Villas in Madeira

Brimming with beautiful wildlife and lush forests, Madeira is a natural haven. Whether you’re discovering volcanic pools, exploring semi-tropical hiking trails or visiting the colourful botanical gardens, you’ll never be stuck for things to do. Sunny all year-round and shaped by dramatic scenery, it’s the perfect setting to indulge in the incredible gourmet restaurants while admiring the views. Why not make your trip extra special with one of our luxury villas in Madeira – you won’t be disappointed.


Why visit?

  • Known as the ‘island of eternal spring’, you can catch the rays at any time of year
  • For the bravest among us, you can visit Europe’s Highest Cliff Skywalk – it’s free and the views are amazing!
  • The wine is truly delicious.
  • The people are friendly, the atmosphere is calm and the scenery is stunning making it the perfect place for families.

Read the Madeira Travel Guide

Why stay with us?

Style and character are everything at Oliver’s Travels, and our collection of handpicked villas in the Madeira have this in spades.

We have destination experts who know the ins and outs of all our regions, picking villas that aren’t only unique, but also in the best locations. What's more, our villas are 100% family-friendly, and have the ‘wow’ factor.

Our helpful concierge team are on-hand to make your stay extra special. Whether you want a fully-stocked fridge, a local in-house chef to cook your meals, housekeeping or any other extra service – consider them your holiday genie, who will happily grant your wishes.

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Luxury Villas in Madeira: Our Top Picks

Why visit

Madeira is the tiny Portuguese island that packs a punch. Part of a rugged volcanic archipelago off the coast of North Africa, the Pearl of the Atlantic may only be 35-miles-long and 14 wide, but it crams a diverse range of landscapes into those slender proportions. Saw-toothed mountains plunge to emerald-green valleys and clear lagoons, and black sand beaches wrap around the rocky coastline.

Inland, 1000km of footpaths trace the island’s snaking levadas, historic water channels that once fed the island’s banana, sugarcane and grape plantations. This dramatic terrain is an outdoor playground for everything from hiking and mountain biking to canyoning and paragliding.

Botanical garden are planted with endemic plants, while markets brim with curious fruits and mineral-rich vineyards nourish the grapes for Madeira’s namesake wine. A scattering of towns and villages are tucked into the folds of mountains and bays: bougainvillea-draped Funchal is the shining star, though a supporting act of lesser-known towns are poised to step out of the capital’s shadow.

Madeira Botanical Garden

Food and drink

Unsurprisingly, menus across Madeira are dominated by seafood. The most common dishes are polvo (octopus) and truta (grilled trout), but don’t miss locals’ favourite, black scabbardfish with fried banana. Another must-try is espetada, grilled beef skewers spiked on a bay leaf; savour the speciality at long-running stalwart, As Vides in Câmara de Lobos.

Though no trip to the island is complete without a wine-tasting session, residents tend to drink poncha, a potent cocktail made from sugarcane liquor. Local poncha bars are the best place to try the super-sweet concoction; check out Rei da Poncha in Funchal.

What Oliver loves

Madeira’s dramatic and diverse landscapes, from black-sand volcanic beaches to lush forested mountains, whose fertile soil is behind the island’s rich culinary landscape and namesake wine.

Best time to go

There is no bad time to visit Madeira, thanks to year-round sunny weather. Temperatures rarely fall below 19C, with the mercury nudging 30C come peak summer – perfect for beach days but perhaps less appealing for hiking. Visit between March and May to see the resplendent local flora in full bloom.

Oenophiles may like to time their trip with the Madeira Wine Festival (28 August – 10 September) to see the grape harvest and parade, and get involved with grape-treading, tastings and exhibitions.  Christmas and New Year are spectacular events in Madeira, with elaborate light displays illuminating the streets of Funchal.

Top tips

  • Madeira has six microclimates, so be prepared for rapid shifts in weather; you could go from the sun-drenched coastline to drizzly mountains in one day.
  • Though Madeira is subtropical, don’t expect white sands and pearlescent shells; many of the volcanic beaches are black and rocky.
  • Pick a villa in Madeira to live like a local; opt for one with a pool to escape the midday heat.

Family friendly

Madeira is an inviting place for families, with most restaurants and cafés being welcoming to children. Just four hours from the UK by plane, the island has year-round warm and sunny weather. Most villas in Madeira are geared towards families, many with pools and oodles of space. Home-from-home facilities make travelling with babies and young kids a breeze; kitchens mean you can cook and eat at home, while washing machines are practical for inevitable mishaps.

Madeira is shaking off its fuddy-duddy image and attracting a younger traveller in search of adventure. The mountainous landscape is a huge outdoor playground, with everything from hiking and biking to canyoning and abseiling on offer. It’s not all intrepid activities, however. Funchal is experiencing something of a cultural renaissance. The cool Painted Doors Project has given a contemporary spin to the capital’s old town, with street art by local creatives transforming Rua de Santa into a permanent outdoor gallery.

All ages will enjoy the cable car from Funchal up to Monte and the hair-raising ride back down in a wicker toboggan pushed by “carreiros”, dressed in white with straw hats. For an exhilarating afternoon, hire a car to scale some of the highest sea cliffs in the world at Cabo Girão, or trail the network of winding mountainside levadas. Festivals will hold the interest of older kids; visit in late February for the Madeira Carnival, a week-long extravaganza of parades and parties, or May when the Festa da Flor celebrates the start of spring with vibrant parades and cultural events.

Why it’s perfect for families

  • For babies: Just a four-hour flight time and easy travel around the island makes Madeira an ideal destination to visit with babies.
  • For kids: Bring that nature programme to life with a dolphin-spotting or whale-watching trip and be sure to book one of the pool villas in Madeira to keep kids entertained.
  • For teens: Teens will love the cable car up to Monte from Funchal, but the highlight will be the white-knuckled toboggan ride back down at breakneck speeds.                                                                                  For an extra adrenaline boost, visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk viewpoint where a 580m-high glass walkway is poised high above the Atlantic.

 

Family friendly Villa Trocaz

Best beaches in Madeira

Madeira is a rocky archipelago sculpted by ancient volcanoes, so golden beaches are far and few between. On the main island – also known as Madeira – the sand is the colour of charcoal and you’re more likely to see wave-lashed cliffs scattered with boulders than silky swathes sprinkled with pearly shells. But this is part of its charm: the rugged, untamed beaches add drama. Many villas in Madeira are tucked into the crooks of rocky bays, overlooking volcanic beaches and the foamy Atlantic.

Sunsets on the west coast are staggering, while the wild Atlantic lures surfers to its swell come October. A string of natural rock pools at Doca do Cavacas, though technically not a beach, is a lovely swimming spot with stone staircases leading directly into the sea.

However, if you want to sink your toes into flour-fine shores, there are a couple of man-made beaches on the island: Calheta, west of the capital, and Machico, near Cristiano Ronaldo airport. Alternatively, follow in the footsteps of in-the-know travellers and hop on a ferry to Porto Santo. This tiny sun-soaked island has five miles of fine sand, believed to have therapeutic powers for its high levels of iodine, calcium and magnesium.

Oliver’s Hidden Gem

Jardim do Mar is a narrow strip of rocky beach curving around the west coast of Madeira. This rugged gem is lively with surfers flocking to its impressive swell in October, but near-deserted the rest of the year when you can catch the sunset in peace.

Praia da Ursa, Sintra

Calheta, Madeira

Calheta is one of Madeira’s best family-friendly beaches, with swathes of golden sand imported from Morocco. Kids can safely splash about in the Blue Flag-awarded waters, which are clean, calm and clear. It is popular, but rarely overcrowded.

Seixal, Madeira

Hugging the northern coast, Seixal may be a little out of the way but it’s worth the effort. The natural black-sand beach is all the more dramatic against bottle-green mountains and deep blue waters. It can get busy, so arrive early.

Doca do Cavacas, Madeira

A series of natural rock pools create calm swimming baths at Doca do Cavacas. There’s a lounger-dotted terrace with staircases leading directly to the sea, plus a cool little beach bar and restaurant serving up fresh seafood and catch of the day.

Paira Machico, Madeira

Paira Machico is another good option for families. Located near the airport, the man-made beach has fine blonde sands, parasol-shaded loungers and lifeguards on duty. Older kids can play volleyball and football or hit the water on pedal boats and jet skis.

Praia Formosa, Madeira

West of Funchal, Praia Formosa is the largest in a string of four public beaches. Drenched in warm sunlight, this pebbly stretch is one of the most popular sunbathing spots on the island. Cafés and bars line the promenade.

Ponta do Sol, Madeira

A great sunset-gazing spot, Ponta do Sol beach is tucked away in a small cove on the west coast. Just 160 meters long, the rocky stretch is lapped by calm waters that are warm enough for swimming. There’s a bar serving light bites and drinks.

Things to do

With its black sand beaches and forest-cloaked mountains, Madeira is one of the finest outdoor destinations in Europe. Hiking is the island’s calling card, with over 1,000 kilometres of walking trails tracing an ancient network of irrigation channels. Thrill-seekers can ramp up the pace with mountain biking, canyoning and paragliding.

But you can also slip down a few gears with more leisurely pursuits – wine tasting, visits to lush botanical gardens, scenic cable-car rides. Foodies can wander around Mercado dos Lavradores, overflowing with exotic fruits and local delicacies, in a tile-adorned art deco building. Globetrotting gourmands should visit in February for Rota das Estrelas, an annual food festival organised by the Cliff Bay hotel – home to the island’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Gallo d’Oro.

These aren’t the only celebrations on the island. Many towns come alive throughout the year with festivities, from Festa da Flor kicking off the start of spring to the Madeira Wine Festival, an extravaganza of grape treading, tastings and performances, in late August.

Explore the famer's market

Wander around Mercado dos Lavradores, a local farmers’ market brimming with weird and wonderful fruits. Many stallholders will let you try before you buy – our favourites include local guavas, tamarillos and annonas, which taste like pineapple sherbet.

Wine-tasting

No visit to Madeira would be complete without a tasting session of the island’s namesake wine. Take a cellar tour of Old Blandy Wine Lodge to learn more about the prized tipple from the family who have kept the same ancient traditions of wine-making alive since 1811.

Outdoor adventures

Madeira’s mountainous terrain is made for intrepid adventures. Madeira Outdoor can arrange everything from canyoning, climbing and coasteering to paragliding, kayaking and surfing, while Freeride Madeira specialises in mountain-biking tours.


More than 1,000km of walking trails run alongside Madeira’s fabled levadas, historic irrigation channels which wind through moss-draped forests and above the clouds in the wind-raked highlands. Alternatively, trek to the UNESCO-protected Laurisilva forest, 4,500ft above sea level.

Laurisilva forest

Afternoon tea

A must for all visitors to Madeira is afternoon tea at the grande dame of Funchal’s hotels, the faded-pink clifftop Reid’s Palace. Nibble on slices of bolo de mel, a soft gingerbread made with molasses, at this local institution that has hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Gregory Peck.

Madeira Botanical Garden

While away an afternoon at the Madeira Botanical Garden, strolling around the 20-acre plot of land planted with a cornucopia of colourful exotic fruits and perfectly manicured flowerbeds.

Design

Don’t miss the esteemed Design Centre on the harbour, showcasing the work of owner-designer Nini Andrade Silva. Peruse the permanent galleries and temporary exhibition halls featuring the designs of other artists.

Oliver's Hidden Gem

Head off the beaten track with a guided jeep tour organised by Hit The Road, the brainchild of Madeira native Jeff Gouveia. You’ll hop in a 4X4 and venture on an exhilarating drive through mountain tunnels, past traditional A-frame architecture and across Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest mountain in Madeira.

Pico do Arieiro

Towns and villages

Most visitors to Madeira linger in the capital, Funchal, and with plenty of reason to do so. The city has a bustling market in a handsome art deco building, a 16th-century cathedral and lush gardens, while an innovative street art project has breathed new life into the cobbled old town.

However, visitors who make the effort to venture further afield will be rewarded with charming hilltop villages, where local artisans keep traditions of embroidery and wicker weaving alive. Villas in Madeiran towns allow visitors to live like a local, often surrounded by lush mountainous scenery and scenic canalside walks.

For a snapshot of traditional island life, head to picturesque fishing village Câmara de Lobos – a favourite paint spot of Winston Churchill – or further inland to Prazeres, which is set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Draped over a mountaintop, the lofty town of Monte is a former health resort for high society and today is best known for its “carreiros”, who drive tourists downhill to Funchal in a traditional wicker toboggan at dizzying speeds. Quirky A-frame architecture awaits in the northern town of Santana, while glorious sunsets can be soaked up from pastel-hued Ponta do Sol.

Oliver’s Hidden Gem

Valley of the Nuns is a small village cradled in the belly of an extinct volcanic crater, surrounded by a wall of dramatic cragged peaks. Nestled among the green-shuttered whitewashed houses, the 16th-century Santa Clara Convent is said to be where the nuns used to hide from pirates who were attacking Funchal.

Câmara de Lobos, Madeira

This postcard-pretty fishing village has stoked the imagination of creatives for hundreds of years; most famously, Winston Churchill said Câmara de Lobos was his favourite painting spot. Head to the boat-speckled harbour and while away an afternoon people-watching at one of the local poncha bars, before feasting on catch of the day at a seafood restaurant on the water’s edge

Funchal, Madeira

Despite being closer to Morocco than to Lisbon, the Madeiran capital is unmistakably Portuguese in character, with its elaborately tiled mosaic pavements, terracotta-roofed houses and Catholic churches. The Zona Velha is a characterful old quarter revitalised by edgy street art, restaurants and hip bars. Visit at dusk when the cruise ships have departed, and locals gather in pavement bars.

Monte, Madeira

Draped over a mountaintop, the lofty town of Monte is crowned by a church where Karl I, last of the Hapsburg emperors, is buried. Today, it is perhaps better known as a former health resort for high society. Spend a few hours wandering its elaborate palace gardens, designed by art collector José Berado, and home to kaleidoscopic plants, elegant pagodas, sculptures and waterfalls.

Santana, Madeira

To the north of the island, flower-carpeted meadows wrap around the lovely little village of Santana. The town is famous for its traditional A-frame thatched houses, with a heritage preservation scheme having saved over 100 of these quirky homes, many of which are being restored. The coast is just as eye-catching: an epic sweep of black sand and towering cliffs.

Prazeres, Madeira

Sprawled across a rocky plateau sheltered by eucalyptus forests, Prazeres is one of the island’s finest villages. Flaunting stunning Atlantic Ocean views, the town takes its name from the small chapel of Our Lady of Prazeres. Elsewhere, a grand quinta (estate) is home to llamas and pot-bellied pigs, a herb garden and a quaint tea house.

Ponta do Sol, Madeira

A huddle of pastel-painted houses hook around a rocky bay on the southwest coast of Madeira. The sunniest spot on the island, Ponta do Sol is best appreciated at dusk for its glorious sunsets. The pebble beach may not win any awards, but the diving is excellent, with colourful shoals of fish and an offshore shipwreck to explore.

Getting there and around

Madeira is one of the rare destinations that’s less than four hours from London but blessed with a subtropical climate. Several airlines offer direct flights from the UK to Madeira, including British Airways, easyJet, Jet2 and Monarch. Madeira airport is located at Santa Cruz, 16km from Funchal.

You can get around Madeira easily and cheaply by car or bus, though renting your own vehicle is by far the most convenient and easy way of exploring the island. You can also hire a yellow taxi for around £50 a day, with most drivers moonlighting as tour guides.

If you’re staying in Funchal, you can explore the city on foot, as the historic centre is relatively flat and easy to wander around. There is also a handy cable car service from the capital up to the village of Monte. If you plan to venture further afield, an efficient local bus network connects local towns and villages around the island. However, we recommend hiring a car, particularly if you’re travelling with children as this will be easier, quicker and you won’t have to adhere to timetables.


By car

The best way of getting around Madeira is by car. Since the Via Rápida motorway was built a decade ago, connecting Machico with Ribeira Brava (and soon Calheta) via the airport and Funchal, car journey times have been considerably shortened. But away from this main artery, roads are often steep, narrow and twisting, demanding careful negotiation. Several car rental companies operate in Madeira, including Auto Jardim and Guerin.


By public transport

If you aren’t hiring a car (or taxi), the only other option for getting around Madeira is by bus. There’s an efficient and reliable bus network, served by three main companies: SAM operates routes east of Funchal; Rodoeste connects the west of Funchal; and Horários do Funchal manages Funchal city buses plus a few mountain services. You can easily find timetables online, though it’s worth noting there are considerably fewer buses at weekends. Most services originate and terminate in Funchal, but a handful of local buses connect other towns.


By boat

For a scenic boat trip, hop on board the Santa Maria – a replica of Columbus’ ship – from Funchal harbour to sail along Madeira’s beautiful south coast; departs daily from Marina do Funchal (T: 00 351 291 225695). You can also take a 150-minute catamaran journey to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, a tiny speck laced with glorious white sand, home to a former residence of Columbus.


Top tips

  • For those travelling by public transport, pick up a free bus map from the tourist office and check timetables online.
  • Drivers beware, after rain, waterfalls sometimes cascade down onto roads in remote areas.
  • Take the cable car from Funchal to Monte, but come back down the traditional way: by wicker toboggan pushed by carreiros.
  • Madeira falls under Portuguese ownership, but in fact it’s geographically closer to North Africa – the island is 360 miles from Morocco, but 540 from Lisbon.

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