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Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

12days from
£2,779*per person

Overview

12 Days - European Tour

Just 600 miles southwest of Lisbon is the subtropical paradise island of Madeira. It captures the heart of all who visit - even the difficult-to-please Winston Churchill was seduced by its charms!   Alongside learning more about the culture and history of this Portuguese island, we'll uncover its enormous diversity - from imported, purple-blossomed jacaranda trees, orchids and bird of paradise plants to its native Laurisilva forest. This really is a plant lover's dream, with fertile volcanic soil and beautiful landscapes.  We stay in picturesque Funchal which boasts architectural charm and a rich maritime heritage rivalling the island's natural splendour. This holiday is ideal for those who want to see more of Madeira with plenty of time for relaxation. 

Itinerary

  • Arrival in Funchal Our adventure in Madeira starts with a flight to Funchal Airport. On arrival, we'll transfer to our hotel, where we stay for 11 nights. Starting our holiday as we mean to go on, tonight we’ll enjoy our first Signature experience. Spend time settling into your hotel before joining your fellow explorers on the hotel's terrace. Here, we’ll enjoy an aperitif and canapés as you soak up views of the intoxicating turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  Signature experience: Spend time settling into your hotel before joining your fellow explorers on the hotel's terrace. Here, we’ll enjoy an aperitif and canapés as you soak up views of the intoxicating turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Guided tour of Funchal After breakfast, we'll follow a local guide on a walking tour of the historic centre of Funchal. Often called 'Little Lisbon’, as it overlooks a spectacular harbour and boasts grand 18th-century buildings with shaded courtyards, we'll explore the narrow streets that wind through the centre as they broaden out into lively squares and tree-lined walkways.   Our guide will point out Funchal's highlights, including the Igreja do Colégio, a deceptive church with a plain exterior that hides its intricately decorated Baroque interior. The historical and artistic heritage on display here is virtually priceless, but it's not the island's main religious building - that honour falls to the 15th-century Sé cathedral, one of the few buildings dating from colonial times. With imposing arches and ornate gold-framed paintings - as well as a Mudéjar style ceiling made entirely from local wood - it's one of Portugal's most beautiful.  Devotees of modern architecture will love the Art Deco Mercado dos Lavradores or farmers’ market, a hive of activity as shoppers fill their baskets with the island’s sun-ripened produce. Look out for the patterned pavements, typically Portuguese and painstakingly pieced by hand, and for the colourful street art on the doors of buildings.  Madeira wine Next up is a real treat: a tasting of the island’s best-known export, Madeira wine. The process of heating the wine originated by accident when 16th-century sailors discovered that wines picked up in Madeira tasted richer after the casks had been heated and cooled during passage through the Tropics.   Today, the styles of this fortified wine range from dry to lusciously sweet. You might be more familiar with the more medium, Verdelho, which is the variety we Brits traditionally serve with the crumbly sponge cake named after the wine. Included experience: Guided walking tour of Funchal and a tasting of Madeiran wine.
  • Cabo Girão Today we'll venture out to the western side of the island. Our first stop is Cabo Girão, not only is it the island's highest sea cliff, but it's also the highest cape in Europe with a sheer drop of 1,980 feet. The awe-inspiring transparent platform which extends over the cliff edge offers incredible views of the Madeira coastline, Funchal and the town of Câmara de Lobos. It's truly exhilarating. Ribeira Brava Next, we'll visit the charming Ribeira Brava, a small town set in a steep valley carved out by the ‘wild river’ that gives the settlement its name. Here, we’ll stop to visit the 16th-century church of São Bento with its giant crystal chandeliers. Porto Moniz Madeira’s tropical climate is perfect for growing bananas and in the fishing village of Madalena do Mar, you can take a short walk through the banana plantation, where work is still carried out by hand. Turning inland, we ascend nearly 5,000 feet to the flattest part of the island, Paúl da Serra plateau. In the distance, you might spot Porto Moniz, located at Madeira’s northwestern tip - it's our next destination.  Remarkable enough for its edge-of-the-world feeling, Porto Moniz is also blessed with natural saltwater pools formed from solidified volcanic rock and replenished by the waves as they break against the rocks. It’s the perfect place to stop, gaze out over the waves and drink in the invigorating ocean air from the terrace of a café or restaurant.  Bridal Veil Waterfall We’ll head back along the northern coastal route via the village of Seixall to see one of Madeira’s most famous waterfalls – the Bridal Veil – which cascades down the side of the mountain into the sea. São Vicente Our final stop is São Vicente, a village nestling in a deep verdant valley and believed to be the volcanic birthplace of the island. It's home to a distinctive black-and-white church, scenic houses and a network of caves – all adding to its reputation as one of Madeira’s loveliest settlements. Keep your eye out for the tiny 17th-century chapel located on a giant basalt outcrop on the shore here. Then, after a day exploring, it’ll be time to return to our hotel. Included experience: Visit Cabo Girão, Ribeira Brava, and São Vicente.
  • Free day in Funchal Today is yours to spend at leisure in Funchal and the surrounding area.   You could go in search of Funchal’s traditional craft shops and browse their artisan tiles, wickerwork and embroidery for a truly authentic souvenir. Or perhaps, stroll along the Lido promenade and stop for a seafood lunch.   For art lovers, the Sacred Art Museum is located in the 17th-century former bishop’s palace. It houses one of the finest collections of religious art in the world, commissioned for their local churches by wealthy Madeiran merchants seeking salvation. Among the works are masterpieces by influential 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painters, such as Pieter Coeck van Aalst.
  • Monte We'll ascend to Monte by cable car, looking out over the green spaces and terracotta-coloured roofs of Funchal and out to sea. Our destination is Monte Palace Tropical Gardens where we’ll enjoy a guided tour before free time to wander at leisure. These oriental gardens are exquisite, complete with Asian-style bridges, arches and a pond filled with koi carp; they also house a historic tile collection gathered from Portuguese palaces, churches and private residences. Free afternoon This afternoon, we'll return to Funchal by cable car, and spend the rest of the day at leisure exploring the city or you may wish to return to the hotel by coach. Included experience: Cable car ride and visit to Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
  • Curral das Freiras Our morning begins with a short drive north to Madeira’s dramatic interior and the Curral das Freiras or Valley of the Nuns. To appreciate the solitude of this place, we'll drive to Eira do Serrado, over 3,500 feet above sea level, part of a natural cauldron of jagged peaks and chasms, with time to soak up the glorious views down to the village of Curral das Freiras itself.  Descending towards the village, you can see why, in 1566, the nuns of Funchal’s Santa Clara convent relocated to this almost inaccessible valley to flee a pirate attack. Today, it is also known for the sweet chestnuts cultivated on its terraced hillsides – try to sample some, we’re sure you’ll enjoy these tasty treats. It even hosts an annual festival celebrating this versatile nut, used in products from cakes to soups to liqueurs.  Free afternoon This afternoon is yours to spend at leisure. You could relax by the pool which overlooks the brilliant blue of the sea below, maybe settle down with that book you've been meaning to read or just enjoy the Portuguese sunshine. Alternatively, you could continue to explore Funchal. Included experience: Visit to Curral das Freiras.
  • Câmara de Lobos Our morning begins with a short drive to Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village built around a bay with Europe’s highest cliffs forming a breathtaking backdrop. Winston Churchill stayed here to paint the harbour during his visit to Madeira in 1950 and was no doubt inspired by its location, the colourful boats and the whitewashed buildings with distinctive terracotta roofs.  Câmara de Lobos is still a working port, with boats pulled up onto the beach after night fishing for the local black scabbard fish known as espada. It’s a charming village to saunter, exploring the cobbled streets and visiting the simple Saint Anthony’s Chapel, where fishermen’s wives traditionally said prayers for their husband's safe return.  Or you can relax in a harbour café enjoying lunch with a glass of poncha, an elixir of sugar cane spirit, honey and lemon juice enjoyed by the fishermen returning to land their catch in the morning – and said to cure the common cold!  This afternoon, we’ll enjoy another Signature experience with a visit to Fajã dos Padres. Fajã dos Padres This afternoon, we'll visit Fajã dos Padres, a unique location in Madeira which is often described as Madeira's Eden. Descend to the pebble beach of this narrow strip of land by cable car with views of the sea and turquoise waters that are clear enough to see to the bottom. The area's tropical fruit trees - mango, banana and avocado trees - provide lush natural beauty all year round. On our visit, we'll take a guided tour of the organic plantations and taste the delicious produce grown here. Included experience: Visit to Câmara de Lobos. Signature experience: This afternoon, we'll visit Fajã dos Padres, a unique location in Madeira which is often described as Madeira's Eden. Descend to the pebble beach of this narrow strip of land by cable car with views of the sea and turquoise waters that are clear enough to see to the bottom. The area's tropical fruit trees - mango, banana and avocado trees - provide lush natural beauty all year round. On our visit, we'll take a guided tour of the organic plantations and taste the delicious produce grown here.
  • Palheiro Gardens This morning, we'll visit the Palheiro Gardens, world famous for its variety of flora and its beautiful setting in the hills overlooking Funchal. Palheiro was laid out in the early 19th century by a French landscape architect for the Count of Carvalhal before being acquired in the early 20th century by the Blandy family, famous wine producers.   Over the next decades, the gardens were populated with thousands of plants from around the world, from North American sequoia trees to South African proteas, all flourishing in Madeira’s rich soils and clement weather. This is a blissful place to explore at your leisure, taking in all the colours and fragrances, with plenty of time to linger when a particular specimen catches your eye.  Free afternoon The rest of the afternoon is free to explore at leisure. Included experience: Visit to Palheiro Gardens.
  • Free time Today is free for you to relax and explore Funchal and Madeira at leisure.   This afternoon, we’ll gather for our next Signature experience: afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace. Signature experience: Enjoy an afternoon of luxury and nostalgia at Reid's Palace. This iconic luxury hotel has been welcoming guests for 130 years and its setting, in beautiful subtropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is magnificent. Here we'll indulge in a delicious afternoon tea - freshly baked scones, dainty sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes and pastries are all served with your choice of the Reids signature blend tea or coffee.
  • Porto da Cruz Today we'll explore the east coast, passing diverse landscapes from craggy coastlines to ancient forests. Ponta do Rosto is Madeira’s easternmost point, on a sliver of land jutting out into the Atlantic and offers dazzling panoramas. On clear days, the island of Porto Santo shimmers in the distance.  Following the northern coast, we'll call at sleepy Porto da Cruz, named after a large cross, displayed to identify it to passing sailors. Dominated by the sheer-sided Penha d’Aguia or Eagle Rock, this 16th-century parish is renowned for producing sugar cane spirit and a dry red wine made from the Americana grape. Santana We'll leave the village and track the coastline, where, incredibly, every patch of land is farmed to provide food for its isolated communities. There’s further proof of Madeirans’ capacity for self-sufficiency in Santana, a town notable for its A-frame thatched houses.  Made from stone, wood and anything else to hand, they have brightly painted doors and windows and each sits on its own plot of land used to grow food. As you enjoy a stroll around these well-preserved 16th-century dwellings, you get a sense of what it was like to live here when villagers relied solely on their own toil for survival. We’ll enjoy our Signature lunch here before continuing to Ribeiro Frio.  Ribeiro Frio National Park After a delicious lunch at a local winery - today’s our Signature experience - we'll head towards the mountainous interior and one of the highlights of the tour – the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio National Park. Around 90 per cent of the park is covered by ancient Laurisilva or laurel trees, and the area features much endemic flora and fauna, such as ferns and the trocaz pigeon.  The region also plays a vital role in Madeira’s ecosystem, as moisture captured by the trees feeds into a 1,355-mile network of channels that distribute water across the island for drinking, agriculture and hydroelectric power.   Ascending slopes cloaked in fragrant eucalyptus and swirling mists, we emerge at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third-highest mountain at 5,930 feet. Here, above the treeline and sometimes even higher than the clouds, the vistas are some of the most memorable you’ll ever see. You may even spot the Valley of the Nuns way below. On clear days almost all of Madeira is visible, including its highest summit – the 6,100-foot Pico Ruivo. Included experience: Visits to Ponta do Rosto, Porto da Cruz and Ribeiro Frio National Park. Signature experience: At a renowned island winery discover the remarkable hillside terraces, overlooking the Atlantic and taste a selection of superb wines. Then take in more glorious views over lunch as we dine on typical Madeiran cuisine at the winery.
  • Funchal Botanical Gardens Mardeira's brilliant blooms, will enjoy our visit to the Madeira Botanical Gardens today.  First planned in the 18th century, and finally created in 1960, the botanical gardens in Funchal are synonymous with Madeira. With over 2000 exotic plants from all continents set within five different landscaped areas, it is a must-see. Here we'll enjoy time to peruse the orchids, lawns and ornamental shrubs on display but even if plants aren't your thing, the views over Madeira and the amphitheatre are still well worth the visit.   This afternoon, we’ll head to Quinta do Largo for our next Signature experience. Quinta do Lago This afternoon, we'll visit Quinta do Lago situated on one of the hills surrounding Funchal, just a mile from the city centre. The 18th-century manor-house-turned-hotel oozes colonial charm, but the real jewel in its crown is the extensive gardens.  Built in the 18th century, it has been home to prominent French and English families, as well as the Commander of the English forces during the Napoleonic War, General Bersford. Now this historic manor house is a hotel surrounded by lush botanical gardens which we'll explore on a guided tour. We’ll see more than 600 varieties of plants, including rare species and ancient trees, before sitting down to a glass of wine and a few delicious canapés. While we're relaxing in this picturesque setting, keep a lookout for Colombo, the beloved giant tortoise that has lived on the property for almost 50 years.  Included experience:  Visit the Funchal Botanical Gardens. Signature experience: This afternoon, we'll visit Quinta do Lago situated on one of the hills surrounding Funchal, just a mile from the city centre. The 18th-century manor-house-turned-hotel oozes colonial charm, but the real jewel in its crown is the extensive gardens. Built in the 18th century, it has been home to prominent French and English families, as well as the Commander of the English forces during the Napoleonic War, General Bersford. Now this historic manor house is a hotel surrounded by lush botanical gardens which we'll explore on a guided tour. We’ll see more than 600 varieties of plants, including rare species and ancient trees, before sitting down to a glass of wine and a few delicious canapés. While we're relaxing in this picturesque setting, keep a lookout for Colombo, the beloved giant tortoise that has lived on the property for almost 50 years.  
  • Return home After a lovely holiday exploring Madeira, it's time to head to the airport for your flight home, returning the same day.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Highlights:
  • Guided tour of Funchal and a wine tasting of Madeira wine
  • Tours of Western and Eastern Madeira
  • Explore the flora of Madeira's subtropical paradise on visits to Palheiro Gardens, Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the Funchal Botanical Gardens
  • Visit the villages of Câmara das Lobos and Curral das Freiras
  • Signature Highlights:
  • Enjoy an aperitif and canapés as you soak up the superb views of the Atlantic Ocean from the terrace of your hotel
  • Explore hillside vineyards and taste a selection of wines at a renowned island winery and take in the glorious views over lunch at a traditional Madeiran restaurant
  • Experience the luxury and heritage of Reid’s Palace Hotel and enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea, served with your choice of tea
  • Tour the fruit plantations of Fajã dos Padre and taste the delicious produce grown in this little piece of paradise
  • Take a guided tour of the historic Quinta do Lago with a glass of wine and a few delicious canapés
  • Enjoy the more exclusive atmosphere of travelling in a small group with an average of 22 guests

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Double sole occupancy rooms are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes: 
  • Return flights 
  • Eleven nights’ accommodation 
  • Daily breakfast, dinner and 1 lunch at local restaurants 
  • All local taxes and transfers 
  • All tours & entrances as mentioned, 
  • The services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager 
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Price from:£2,779
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Accommodation

4* Superior Pestana Grand Hotel -

★★★★

Located on the Ponta da Cruz cliff overlooking the ocean, the Pestana is situated in its own tropical gardens with direct access to the Lido Promenade, the hotel offers a panoramic indoor pool, spa facilities (local charges may apply) as well as the islands largest outdoor saltwater pool. with a choice of several restaurants and bars. All of the hotel’s well-appointed rooms have balconies.

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Other Information

Holiday code

R677

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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