Welshtraveller111 from Trip Advisor has posted this in-depth review of their holiday in Madeira this month September. A great review and stunning photos on the link at the end from their stay. Thank you for letting me share with others on my blog.
Just returned from an excellent trip to Madeira from the 10th to 17th September. This is my fifth visit to this beautiful island and second visit this year. I won’t repeat the content of my February trip report but if you want a read have a look at this link below:-
Monday 10th September – Flight and Pestana Grand
Travelled from Bristol on the 7.30am flight with Easyjet. Bag drop and security was busy due to the large number of early morning flights. The flight boarded very promptly and was smooth with good weather conditions on route. Staff were friendly and the aircraft was only one year old. The flight arrived over 20 minutes early just after 10.45am, flying time 3hrs. Weather was mostly cloudy with a temperature of 19C at 11am. Excellent flight, 10/10.
The airport was busy but baggage reclaim was surprisingly fast. Prebooked a shared shuttle transfer with Madeira Shuttle.com. €28 for a return trip. The journey was a little uncomfortable due to the lack of leg room and the driver didn’t say a word for the duration of the journey. Despite the experience being not as positive as the previous trips I would use them again. The weather in Funchal was glorious with lots of sunshine with a temperature of 25C.
I have stayed in the Pestana Grand three times, this visit wasn’t perfect but I would definitely return. See my review in the hotel section for further information:-
Tuesday 11th September – Tropical Gardens
Visited the Tropical Gardens which is on the outskirts of Funchal in the hills. Entrance Fee €12.50 per person. If your thinking of visiting the gardens by cable car you can buy a combined ticket which includes a return trip on the cable car plus garden entrance fees for €22. It’s also possible to visit the botanical gardens but they are not as nice as the tropical gardens according to the reviews.
On arrival at the cable car there was a long queue as a cruise ship had recently arrived. Decided to catch the bus instead, only €1.95 for a single journey. Bus 22 departed from the bus station which is close to the cable car. There were no tourists on board only locals. I think the driver raced formula 1 cars in a previous life!
Leaving sunshine and 25C heat behind the temperature in the gardens was slightly cooler with more cloud due to the higher altitude. The gardens were quiet which was probably due to it’s large size. As the gardens are on different levels there are lots of slopes, steps and hills. Good walking shoes are recommended. Inside the gardens you will find a museum, central lake and a palace. There wasn’t a great deal of colour as the flowers were beginning to fade. I don’t think the gardens were value for money but I still enjoyed my visit.
Returned to Funchal by bus and enjoyed a visit to the Beer House which is one of my favourite places. Enjoyed the great views of the harbour and the beautiful weather as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Perfect end to the day.
Wednesday 12th Sept – East tour
Booked a full day tour of the East with Madeira Happy Tours, €20 per person which was excellent value for money. The female driver and guide Martia arrived promptly at 8.40am in a small minibus. She was an excellent driver and guide, friendly and very knowledgeable.
Travelled to the village of Camacha which is located in the mountains north east of Funchal. Twenty minutes was plenty of time to look at the mountain views, saw the church and the wicker baskets products in the main shop. Leaving Camacha just before 10am travelled the short distance to Pico do Arieiro, the third highest peak on the island. Spent thirty minutes walking in the two directions (15 minutes each way) to the observation platforms with fantastic views of the mountains, you could even see a cruise liner in Funchal below the clouds in the far distance. The weather was sunny and warmer than I expected. I suggest you take good walking shoes due to the uneven ground. Excellent views.
Leaving one of the tallest peaks behind travelled down the mountain to Ribeiro Frio. The only highlight is a trout pond which is surrounded by beautiful mountains and palm trees. A 20 minute visit is plenty of time unless you want to eat and drink in the restaurant close by. During lunch time visited the village of Santana from 1pm to 2pm. The village is famous for the brightly coloured A framed houses which are unique to this part of the island. The surroundings are very rural with lots of terraced fields and apple orchards.
Travelling through the longest tunnel in Madeira visited the Eastern most peninsula of Madeira Ponta de Sao Lourenco. This has beautiful cliff scenery with excellent views of the coast. The area is very barren compared to the lush green vegetation from earlier in the day.
Final stop of the day was Madeira’ s second most populated city Machico. This was the first capital of Madeira in the 15th century. Machico was like a mini Funchal with only one hotel. I was impressed with the sandy beach (imported from the Sahara) and the promenade. Walked from the beach to the main church which was only 5 minutes away, definitely worth a visit.
The journey back to Funchal was under 30 minutes, passed the airport with great views of the runway and the 180 concrete pillars beneath. Arrived back in the hotel at 4.30pm, a very enjoyable day with an excellent guide, great scenery and fantastic weather. Special thanks to Angela and Marian for great company and lots of laughs along the way.
Thursday 13th September – Camara de Lobos.
Walked from the Pestana Grand to the pretty village of Camara de Lobos. I walked the same route in February (see my previous trip report) so won’t repeat the previous details. In February the boats where moored on the beach but now they are an array of colour in the harbour. If walking in the summer months I suggest you walk early or late in the day when the temperature is a little cooler. Very pleasant starting off in the early morning sunshine but felt warm and humid in the afternoon when the temperature reached 25C.
Friday 14th Sept – South tour
Booked a full day excursion to the South of the island with Madeira Happy Tours. €25 per person. The minibus collected us from the hotel before the 9.15am pick up time. There was only five people on the tour which was an added bonus.
Leaving Funchal visited Ponta Do Sol which is 42 km west of Funchal. This is warmest place in Madeira. At 9.35am most of the beach was in the shade as the sun was starting to rise over the cliffs. Walked through the quiet pretty streets to the church which was very colourful due to a local festival. Saw the stony beach and admired the steep cliffs on either side. Twenty minute was enough time to see the main sights. Travelled to the next seaside village Madalena Do Mar which is only five minutes away. Enjoyed a short tour of the banana plantations which was very interesting. I didn’t release the impact of the storm in March which destroyed 50% of the bananas and caused substantial flooding and landslides across the coast.
The minibus travelled up the winding roads to a view point which had beautiful coastal views of Madalena Do Mar and Calheta in the other direction. Leaving the coast behind travelled up the mountain to the quiet village of Prazeres where the weather changed to mist and low cloud. Twenty minutes was plenty of time to have a drink and visit the pretty parish church of Nossa Senhora Dos Prazeres.
As the minibus returned to the coast the weather started to improve, stopped at a view point. This is one of the advantages of a small group as a larger coach couldn’t stop at the end of the road. Enjoyed a 1hr lunch break in Ponta Do Pargo. This is the western most tip of Madeira. Visited the lighthouse at Ponta Do Pargo which is 300 metres above the sea with great views of the coast. The village was small and extremely quiet.
In the afternoon walked the short distance from Paul do Mar to Jardim do Mar. Paul do Mar is known for fishing and Jardim do Mar is a small village by the sea. The walk was very pleasant throught the village to the pebbly beaches and mini waterfall. Ended the day in one of Madeira’s main resorts on the south west coast Calheta. This is known for its beaches and the coastal promenade and harbour. I preferred the white sandy beach in Machino but it’s a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a drink along the waterfront. I would recommend Madeira Happy Tours. Excellent value for money, knowledgeable guides and great itinerary.
Saturday 15th Sept – Funchal
Walked from Pestana Grand into Funchal both ways. The weather was sunny in the morning with lots of cloud in the afternoon. Walking in the cloud was more pleasant than the hot sunshine. Temperature reached 25C but due to the humidity but felt warmer.
The new Savoy hotel is making progress and is due to open next Spring. There were quite a few people advertising the hotel by the Casino Park offering a no cost preview tour of the Savoy Palace Vacation Club. If you attend a 90 minute presentation they offer you free gifts including tickets on a jeep safari, sightseeing bus, boat trips, cable car, levada walks, car hire, island tours or Madeira wine. I didn’t take them up on the offer but saw lots of people interested.
My visit to Funchal was very relaxing, just wandered around the gardens and quiet side streets. Had another drink in the Beer House and walked back to Funchal up the hill by the Casino Park. There were plenty of people around but Funchal wasn’t busy. No cruise ships were in town. If your visiting Funchal for the first time my February trip report (link at start) will give you some suggestions for things to see and do.
Sunday 16th September – Christo Rei, Santa Cruz and Santo Da Serra
Booked a half day tour with Madeira Happy Tours to Christo Rei, Santa Cruz and the Santo Da Serra market. €15 per person. The weather was mostly cloudy with a temperature of 23C on the coast and slightly cooler on higher ground. The small minibus arrived promptly at 8.45am.
Leaving Funchal behind travelled in a westerly direction to the village of Garajau to see a statue of Christ which was built in 1927. There are only three statues in the world, Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon and Madeira which is the smallest. The statue stands on a view point with fantastic views of Garajau, Canico de Baxio and Funchal in the far distance. Twenty minutes was plenty of time to admire the statue and enjoy the great views.
Travelled to the small village of Santa Cruz which is near the airport. From the black stony beach watched the planes fly over the sea and land on the unique runway on the edge of the cliff. The village is very small but exceeded my expectations. The small parish church is located near the square, the village was full of locals attending Sunday mass.
Leaving Santa Cruz behind travelled up the mountain to Santo Do Serra where the local Sunday market is held. Walked through the pretty local gardens to a viewpoint overlooking Machico. I don’t think anyone was impressed with the market as there were many empty stalls. I enjoyed this half day excursion and would recommend Madeira Happy Tours.
Monday 17th September – Flight home.
Time to travel back to the airport and leave beautiful Madeira behind. The transfer with Madeira Shuttle arrived promptly and the journey to the airport was direct. The journey was smooth and comfortable with no issues. Funchal airport was busy but there was only a small queue in security. The 11.45am Easyjet flight to Bristol was very slow boarding. The aircraft was only 3 months old and the journey was smooth and comfortable. Flying time 3hrs 10 min. Another excellent flight, well done Easyjet.
Thanks to all of the regulars on the Madeira forum who provide excellent advice. Special thanks to (in no particular order), AnnePenrhos, Queen Mary, Mike B, Se262014, Flowercity, Calderglen, Alittletolate, Bucksfizz2016, RobMorton, Jamieboy and Pam9566.
I have only been home a few days and want to return. Hope to visit the same time next year.