How I discovered Madeira
I got a Portuguese guidebook from my parents for Christmas. This book contains all the interesting places what it’s worth visiting in the country such as Lisbon, Porto, the region of Algarve, Braga, and Coimbra. I have already read about these places before. But there were two islands (Madeira and Azores) as well that I didn’t even know their existence.
In particular, I was impressed by a picture about a small, triangular, thatched-roof Madeiran houses which were similar to the traditional “matyó” house of my hometown. That time I had decided I want to see them with my own eyes.
In April I have already bought the ticket and I was looking forward to spending one week in Madeira. My original plan was to find a host on Couchsurfing in order to get to know the local life deeper and also save money. Unfortunately, there weren’t so many people who were open to hosting me that’s why I looked for a hostel to stay. I contacted Sara, a local girl who was the organizer of some facebook groups which aim to give help for travelers. She also helped me a lot with finding the best hostel in a cheap prize and meet locals during my stay. However, we have never met (she went for a holiday while I was staying in Madeira) we still keep in touch.
Islands of Madeira (Ilha Madeira)
It’s an autonomous region of Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The story had begun in 1419 when two captains of Prince Henry were driven by a storm to the island called Porto Santo when they caught the side of a small island. One year later they organize an expedition to take a possession, Madeira.
Today we know it as “the pearl of the Atlantic”, “floating gardens” or “paradise on Earth”. I can honestly say it’s not only an exaggeration, but it totally expresses what the island really is.
How to get there
From the majority of the European countries, there is no direct flight to Madeira. (except Germany, Spain, and France). You need to change it in Porto, Lisbon or Faro. My case was easier because I was an Erasmus student in Porto that time so it was obviously that I will take a plain from Porto.
I landed at the airport of Madeira at 7 am on 7 July. Some days before my flight I was talking to Hugo who kindly offered to pick me up at the airport. He was suggested me by Sara. I remember well that I was sitting on my bed with Denisse, my Erasmus friend in Porto. She told me it’s very dangerous to get on unknown guy’s car in an unknown island far from the continent. I didn’t find it as dangerous as Denisse did but anyway I told Hugo I will solve my transportation from the airport to the hostel.
I have almost planned nothing, just had a hostel to stay and a ticket to fly.
My simple plan was to take a bus from the airport to the city. When I arrived there I found it too expensive and it was with full of rich and old German and British tourists. I didn’t like the atmosphere on the bus that’s why I preferred to walk. The distance to the hotel was 15 kilometers that it takes around 7 hours on foot according to the google maps. But google can also be wrong – I thought that time. So I started to walk next to the highway pulling my luggage behind me. When I had just left the plank of 1 km I was already getting tired and my foots were hurt. Suddenly – as a helping angel – a car was slowing down next to me. A middle-aged man was sitting on the first seat and asking me if he can help me. He was more than nice. In our way, to the hostel, he stopped some places from where were a good view and took the first pictures of me in Madeira. Then I safely arrived at the hostel.
After this adventurous morning, I needed to rest a bit if only to meet Hugo in the afternoon. After, he picked me up and we visited the most popular tourist places in Funchal, the capital of Madeira. (He was so nice so I decided I will trust the unknown people afterward.) It’s the biggest city on the island with a population of 110 000. However, I’m sure in the summer much more people live on the island because of the tourists. It’s mainly the destination of British, German and French tourists as the island is so cheap for them.
What to see in Funchal
Christ the King Statue
First, we visited Christ the King Statue which is the same like Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro. Except for two things: it’s much smaller and was built 69 years earlier than the one in Brazil. From that place, the view is so amazing.
It’s one of the main tourist attraction. I’m not a fan of the flowers but it was impressed me as well.
On the way to the beach, there is a main road with painted house doors. Hugo told me that it’s organized by the government of Madeira and that’s why those people who want to move those houses they cannot repaint the doors because it’s also a tourist attraction and based on the image of Funchal.
Christiano Ronaldo was born in Madeira. As one of the most famous footballer in the world, Madeira is so proud of him. That’s why they opened a museum in 2013 and a four-star hotel next to the Madeira Harbor.
Monte Toboggan Run
It was a basic transportation form in the 19th century in Madeira. As continuing the tradition guests also have a chance to try it. How does it look like? Two men (wearing white clothes and straw hats) pull you in a wooden sled in 4 kilometers from Monte to Funchal. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried it but if I have a chance in this life I will definitely do it.
This was my first day in Madeira. It was just a small part of my adventures and wonders on this beautiful island.