Places not to miss with a car hire in MadeiraTravel Info 

Places not to miss with a car hire in Madeira

Nearer Morocco than Lisbon, the enchanting Atlantic island of Madeira is a thriving destination with a wealth of tourist interest. Crowned with volcanic cones and cloud-veiled peaks, it has been a vital part of Portugal since the Age of Discovery, and today’s visitors can enjoy the opportunity to rent a cheap car with Auto Europe and explore the island in total comfort and at their own pace.

Blessed with a temperate climate right through the year, Madeira is just 56 kilometres long and 23 kilometres wide, which means that touring the whole island is manageable in less than a day, but there’s much to see and do so it’s best to plan some stopovers in route to maximise the experience.

Madeira is blessed with an abundance of spectacular scenery, with broad green valleys linking its soaring mountains to the rugged Atlantic shoreline. Its exuberant vegetation is all around to see and locally-grown products such as bananas, custard apple, passion fruit, mango and sugar cane are available in great abundance all over the island.

The first port of call for most newcomers is Funchal, a handsome city draped over the mountain slopes on the island’s sun-blessed south coast.  Its cobbled Old Town (Zona Velha) offers visitors a taste of how this vibrant Atlantic city would have looked in the 15th and 16th centuries after the island’s first phase of colonisation.

Auto Europe offers plenty of options for low-cost car hire in Funchal, both in the city centre and at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport just 8 miles (13 kilometres) to the north-east.

A good way to get acquainted with the hustle and bustle of daily life in Funchal is to visit its central market, the Mercado dos Lavradores, where much of Madeira’s freshest produce is bought and sold. Wine lovers should head for the Adegas de São Francisco (also known as Blandy’s Wine Lodge) where tastings and a grand tour of the old winery and associated museum take place throughout the day.
A short drive east of Funchal brings you to Monte, a prominent hilltop village famous for its toboggan run which the American writer, Ernest Hemingway, described as ‘the most exhilarating ride of his life’. A visit to the nearby Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico) is equally appealing due to the on-site natural history museum and vast collection of brightly-coloured plants from all over the world.

To the west of Funchal lies the pretty seaside town of Câmara de Lobos, once a favourite haunt of the great British statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, who would often be seen sitting beside the harbour painting the surrounding sea and landscapes.

At 580 metres, Cabo Girão (a couple of kilometres to the west of Câmara de Lobos) is Europe’s highest headland, and visitors are rewarded with the most head-spinning ocean vistas from the viewing gallery at the top.

A major highlight for people touring the island with a car rental in Madeira is the small village of Curral das Freiras (meaning Nuns’ Refuge), which nestles idyllically at the bottom of a deep valley right in the middle of the island.  Its name derives from a group of nuns who fled to the remote safety of this very secluded place in 1566 to avoid being captured by pirates.

Another vantage point from which to admire the island’s immense natural beauty is Pico do Areeiro, one of the high points for anyone touring Madeira. With an altitude of 1,818 metres, it is Madeira’s third-highest peak and easily accessible by car from Funchal in less than an hour.

Standing proud on the eastern edge of the island is Machico, the place where Madeira’s settlement began with the arrival of the renowned Portuguese navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco, in 1419. This pleasant, unassuming town is worth visiting for its lovely old church, the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição, which dates right back to the end of the 15th century when the island was first inhabited.

Visitors to the north of Madeira shouldn’t miss the chance to take a selfie and peek inside one of the traditional A-framed dwellings made of timber and thatch in the picturesque village of Santana. These striking triangular-shaped houses known as palheiros were common abodes in times gone by and today many have been lovingly restored for passing tourists to admire.

And last but not least, if you are touring Madeira on a warm sunny day and fancy a swim, why not head for Porto Moniz, a charming town at the north-western tip of the island. Here, you’ll find some of the best natural swimming pools dotted along its rocky shoreline where you can bathe for hours before relaxing at a nearby restaurant to dine on some of the freshest fish and seafood dishes in the whole of Europe.

Try to coincide your visit with one of the island’s big annual events, such as the lavish Carnival parade in early spring or the Flower Festival (Festa da Flor) when Madeira is in full bloom. Likewise, the New Year’s Eve fireworks display around the bay of Funchal is a major attraction for visitors over the festive period.

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