Seeking an island holiday which infuses European flair with tropical island vibes? Look no further than Madeira, an emerald green isle off the coast of Morocco. An autonomous region of Portugal, this relaxed honeymoon haven was formed from ancient volcanic activity – and soccer fans will know it’s also the birthplace of star player Cristiano Ronaldo.
A short flight from mainland Europe, Madeira promises to add an exciting element to your honeymoon itinerary and offers a fantastic blend of foodie activities, sightseeing, off-road adventures and relaxation. City slickers will love staying in the lively capital of Funchal, while those after a quieter getaway may prefer the sunny village of Calheta, on the southern side of the island.
Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Madeira:
Best for beach-goers: Porto Moniz Pools
For a beach day with a difference, journey to the northwest corner of the island to the Piscinas Naturais de Porto Moniz; natural ocean-side swimming pools in the village of Porto Moniz. Crystal clear and fed with natural seawater, these volcanic formed rock pools provide an idyllic way to spend a few hours in the sunshine. Set up your towel poolside and spend a lazy morning dipping in the (refreshing!) pools, before picking up a Portuguese tart at the snack bar for the drive home.
Best for explorers: Jeep Safari
Rugged and wildly beautiful, Madeira boasts lush forests, black sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, steep peaks and more, making it a dynamic place to discover for intrepid honeymooners. One of the best ways to explore the island is by jeep safari, for an off-road adventure otherwise inaccessible with a regular hire car. Try the Green Devil Enchanted Terraces tour for an all-day jaunt which will see you swimming in tranquil rock pools, driving through Madeira’s famous wine country and walking a section of one of the Levada trails.
Best for nature lovers: Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Plant lovers simply must make the ascent via cable car up to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, a lush haven brimming with thousands of botanical gems from all over the world. Stroll along fern-fringed terraces, be blown away by blooming hydrangeas and admire stunning blue and white ceramic artworks, all while soaking in gorgeous ocean views.
Best for thrill seekers: Monte Toboggan Ride
Thrill seekers cannot pass up the chance to go whizzing down the hills of Funchal on the famous Monte toboggan ride. Travelling in a cart that’s part wicker basket, part toboggan, this daring descent will have you clinging to your love and laughing the whole way. All the while two ‘carreiros’ dressed in traditional white shirts and hats expertly guide the toboggan down narrow streets to the finishing area, using their rubber soled boots as brakes.
Historically used as an efficient means of transport for Monte residents down to Funchal, today it serves as an adrenalin-filled adventure for tourists. Also, don’t forget to smile for the cameras along the way – you’ll be able to purchase a snap of your thrill ride at the bottom.
Best for romantics: Afternoon Tea for Two
For sublime sea views and sweet treats, reserve a table for afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace, an elegant cliff-top hotel bursting with old-world glamour. Served on the delightful millennial pink terrace, afternoon tea is a three-tiered tray and linen napkin affair, complete with an extensive tea menu. Try the bespoke Reid’s blend for the perfect accompaniment.
All images by Anika Reynolds
Best for wine lovers: Blandy’s Wine Lodge Tour
If you’ve heard the name Madeira before, chances are you may have come across the famous wine named after the island. A little unconventional, the Madeira method sees the winemakers deliberately adding heat in order to progress the vinification process, resulting in the four distinctive (and delicious!) styles of fortified wine.
In Funchal, you can take a tour of the famous Blandy’s Wine Lodge, one of the most prominent makers of Madeira wine. Here, you’ll discover more about the winemaking process and iconic Blandy’s brand, before tasting a few of their label’s best drops.
Ms Zebra Says: What a luxurious and beautiful place to honeymoon! Having never heard of Madeira, I’m now booking a ticket! The high tea looks particularly delicious!
About Anika Reynolds: I’m a freelance writer with a love of weddings and creatively styled events. I have a penchant for pretty stationery and perfectly put together cheese plates, and a never-ending sense of wanderlust!