10 facts you didn't know about Madeira

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Cable cars in Madeira

Madeira is a location loved by sun-seekers and cruisers alike, and for very good reason. The stunning lands are rife with flora and fauna, wildlife and captivating cultures, which make it a magical destination for all those that visit.

We reveal ten of the best facts about Madeira in this guide; some you may know, some you may not. With suggestions and contributions from travel bloggers and wanderlust lovers, keep reading, and we’re sure you’ll be dreaming about a Madeira cruise in no time.

We spoke to Jasmine, blogger at The Life of a Social Butterfly; she told us a little more about Madeira and why she loves visiting: “Funchal, Madeira’s capital is where you can dine on the local speciality black scabbard fish or take Madeira’s infamous sledge ride down to Livramento (with a photo souvenir, of course!) There are many adventurous things to do in Madeira outside the capital, including Levada walks leading to Madeira’s many waterfalls, natural pools and thrilling jeep off-roading tours.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Madeira

It is home to Cristiano Ronaldo

Okay, maybe you knew this one already, but it’s always worth covering again, just in case! Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most famous footballers in the world, was born in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira. There is even a museum dedicated to him in the city, CR7 Museum, that is well worth a visit if you’re in the area and love all things football.

This is something that Jasmine also spoke to us about: “There are many facts about Madeira that you may already be aware of, such as Madeira’s most famous resident, football legend Cristiano Ronaldo (who has his own CR7 Museum).”

Madeira isn’t actually an island

Madeira is often thought of as an island, and although the main, largest island is the one visited by travellers and has the largest population, it is actually an archipelago of four islands. Technically the region of Madeira, the archipelago, is made up of four parts: Madeira, Porto Santo and two smaller archipelagos: the three-island Desertas and the two-island Savage Islands.

The cable cars lead to nowhere

When visiting Madeira, you might notice the iconic cable cars that seem to lead up into the mountains of the island. In the modern day, these cable cars look like they lead nowhere, but originally, they were used to access the tiny flat fields that were used to grow to produce.

Kitti from the blog Kitti Around The World told us about these seemingly ominous cable cars, commenting: “As you travel across Madeira, you’ll notice many cable cars, or “telefericos”, along the sides of the cliffs, which seemingly lead to nowhere. Originally, these cable cars were built by locals to access the tiny flat land sections at the foot of the cliffs. These flat surfaces in Portuguese are called fajãs and are considered a very distinctive feature of Madeira. Since the ground is very fertile, locals use this land to grow fruit and vegetables. Whilst they used to access the land by boat or via carved steps in the side of the cliffs, the construction of cable cars made the upkeep and harvest much faster and safer for them. Make sure to hop onto a few during your visit to Madeira. Our favourite one is Rocha do Navio in Santana.”

READ MORE: The most popular cruise destination for 2023

Sunrise and sunset is a celebration

Due to the amazing weather in Madeira, you can almost always guarantee there is a spectacular sunrise or sunset, and this is something the locals take great pride in celebrating. The stunning landscape and red, orange and pink hues of the sun can create some of the best photographic opportunities in the world.

Some of the best places to view the sunrise or sunset in Madeira are Pico do Areeiro, Pico Ruivo, Guindaste do Faial viewpoint and Bica da Cana.

Madeira is closer to Africa than Europe

Although Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago, it is actually closer to Africa than Europe. Sitting 434 miles west of Morocco and 528 miles southwest of Portugal and mainland Europe. The islands that make up Madeira all sit in the North Atlantic Ocean, and its proximity to the equator is what gives it its tropical climate.

Madeira Day is celebrated every year on July 1st

Every year, the first of July is the day that locals call Madeira Day. Madeira Day marks the day when Portuguese explorers arrived in Machico's bay in 1419. Friends and family get together and enjoy food and drink, typically in the form of picnics. Local events are also put on throughout the region, and locals come together to raise a toast.

View of the sea in Madeira

There are several different microclimates

Madeira has a tropical climate and is consistently in the high 20s and early 30s, making it a popular destination year-round. However, the main island is home to several microclimates that are due to its orography. If you choose to explore the taller reaches of the island whilst here, you’ll notice the temperature warm and the humidity rise as you increase your altitude.

It hosted the largest New Year’s fireworks display ever

You may not be able to believe it, but Madeira holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the world. Gaining the award in 2006 and then again in 2010, it is a real mean feat for an area with such a small population. Now, every year, the display is one of Madeira’s main attractions, as the main island fills with travellers who want to witness the spectacle.

It produces some of the best wine in the world

Everyone that likes wine will likely know that the wine being produced in Portugal is some of the best in the world, and Madeira is no different. Madeira wine is a fortified wine, similar to port, and is often sweet and served as an aperitif or as a dessert wine. Winemaking is a huge part of the history of Madeira and dates back to the end of the 15th century, so for those visiting on a cruise, it’s something you’ll have to be sure to try.

READ MORE: Must-try Food and Drink in Portugal

There are secret tunnels

Madeira Island is actually home to over 25 miles of secret tunnels built into the cliffs and mountains. Said to be constructed in the 16th century right through until construction ended in the 1940s, they were built to help maintain the hundreds of miles of aqueducts across the island. For keen hikers, you’ll be able to walk these tunnels to this day to explore the area in a unique and exciting way.

10 facts you didn't know about Madeira:

  1. It is home to Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. Madeira isn’t actually an island
  3. The cable cars lead to nowhere
  4. Sunrise and sunset is a celebration
  5. Madeira is closer to Africa than Europe
  6. Madeira Day is celebrated every year on July 1st
  7. There are six different climate zones
  8. It hosted the largest New Year’s fireworks display ever
  9. Makes some of the best wine in the world
  10. There are secret tunnels

READ MORE: 10 Canary Islands facts you didn’t know

Whether visiting on a Canary Island cruise or you are looking to get away and find some winter sun, the Portuguese region of Madeira is a treat, and with these facts, you’ll surely be even more enticed to go.

If this article hasn’t enticed you to visit Madeira on a cruise, then head to our blog to find a selection of other great blogs and articles and discover a location more to your tastes.