After all the time and effort spent on your dream wedding, it’s finally time to relax and enjoy each other. Where better than a Portuguese island paradise? Jet off to Madeira, an archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa. Known for its warm, subtropical climate and namesake wine, there’s a wealth of experiences awaiting honeymooners on this gorgeous island in the Atlantic. From green and rugged landscapes to beaches to the cosmopolitan capital, this is an island that’s easy to fall for.
The island of Madeira is first and foremost a haven of natural beauty. Nature reserves span two thirds of the island, brimming with exotic flowers and lush, green land that slopes down to a bright blue sea. Madeira’s dry season runs from April to September, though temperatures are mild all year long. There really isn’t a bad time to visit the island. While you might experience short, heavy downpours in the rainiest months (December and January), there is rarely any prolonged rain. Plus, December is when you’ll catch one of Madeira’s most acclaimed spectacles: the New Year’s Eve fireworks!
Fuchal is the capital city of Madeira and is known for its acclaimed restaurants, stunning four- and five-star hotels, and of course its warm climate, as it’s located on the sunniest side of the island. The city is nestled in the sprawling green landscape, near banana plantations and botanical gardens, and enjoys views of both majestic mountains and the Atlantic.
During your stay in Fuchal, you can of course partake in any number of outdoor activities from water sports to nature hikes – or stay in town for a round of golf at one of Madeira’s famous courses, people watching at a charming café or city garden, or shopping at a traditional street market. Bask in daytime walks through the city’s historic areas and picture-perfect squares, then dine al fresco at one of Fuchal’s fabulous eateries.
As for nightlife, there’s no shortage of fun to be had as the city starts buzzing after midnight. You’ll find bars and clubs that are open from 12am to 4am, and still more open from 4am to 7am. Here’s a tip for living it up like a local: Go out to dinner at a normal time, then head home to relax for a few hours before making your way to the nightlife scene.
Nightclubs not your thing? Fuchal still offers plenty of nighttime fun, especially with its many festivals. The city’s New Year’s Eve firework display actually holds the Guinness world record as the largest firework display in the world! During Carnival and the Flower Festival, colorful parades dance through the streets, bursting with vibrant costumes and samba beats. Throughout the Christmas season, Fuchal’s city center lights up like a (wonderfully warm) winter wonderland.
Last but not least, the yearly Wine Festival celebrates the time-honored traditions of the Madeira people and the making of the island’s namesake wine. During the festival, you’ll find light, sound, and folk shows that revel in the tradition of wine making. The fest starts with a ceremonial picking of the grapes, the picker’s parade, and finally the treading of the grapes. For wine-loving honeymooners, there’s no better time to travel to Madeira!
From forest hikes to dolphin spotting, exciting outdoor excursions await nature lovers on both land and sea. On land, start with one of the many protected reserves. Walk through the laurisilva (laurel) forest – a type of subtropical forest found in regions with high humidity and stable, mild temperatures. The laurel forest in Madeira treats hikers to awe-inspiring mountain views and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it is the world’s largest laurel forest.
Exploring the trails along the levadas is another way to go. The levadas are irrigation channels that bring fresh water from the mountains through lush vegetation to the coast. Hikers can follow the twists and turns of the levadas for miles.
Closer to Fuchal, flower enthusiasts can revel in Madeira’s many blooms at the Botanical Garden. The gardens sit on a hillside overlooking Fuchal, and there you’ll find an example of nearly every tree and plant on the island – that’s more than 2,000 species! Throughout the garden, plants are labelled with their name, scientific name, and origin, as the place also serves as a science and culture center. The gardens are divided into smaller groupings: trees, succulents, tropical, and Lorio Park, which showcases some of the world’s most exotic birds.
The Atlantic Ocean beckons for sailing, fishing, water skiing, surfing, diving, and swimming. For diving adventures, try exploring the waters just off the Garajau coastline, where you’ll find one of Europe’s first underwater nature reserves. Or, if you’re looking for something a little different, you can dive at the Madeira Aquarium! You’ll dive with sharks, rays, and hundreds of species of fish. If you’ve never done a dive before, you can even learn how to handle the diving equipment right at the aquarium with one of their experts on staff. This is a great way to get your flippers wet!
On the coast, you’ll spy pebbled beaches, cliffs, and volcanic saltwater pools. In the village of Porto Moniz, in the northwest part of the island, these natural pools are lined with volcanic rocks that enclose refreshing sea water, replenished daily at high tide.
If whale and dolphin watching is on your bucket list, then Madeira is the island for you. It’s one of the best spots in the world to spy marine life, as 29 species of marine mammals can be seen year-round in Madeira. Book an excursion with confidence; there’s a 90% chance that you’ll see dolphins frolicking around your boat, and you might even bump into a family of whales! You’ll want your camera during this excursion for sure.
Madeira is one of those magical destinations that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, diver, leisure lover, nightclubber, or a little bit of each, you’ll find your bliss on this pristine island paradise.