Funchal The Beating Heart Of Madeira Island

The Portuguese island of Madeira is a vacation destination that most American tourists only visit when making a short stop. This is because most American travellers to Madeira (see this link) travel on board one of the many ocean going cruise liners. And, the standard is that these luxury liner only dock in port for a few hours before setting sail for the next port of call. That the timetable of these luxury liners does not allow for a prolonged stay is a shame since Madeira has many different places worthy of a visit to offer its visitors.

As I am involved in the sphere of assisting travellers to Madeira Island, I frequently get approached to suggest an itinerary to see everything the island has to offer in a maximum of just a few hours. The Funchal cable car – see: – is an ideal tourist attraction. It is entirely reasonable for people to expect this. After all, if you pick up a map of Madeira, you will see that the island is barely 14 miles across and 33 miles long.

The island boasts a freeway system that makes quick and hassle free journeys the rule rather than an exception. However, touring the entire island in a just a few hours would leave little time to fully appreciate the variety of landscapes, noteworthy towns and villages and tourist attractions that we have to offer. As a more realistic alternative, I would suggest that you select an excursion that covers just one area or aspect of Madeira.

Hence, for cruise ship passengers with limited on-shore time available, what is the tour operator excursion that offers the most?

Well, for those cruise ship liner passengers who have yet to sample the delights of Madeira island, I would recommend a whistle-stop tour taking in the main attractions of Funchal, the island’s capital. As all cruise ships drop anchor in Funchal harbour, this choice will consists of minimum travelling mileage.

To help you understand the geography of Madeira Island download your online map of Madeira from this website.

Funchal and its immediate surroundings have plenty of interesting places to visit that cater for almost everyone, no matter what their own personal preferences. My favourite itinerary would be these:

Take a ride on the Funchal cable car travelling from the seafront up to the small mountain destination of Monte. On the way up you will enjoy some simply amazing views of the city. You will also see from above your luxury cruise ship at anchor in the harbour – perfect if you want to take a special photograph of it.

Disembarking the cable car in Monte, you should certainly walk the short distance along to the church, which stands on the very same grounds as the first chapel to be built on the island. In a small, gated side chapel of Monte Church, you will find the final resting place of Emperor Charles I of Austria the last Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor.

If you delight in things botanical, then before you leave Monte, ensure you visit the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. These gardens, planted in the surrounds of a now disused hotel, boast trees, shrubs and flowers from near and far along with a variety of curios that are housed in and around the grounds. Of particular interest are the formal Oriental Garden and the ceramic tiles collection.

Next, head for the unique Monte Toboggans ride. These examples of a primitive form of transport are made from chair sized, local, wicker baskets secured to wooden runners. Having seated yourself in position, two steering side-runners will manipulate your unusual type of transport downward along the steep hills. Ernest Hemmingway once described this ride as the most exhilarating experience of his life. Unfortunately, in this modern age concerned with health and safety, it is no longer so hair-raising, however you will still find nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

When you have completed the Monte Toboggan ride, you will most likely require a more relaxing experience to follow. It’s now just about time to head back to the center of Funchal and choose from the many restaurants and cafes that are there to cater for tourists and local customers alike.

Overlooking the yacht Marina there are some top class seafood restaurants. Here, you can guarantee that each and every dish offered will have been freshly caught that very same morning.

Alternatively, head for the side streets where some traditional cafes have a selection of traditional meals at very affordable prices. You could find yourself enjoying an after meal glass of Madeira wine in a converted old wine cellar. Or possibly, enjoying an espetada, a traditional beef meal cooked by roasting cubes of meat over the flames of an open fire on skewers, whilst being entertained by a traditional Madeiran folk troupe.

Whatever you choose, it is almost certainly guaranteed that, as your cruise ship takes you out into the vast expanse of the Atlantic again and the peaks of Madeira fade into the blur of the horizon, you will be exploring the possibility of visiting this charming island sanctuary once again.