The trip that follows is not just a weekend in Madeira. It is an unlikely discovery that leads us to more intimate places of this destination.
The itinerary mixes experiences of luxury, gastronomy, nature, and sea. It offers surprises, adventures, eccentricities and original flavours over a weekend like no other to remember.
Discover the island of Madeira, as never seen before, through Agência Abreu. Here, we share our own experience:
We started with the classics – the unparalleled afternoon tea at the Belmond Reid’s Palace Hotel. No one forgets the first time crossing the lobby of this illustrious hotel. There are 128 years of history, elegance and charisma, with a touch of “la belle époque”. The views from the balcony over the bay of Funchal could easily be considered a national treasure.
Afternoon tea has the perfect surroundings – the tranquillity of the gardens, the rose coloured
hotel buildings, the glitter of the sea, and a blue sky reflected in our eyes. Natural herbal tea was served in the iconic English Wedgewood china. The scones were offered with cream and the choice of various jams, and the macaroons decorated with flowers. The menu also included salmon and avocado finger sandwiches, cakes and other delicious sweet and savoury temptations. The pianist was playing La La Land musical theme “City of Stars”. The atmosphere fitted this cinematic world, just like the distinguished personalities who once trod this hotel, from Gago Coutinho to Princess Stéphanie of Monaco.
Afterwards, we went for a ride on a classic car, a magnificent 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II! The trip took us to Ponta do Sol, a town located to the west of Funchal.
We travelled about 25 km, in style. The exterior of this vehicle is in itself a dazzle, but the interior is a box of surprises! It has the peculiarity of not having mirrors on the outside, only on the inside (one on each side, next to the rear seats). We found wooden tables, recessed in the front seat, reminding us of the tables in planes
Did you know that Madeira is the region of Portugal with the highest number of classic cars?
Situated at the top of a beautiful cliff, Estalagem da Ponta do Sol welcomed us for dinner. This contemporary hotel is a member of Design Hotels of the World. We toasted at sunset on the lawn of its old house. The panoramic sea views, the beach and the mountains were very seductive. Dinner celebrated the moment – prawns tempura with spicy sauce, steak with Madeira sauce and caramelized banana with passion fruit ice cream, accompanied by the typical honey (molasses) cake – an explosive junction of flavours.
In the evening, the Festival Aqui e Acolá was taking place. This is an annual event that seeks to promote art, culture and tradition. We had the chance to hear and witness the performance of Englishman Benjamin Clementine, winner of the Mercury Prize, in 2015. Benjamin’s voice transported us to a world of unlikely fantasies – in such a spectacular setting!
In the morning we walked on a Levada trail. For those who do not know, the levadas are water channels built since the sixteenth century, by man, to harness the abundant waters on the north coast of the island for irrigation purposes. They travel thousands of miles, through the Laurissilva Forest, classified by UNESCO, as World Natural Heritage. The King’s Levada is not the most well-known but it is not the least impressive. A Land Rover Defender took us from the hotel to the town of São Jorge. In this Jeep Safari, we got to know a little of the east coast of the island, through dirt roads, forest, tunnels and cities such as Machico.
The walk along the Levada was about 10 km, over 3 hours. We discovered a hidden Madeira, in the depths of the Laurissilva forest. We passed through tunnels, waterfalls and virgin landscapes. At the end of the tour, we were doubly surprised: by the natural temple that is the Ribeiro Bonito and by a musical concert played in the middle of nature – Ecomusicalis.
A lunch/barbecue followed in the restaurant of Quinta do Furão, in Santana, which offers one of the most beautiful views of the Nature Reserve of Rocha do Navio – and what a great place to be! Lunch included the most typical flavours of the island: kebabs barbecued on laurel skewers “espetada”, scabbard fish, fried maize, Madeira wine and passion fruit pudding. Santana’s bread is wonderful, homemade in the Quinta do Furão itself!
On the way back to Funchal, we passed through Porto da Cruz, for a visit to the emblematic Companhia dos Engenhos do Norte. The steam engine is still the original, from the 16th century! We sampled several brandy types while learning about their ageing process
Madeira produces about 1200 tons per year of sugar cane, and the brandy is the main ingredient of one of Madeira’s most famous drinks – Poncha!
For dinner, we gathered at the Dining Room Restaurant table in the luxurious Quinta da Casa Branca.
Charm, sophistication, a memorable meal – Carabineiro shrimp, mushroom cream with truffle-flavoured cottage cheese, sea bass in Dashi and lime broth, pineapple ice cream, tandoori lamb medallions and fabulous passion fruit and mint vacherin
The Dining Room is literally the dining room of a magnificent mansion, surrounded by banana fields and extensive flower gardens
The meeting point was in the heart of the city at The Vine Hotel. This hotel is a winner of multiple World Travel Awards, thanks to its contemporary design, created by a renowned interior designer, Madeiran Nini Andrade Silva. The largest park in Funchal – Parque de Santa Catarina, is just a short 7-minute walk away. It offers fabulous views of Funchal’s marina and bay, the idyllic setting for a Yoga class in the park, listening to the sounds of the birds and the rustling of the leaves of centuries-old trees.
In Estreito da Calheta we visited Quinta das Vinhas. This romantic Quinta is located in Estreito da Calheta, about 35 km from Funchal. It is surrounded by vineyards and peaceful views of the southwest coast of the island. The lunch was accompanied by Madeira table wines, Barbusano and Ponta do Tristão. After visiting the main house, we were led to the back garden, transformed into an enchanted garden – the “Jardim da Joo”. With Jo, we tasted handmade chocolates, with flavours such as banana and passion fruit.
As far as panoramic views, Cabo Girão is the “Belvedere’ s King”. Its glass platform is 580 meters high and allows us to “walk on top of the sea and the cliff”.
There we felt on the top of the world – a happy ending to a top weekend.
This weekend surpassed expectations, an impeccable organization. If this is your first time in Madeira, you will certainly have a lot to do, see and tell – a weekend that felt like a full holiday week!
Because this island has much more than Santana houses or natural pools … discover these magnificent, (im) probable tours, on your trip to Madeira!