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The Portuguese archipelago of Madeira consists of a range of inhabited and uninhabited islands and islets. The largest of those islands are Porto Santo, and the island of Madeira which gave its name to the archipelago as a whole. Madeira’s capital city is Funchal, and is a cruise port that provides access to this beautiful collection of land masses. Of the two main islands, Madeira became the most popular due to the lush, green landscape. Porto Santo is still a popular tourist destination, but is dryer and much less developed.
As you walk around Funchal, and further afield, you’ll see a variety of colourful plants and animals including lizards, birds and butterflies. Funchal was named after the fennel plants, found in abundance on the island, and it’s Madeira’s natural beauty that’s the biggest attraction for tourists. Many people enjoy walking over the undulating terrain, and Levada walking is a popular activity which involves navigating the extensive network of irrigation ditches which are no longer used for their original purpose. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Funchal, and across Madeira as a whole:
Madeira Botanical Gardens
These beautiful gardens are home to a wide variety of plants, and are a beautiful attraction at any time of the year. Views of the island are exceptional from certain parts of the garden.
Funchal Cable Car
The cable car takes you over Funchal, to the mountain town of Monte. It’s a scenic journey, and gives you a chance to appreciate the island without using up your energy.
The Monte toboggans are a traditional attraction that you should certainly consider on your cruise excursion. They’re fast wicker sledges each seating two, and are driven down the mountains by professional guides. The toboggans take you back down the mountain, from Monte to Funchal, reaching speeds of up to 20mph.
The island of Madeira is a great place to buy unique and interesting items, ranging from souvenir towels to fashionable items of clothing. Traditional folk fashions include colourful woven and knitted hats, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else. Madeira’s markets – including those in Funchal – are the perfect place to buy fresh foods including fruit that you can enjoy immediately. You’ll also want to consider buying locally-produced dessert wines, which are sweet and come in many varieties.
In Funchal, you’ll struggle to find an authentic meal that isn’t seasoned with garlic. The island’s cuisine is influenced by the foods served in mainland Portugal, and the most common dishes are tomato and onion soup, marinated beef and espada, which is a black scabbard fish that’s freshly caught in the waters surrounding Madeira and is often served with banana, salad and potatoes. Fish stew, goat and rabbit are found on most authentic restaurant menus, along with salted codfish which you’ll often see named as bacalhau.
Reid’s Palace is an attraction as much as somewhere to enjoy a light meal. It’s a historic, pink hotel and is worth a visit on your cruise excursion. You can see the port from the hotel, and will love their typically English afternoon tea complete with Madeira cake, sandwiches and hot drinks. It’s the perfect way to unwind before returning to your ship.
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