Madeira Itinerary: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Madeira

What’s the best time of year to visit Madeira?

Madeira is a year-round destination thanks to its mild climate. However, the best time to visit depends on your interests. Spring (March to May) is perfect for flower lovers and those wanting to witness the island in bloom, especially during the Madeira Flower Festival. Summer (June to August) offers the warmest weather, ideal for beach and water activities. Autumn (September to November) is great for hiking and wine enthusiasts, coinciding with the grape harvest and the Madeira Wine Festival. Winter (December to February) is less crowded, with mild weather and spectacular Christmas and New Year’s festivities.

How do I get around Madeira?

Renting a car is the most flexible way to explore Madeira, especially for accessing remote areas. Public buses serve major tourist destinations and are an affordable option. For specific attractions, like Monte, consider the cable car for its scenic views. Taxis and rideshare services are widely available for convenience.

What are the must-try foods in Madeira?

Don’t miss Espetada (beef skewers), Bolo do Caco (garlic bread), and Espada com Banana (scabbard fish with banana). For dessert, try the passion fruit pudding. Madeira wine and Poncha (a traditional drink) are also essential tasting experiences.

Are there any entry requirements or visas needed for Madeira?

Madeira follows Portugal’s and the Schengen Area’s entry requirements. Visitors from many countries can enter visa-free for short stays. Always check the latest travel advisories and visa requirements based on your nationality before traveling.

What should I pack for a trip to Madeira?

Pack layers, as the weather can vary, especially if you’re exploring different altitudes. Include comfortable walking shoes for hiking, a waterproof jacket, sunscreen, and a hat. Don’t forget your swimsuit for beach days or visiting the natural pools.

Can I drink tap water in Madeira?

Yes, tap water in Madeira is safe to drink. However, due to its unique mineral content, some visitors prefer bottled water. Carrying a reusable water bottle is a sustainable choice as you can refill it throughout the island.

What are some cultural etiquette tips for visiting Madeira?

Madeirans are friendly and appreciate politeness. Greet people with “Bom dia” (Good morning), “Boa tarde” (Good afternoon), or “Boa noite” (Good evening). It’s customary to say “Obrigado” (Thank you) for services rendered. When dining out, tipping around 10% is appreciated for good service.

What are the top outdoor activities in Madeira?

Madeira is known for its levada walks, offering stunning hikes through the island’s lush landscapes. Other popular activities include canyoning, mountain biking, paragliding, and surfing. The island’s natural pools in Porto Moniz are a must-visit for a unique swimming experience.

Is Madeira family-friendly?

Absolutely. Madeira offers numerous activities and attractions suitable for families, including theme parks, aquariums, and interactive museums. The island’s beaches and natural pools are great for children, and many restaurants welcome families with kids.

What should I know about Madeira’s festivals?

Madeira hosts vibrant festivals year-round, celebrating everything from flowers to wine to Christmas. Planning your visit around these festivals can offer a deeper insight into Madeiran culture. Highlights include the Madeira Flower Festival in spring and the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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