The Islands of Madeira are situated about 640 kilometres southwest of Lisbon, Portugal. This group of four islands is one of two autonomous Portuguese regions, meaning they have their own governments and are independent from the Portuguese main land. The other autonomous group of islands are the Azores.
There are four islands in this group, namely Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagem. Madeira is the main island and most of the civilisation and activity takes place here. The other three islands should not be disregarded as it features its own unique heritage and attractions.
On the island of Porto Santo, you will find the museum of Christopher Columbus, the famous explorer. This museum used to be his house, but now display a collection of navigational maps and exploring equipment.
A church dating back to the 15th century, the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows is situated on this island and is known for the aquamarine medallion embedded into the white facade of the baroque style building.
The island of Desertas is uninhabited and is a nature reserve. The island is of volcanic origin and no source of fresh water is available. The only possible tourist attraction is the natural and indigenous plant growth, only through special authorisation.
The island of Selvagem is mainly uninhabited. It is known for the beautiful untouched fauna and flora and is only manned by a few sentries to guard the island. They are relieved every two weeks.
The island Madeira is the largest of the four islands and is a popular tourist destination. It is known for its beautiful beachfronts and resorts which are surrounded by mountains and cliffs. A famous attraction is the New Years’ celebrations with the largest display of fireworks in the world. This celebration was noted in the Guinness Book of Records in 2006.
Madeira is host to a wealth of villages, all contributing to the heritage and atmosphere of the Madeira Islands. Along with the quaint villages, you will find yourself in breathtaking natural scenery and formations from volcanic activity.
Many of the villages are formed around the volcanic formations and the peaks of the mountains are used as viewpoints over the magnificent islands and gorgeous sea.
One such village is Curral das Freiras, a village in Central Madeira that lies in a valley and surrounded by extinct volcanoes. The village of Serra de Argua is located in the interior of the island and you need to cross a canyon to get to it. Hiking to the village you will pass waterfalls and cliffs and experience the mountain life.
Fuchal is the capital of Madeira and has a very busy City Square. The square is paved with tiles made from volcanic rock. It offers many tourist attractions like the City Hall which dates from the 18th century. You will also find historic churches and museums in Fuchal, such as the 15th century Cathedral, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and the Botanical Gardens.
Many of the towns are built around historic buildings dating from the 15th century. There are too many to mention here, but each town offers a piece of their history and is an attraction in own right.
With the perfect island weather, golf is a favourite activity. There are two internationally recognised golf courses on Madeira with great greens and offering spectacular views.
One cannot visit the Islands of Madeira and not do some sunbathing on the gorgeous beaches and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. For family fun, visit Santa Cruz for the Aqua Park with its water slides and cobbling river.
Other activities include water sports and activities, such as surfing, sailing, scuba diving and whale watching. Or enjoy the beautiful nature scenes and volcanoes by doing trekking or signing up with a hiking group.
Regardless your preference, the Madeira Islands will not disappoint and will hold true to its reputation of being one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world.
The Algarve is a beautiful holiday destination and is located in the most Southern point of the Portugal mainland. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in Portugal as the weather is always sunny to mild with a Mediterranean climate. The clear Mediterranean Sea surrounds the sun kissed beaches, making it an ideal summer destination.
The Algarve consists of many towns and villages with rich cultures and history such as Tavira and Lagos and is conveniently located in the administrative capital of the Faro District, giving easy access to the Faros international airport.
Due to the warm Mediterranean Sea, the Algarve has pleasant weather throughout the year. Summers are long and humid and temperatures reach into 30 degrees Celsius.There is a brief rainfall season from November to March in winter, but even the winters are mild as temperatures hardly ever reaches freezing point.
The Roman influence left deep footprints in the Algarve. In the town of Tavira, you will find plenty of churches and a castle in the centre indicating the existence of the Roman Empire.
Lagos holds the remains of the fortress of Prince Henry the Navigator. It is from here that the expeditions were launched during the Portuguese era of explorers to establish trade routes via the African coastline.
The era of seafarers necessitated the construction and implementation of lighthouses along the dramatic coastline of the Algarve. Lighthouses from many centuries ago are scattered all over the coastline from which many of these are still operational today. The Cabo de S. Vincente Lighthouse datesfrom 1846, is the biggest lighthouse, and at the western point of Sagres. It is now a small museum maintained by Portuguese navy.
Hiking and nature
The western region of the Algarve is known for more nature-inspired attractions. Hiking trails and routes through mountains with breath taking landscapes is a feast for the more adventurous holiday goers. Follow bubbling streams or enjoy the view from magnificent cliffs along the coastline. The terrain is rugged at times and the best way to travel, if not by foot, is with an off-road vehicle and a navigation system.
For a fun filled day with the family, you can visit popular theme parks and water parks. In Pera, the Fiesa International Sand Sculpting Festival is held each year where amazing sculptures are made with only sand and water.
Zoomarine is a wildlife park in Guia where daily shows are scheduled for entertainment. Some of the animals you will see on your visit are dolphins, sea lions, birds of prey andtropical birds. Be sure to take your swimsuit to swim with the dolphins. Other kids’ activities are available, such as rides. The entry fee covers the prices of the rides.
There are three major waterparks in the Algarve, all three with pools, slides and splash pools providing fun for every age. Auqaland is the largest and is located in Sítio das Areias.
The Algarve is the perfect destination for lovers of golf. It boasts an incredible 36 recognised golf courses of international standard. The weather in this province provides for beautiful sun filled days to spend on the golf course and perfect your swing. Golf facilities are open to groups and individuals, men, women and handicapped persons. International tournaments are held from March to October.
The Algarve is mainly seafood orientated as many of the towns and villages are fisherman villages. Fresh seafood is supplied daily to the inland regions. Restaurants combine inland and coastal cuisine, making for unique Portuguese cuisine experiences.
For the sweet tooth, have a taste of the famous Portuguese desserts made from figs and almonds.
1500 kilometres off the coast of Lisbon, a group of Portuguese islands are found. These islands are the Azores. Although the Azores are Portuguese islands, they are independent from Portugal and have their own Government.
There are nine islands in the group and what makes these beautiful islands unique, is that they were formed by volcanic activity. The nine islands consist of Pico, Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Faial, Flores, Santa Maria and Corvo.
Each island has its own unique features and interesting attractions and activities.
Sao Miguel offers many jewels. The Lagoa das Sete Citatdes is a lagoon formed by twin freshwater volcanic lakes with a mystic cloud covering the lakes. Lagoa da Fogo, or Lake of Fires were formed and surrounded by lava formations.
Lake Lagoa das Furnas is a volcanic crater and supplies water to geysers and hot springs, named the Furnas.
Sao Miguel houses the Museum Carlos Machado. Once a former convent, it now holds an array of arts to indicate the evolution of local sculptures, art, toys and jewellery.
Pico Island has viniculture terrain that is declared by UNESCO as a World heritage Site. This site is the Landscape of Pico Island Vineyard Culture. Here grapes are cultured on the slopes of the volcano, Ponta do Pico. This is highest point in Portugal and the Azores, so add this mountain to your activity list. While in Pico, visit some of the cellars and do some wine tasting and view the Manors of Heritage.
Visit Corvo, the smallest of the islands, which is a mere 17 square kilometres. The locals have a proud history of agriculture and fishery, for necessity and for the love of it.
Cedros is a small parish in Horta, on the island of Faial. Here you will find many heritage sites, such as the Museum da Cedros, the Casa do Capito and the Church of Nossa Senhora de Fatima. Also visit the Scrimshaw Museum. It contains artworks made from teeth, bone and baleen of whales.
Flores is the island of flowers. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, it boasts with landscapes full of indigenous flowers.
The Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira, is an old town and declared a World Heritage site due to the many historic buildings here such as Castello de Sao Sebastiao, Palacio dos Bettencourts and Fortalezo do Monte Brasil.
The island atmosphere and Mediterranean Sea sets the front pace for activities. Sailing, yachting, surfing and deep sea diving are some of the aquatic activities. Qualified and experienced guides are ready to help you with the activities you desire. Fully equipped boats and yachts are available for renting if you do not own your own equipment.
Whale watching is available where you go out on boats and guides take you as close as 10 feet from the whales. While in the water: go swim with the dolphins. You can swim between these loving mammals, but according to regulations you may not touch them.
Tourists can sign up for horse riding courses or join groups and tours through the countryside while exploring the islands. Or go on a hiking trail through the beauty the islands offer.
As the islands are formed by volcanoes, explore the natural wonders created by the volcanoes. You will find underground lakes and grottos on Graciosa and basaltic columns on Flores.
For transportation on the islands, tourists can make use of busses and mini-busses. The smallest island, Corvo does not have bus facilities, but do provide taxi and sightseeing services.
Inter island transportation are mainly by ferry. It is the most popular and affordable and two major companies provide ferry services between the islands.
Plane flights are available and each island has an airfield. Flights are mostly used for trips from the main lands to the islands.
Many top rated hotels are available for accommodation. These hotels are located in sought after areas optimising the natural beauty the islands have to offer.
Another popular type of accommodation is private holiday rentals. These include villas, houses, apartments and bungalows. The private accommodation is of highest standard and creates a personal touch and homely atmosphere to your holiday.
The Azores are truly a secret jewel hidden by Portugal. Enjoy the breathtaking landscapes in a unique setting of civilisation built on historic volcanic activity. Be a part of this hidden treasure.
Porto Santo was discovered in 1418 and is part of the Madeira Island group, an autonomous region from Portugal that has their own government. Porto Santo is the second largest of the island group and one of the best kept secrets of Madeira.
Named The Golden Island, it has less lush green vegetation than the island of Madeira. In fact, it is quite dry and barren on this island. Thousand of trees were planted over the island to prevent erosion. However, it has a beach that stretches for 9 kilometres on the southern coast and is ideal for beach resorts, hence the nickname of the Golden Island.
Even though Porto Santo is smaller and less inhabited than Madeira, it has surprisingly plenty of tourist attractions. There are many historic buildings dating back from the first settlers of the island after its discovery.
The Governor House was home to Bartolomeus Perstrelo, first resident and governor of Porto Santo. He was also the father-n-law to Christopher Columbus, who married his daughter after settling on Porto Santo.
Columbus Museum was formerly the home of Christopher Columbus, the famous explorer. He later relocated to Madeira Island from where he could better administrate his expeditions. His house is now a museum displaying navigational maps and exploring equipment.
The Town hall also dates from the 14th century, but was rebuilt and enlarged a few times. In the town you will also find the Cathedral dating back to the 15th century. It was originally a small chapel of which only a 16th century painting remains as evidence of the original building.
The Church of our Lady of Sorrows is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and is famous for the aquamarine medallion embedded on the white facades of the building.
On the peak of a volcano mountain, you can view the fort that was built there. It is the Pico de Castello. It offers a full view of the island and was used to protect the island against pirate attacks.
The harbour is the activity hub and the place to be to enjoy your favourite water sports. This is where all the equipment needed for sailing, diving and canoeing is safely anchored.
Activities range from sunbathing on the golden beaches, to taking part in water activities and hiking through trail, enjoying the natural and volcanic scenery of the island.
For the golf enthusiast, there is Porto Santo golf course. This course is one of the best in all of Portugal. The golf course also includes sauna and Jacuzzi facilities and a pro shop. Or relax at the modern clubhouse with a bar and restaurant.
Or enjoy the water sport activities at the harbour. Here you can enjoy sailing and surfing or book a yacht if you don’t own one, to relax on the gorgeous blue sea with sundowners. Or go out on a boat for some deep sea diving or for whale watching with qualified guides.
Porto Santo has no shortage on luxury hotels. All hotels are top rated and close to all amenities. The hotels are of international standard and offers great holiday packages to choose from. Hotels often include spa facilities and restaurants in which you can enjoy a relaxing holiday and culinary treats.
If you prefer a more personal touch, rent a private villa or apartment on the island. It is of high standard and often situated in locations with breathtaking views.
Once there was a man who had a dream to preserve the heritage of his country. His name was Antonio Ferro. He was a Minister in the Portuguese Government. Portugal is landmarked by beautiful buildings of historic value and of cultural interest. It would be a shame not to share these spectacular pieces of history with the rest of the world, as the Government may not always be in a position to maintain these heritage sites.
Antonio Ferro’s dream was realised in 1940 when he initiated a project that would forever change the way in which the whole world can relive history on a daily base. In the process, preserve the history of the country.
Mr Ferro started a group of inns, giving it the Portuguese name: Pousada. Pousada is the Portuguese word meaningInn. He converted castles, palaces, fortresses, monasteries, convents and museums into hotels that would ultimately preserve the history of the building.
The first Pousada opened in 1941 and is still operational to this day. For more than 60 years the Government owned the hotels, but privatised it in 2003 due to financial and management reasons.
In 1995, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the Smithsonian Foundation awarded the Pousadas with the annual prize for an Institution that plays an active part in protecting cultural heritage sites for tourism purposes.
There are four categories of Pousadas and totals 44 Pousadas. The first category is the Historic Pousadas. National monuments that are well preserved such as convents, castles and fortresses are used for the Pousadas. The buildings are still in their original state and design.
The second group is also historic buildings such as castles, palaces and monasteries, but they are not in their original state anymore. These buildings were renovated at some stage to make it more contemporary with modern designs and facilities.
Pousadas located in a romantic and unique atmosphere makes out the third group of Pousadas: The Charm Pousadas.
Lastly, there is the Nature Pousadas. These buildings are located in natural surroundings, such as the countryside.
Pousadas are situated all over Portugal. The regions where you can locate them are Alentejo, the Algarve, Azores, the Central Portuguese region, Lisbon and the Northern regions of Portugal. Although Pousadas are currently only found in Portugal, a long-term plan exists to open Pousadas in all locations that were formerly under Portuguese rule.
Events and Cuisine
Knowing that the Pousadas are actual castles, fortresses and palaces from a bygone era, imagine having your dream wedding and be the prince and princess of your own castle.
Pousadas are the perfect place to create that dream. Rooms are available for your wedding night and honeymoon. Pousadas are open for bookings to host weddings, conferences, team building and many other events.
You can even make it private for the exclusive use for you and your guest for the duration of your stay. Each Pousada has its own restaurant with world renowned chefs and offers cuisine specific to each region. The restaurants are open daily and available to the whole public, not only patrons in the Pousada.
The Portuguese Pousadas are dream venues for any occasion and a wonderful way to experience history. Here everyone is a gust and each person is special.
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is built on a series of hills that are all connected by a network of lifts and trams. A city break to Lisbon will see you experience an exciting and vibrant modern city with fun and frolics coupled with a thoughtful history and the ideal all-year climate. Within Lisbon is the upper city known as Barrio Alto with its maze of cobbled thoroughfares, impressive mansions and preserved chapels. Belem, the riverfront area includes some of the city’s famous landmarks, such as the Belem Tower and the St Jerymos Monastery. The whole city comes alive at night with colourful cafe bars, restaurants and energetic nightspots.
You’ll probably start your Lisbon city break by flying into the Aeroporto da Portela, which is Portugal’s biggest airport and is located between Loures and Lisbon. From the airport it is best to take the Aerobus or Metro into the city centre. Try to avoid taking a taxi; sadly Lisbon taxi drivers have a very poor reputation. If they identify you as a tourist they will take you on a long and winding route into the centre and charge you significantly over the odds for the privilege.
The city is a very compact area and you should be able to spend most of your city break in Lisbon on foot or by using the extensive public transport system. Amongst the highlights you might like to check out are the ornate city cathedral and St Georges Castle, as well as the palaces in Casa dos Bicos, Ajude and Belem. Art and history lovers will need to see the Museum of Popular Art and the extensive Maritime museum.
The Portuguese take a huge amount of care and pride in their children and this is reflected by the huge amount of child-friendly activities you’ll discover during your Lisbon city break. The city is home to a huge tropical aquarium, zoo and planetarium. With its proximity to the sea Lisbon also has lots of sandy beaches and water-based activities such as windsurfing, sailing and beach sports. The Portuguese are also golf-lovers, so if you take your clubs along you can enjoy eighteen holes on one of Lisbon’s twelve champion-standard courses.
When you dine out during your Lisbon city break you’ll be amazed by the expanse of unique dishes the city is famous for. The Portuguese love their seafood and other wholesome foods such as chicken, pork and beans. They are very inventive when it comes to cooking and love exotic flavourings such as chilli, cinnamon and vanilla. For a more energetic evening head up to Bairro Alto for dancing and celebrating, or the Docas district which is re-inventing itself from a place of dodgy sailors bars to one full of trendy new nightspots.
For those who like a little retail therapy make sure during your Lisbon city break you visit Baixa, the oldest shopping district in the city. Avoid the tourist traps though where you’ll pay over-the-odds for cheap imitations. More upmarket are the areas of Chiado and Avenida da Liberdada.
Lisbon is a perfect reflection of Portugal with its beaches, bars, museums and traditional old buildings, coupled with tasty treats to eat and the perfect Mediterranean climate. Book a city break to Lisbon today for sun, fun and fond memories.