Information Following the popularity of our Winter Sun holidays, Madeira Summer Sun is NEW for 2018!
At a glance...
* Flights from 11 local airports
* Airport taxes & transfers
* Choice of half-board 4 star hotels
* 5 star hotel upgrade
* Optional excursions
* Includes VAT
If you want to run to the sun, but don't want to end up casseroled, you can't do better than the island of Madeira. Being just 300 miles west of Africa and flush between the latitudes of Casablanca and Marrakesh, you might expect Madeira to be sun-baked and blistering, but instead the pattern of Atlantic trade winds and warm Gulf currents give it a balmy Mediterranean year-round climate with temperatures rarely tipping above the mid-twenties centigrade in the height of summer or below the mid-teens centigrade in winter. In other words, Madeira is a Goldilocks island which, regardless of time of year, is perfect for people who like it not too hot, not too cool, but just right.
It's beautiful too, an island of cliffs and cloud forests, slopes and ravines. Storm petrels, chaffinches, firecrests and shearwaters haunt the rugged coastlines or the fennel-scented laurisilva valleys. There is a wild profusion of native blooms including hibiscus, white and blue agapanthus as high as a man, armchair-sized aloe vera, brilliant bird of paradise, weeping bottlebrush, red canna, frangipani, bougainvillea, orchids and forest flame. You might see some of these in a good garden centre, but not the trees: canary palms like two-storey pineapples, enormous dragon trees, and wooded glades of purple jacaranda, banana and African tulip. Being at the top of a dormant chain of submarine volcanoes, Madeira has a plunging forested interior, with peaks half as high again as anything in Scotland and many hidden valleys and villages. There are some spectacular walking paths, legacy of the Portuguese who cut and built 1,300 miles of water-carrying levadas through rock and over gorges. Some of these are exquisite rambles through an unspoilt Eden, while others feature sheer and vertiginous drops and are not for the faint-hearted.
Madeira is of course most famous for its fortified wine. According to Shakespeare in Richard III, the Duke of Clarence got himself drowned in a vat of the stuff, while Falstaff in Henry IV was prepared to sell his soul for a mere cupful. What we call Madeira cake is in fact an entirely English confection which got its name only because of an 18th-century fashion in genteel society for serving it with Madeira wine. Madeira does have its own cake, though, a dark and sticky sponge known as Bolo de Mel, made with almonds, walnuts and molasses. You might like to try it along with other Madeira culinary specialities, such as Bolo do caco (sweet potato flatbread) with fresh limpets, espetada (cubed beef), picado (garlic fried beef) and espada (the weirdly prehistoric-looking black scabbard fish, which definitely tastes better than it looks). There are some optional tours on this holiday, because there are places you might not want to miss, but you can just as easily mooch off and do your own thing too. Either way, we can help make sure your holiday is like Madeira itself, not too much, not too little, but just right.
Includes * Return flight from your chosen airport to Madeira
* Return transfer from the airport to your hotel
* Seven nights at a choice of 4 star hotels; the Hotel Raga, Funchal, with light all-inclusive board, or the Enotel Baia hotel, Ponta do Sol' , with breakfast and dinner. (Upgrade to the 5 star Vidamar Resorts Madeira hotel at a supplement.)
* One piece of hold luggage (at least 20 kg weight allowance)
* Services of an English-speaking representative
* All airport taxes and security charges and the Government charge on air travel (APD)
* VAT at 20%
* Based on two people sharing a room. Rooms for single person occupancy are offered, subject to availability, at a supplement. Please see hotel information for details.
' This hotel is not available on the 14 May departure.
Make your way to your chosen airport for the flight to Funchal, where on arrival we will transfer you to your chosen hotel for check in, free time and dinner before the first of seven nights stay. Passengers on later flights may be offered a cold platter if your arrival is after normal dinner service.
After breakfast, there will be a welcome meeting in which you will be introduced to the area and given the opportunity to book the optional excursions. The rest of the day is at leisure until dinner.
A free day, or join the optional tour of Madeira's West Coast (see Excursions
➕ Day at leisure.
A free day, or perhaps choose the Quintas and Gardens excursion (see Excursions
➕ Day at leisure.
One final relaxing day in resort.
After breakfast, at the appropriate time, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home
Optional Excursions Optional
West Coast Madeira tour
Wednesday Full day ?42 per person when pre-booked Our journey begins along the south coast of the island. From Funchal, we depart towards Quinta Grande,
passing through villages with cultivated terraces, then continue to Ribeira Brava
. Here there will be a short stop to visit the church before carrying on to Ponta do Sol
and Madalena do Mar
, where you will visit a banana plantation. After this we head north into the island's interior and climb up to the Paul da Serra
plateau, the only flat area on the island, at 1400 metres. Here there is a nature reserve listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, with vast laurissilva forests stretching away to the north, often covered by a rainforest-like carpet of mist from the expiration of the foliage. We continue north-eastwards to the northernmost tip of the island and the village of Porto Moniz
and its famous natural pools carved into the lava. We then drive along a section of the oldest and most beautiful of the island's roads - the Corniche coastal road - narrow, carved into the rock, with a steep, vertiginous drop over the sea. This magnificent road leads to the village of Sao Vicente
, on the north coast. We stop for lunch in Sao Vicente, and there will be a little time to explore the village, then from here we cross the island north to south via the Encumeada Pass
(1007 m), from where, in clear weather, you can see two sides of the island at once. We conclude the tour at Cabo Girao
, one of the highest cliffs in Europe (610 m), where you will have an amazing view over Funchal. Please note that guests staying in Ponta do Sol will be taken to Funchal for the start of the tour, and taken back to Ponta do Sol once the tour is completed.
Quintas and Gardens
Friday Full day ?52 per person when pre-booked (?60pp in resort)Includes admission charges. Botanists and horticulturalists alike will love this day out visiting some of the Funchal area's most prestigious gardens. We go first to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden
, 70,000 square metres of exotic plants plus a lake with free-ranging peacocks, Icelandic white swans and Tasmanian black swans. Also included is the Monte Palace Museum boasting a display over two floors of African sculptures and a collection of over 1000 mineral specimens, with over 300 semiprecious and precious gems including rough and cut diamonds. Next, we descend nearer to sea-level to visit Quinta do Palheiro
, also known as Blandy Garden and much cited in literature as one of the most beautiful in the world. The garden dates from 1801 and is rich in colour and scent, with a magnificent collection of camellias, centennial trees, a rose garden and a myriad of other flowers and climbers. The final stop in our trio is the Quinta Vigia
in Funchal, formerly a villa and home to a succession of European and Russian aristocrats, but now the official residence of the President of Madeira. The garden features a variety of indigenous and exotic plants, trees and birds, and affords gorgeous panoramic views over the harbour. We return to the hotel from here.