James, writer for LoveHolidays.com shares why Madeira could be the perfect travel destination for the outdoorsy and nature bound solo traveller.
The Madeira Islands are a volcanic archipelago found off of Portugal’s southwest coast. There are two inhabited islands (Madeira and Porto Santo), and two groups of islands that are uninhabited. The location of the islands provides the opportunity for a unique solo travel experience, with diverse ecology and otherworldly landscapes attracting adventurous sun-seekers the world over.
Travelling solo brings with it so many benefits, and can often be the best way to enjoy an authentic experience in a new place. Whilst Madeira is already on the radars of holidaymakers across Europe and beyond, it may not necessarily be the first destination that springs to mind when you think of solo travel.
However, if you’re an outdoorsy type, and love to discover the natural beauty of the region you’re visiting, Madeira will be the perfect destination for you.
Things to do in Madeira
There is a catalogue of activities across the island that can be enjoyed just as much as a solo traveller. Here are some of the best attractions to add to your itinerary.
Funchal is the region’s capital city and is a must-see destination for any visitor to Madeira. One of the most popular attractions here is the cable car service that takes passengers to the suburb of Monte, with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes to be admired on the way up. The trip lasts around 15 minutes and allows you to see the island in a wholly unforgettable way.
Porto Santo Beach
Any trip to Madeira Archipelago wouldn’t be complete without a lazy day spent topping up your tan at one of the countless paradisiacal beaches found here. One of the sandy jewels in the region’s crown is Porto Santo Beach, unsurprisingly found on the island of Porto Santo. The island is easily accessible via ferry from Funchal. Once there, head straight to the vast stretch of sand, and enjoy what many consider to be the finest beach in the archipelago.
The beach extends along the vast majority of the island’s southern coast, and there are plenty of towns and points of interest along the way if you’re looking for more than just one spot to set out your towel.
After your relaxing day at the beach, hold onto your sunhat and head to the Cabo Girão Viewpoint on Madeira’s south coast. Not far from the hustle and bustle of Funchal, you’ll feel like you’re standing on the edge of the world at this breathtaking spot which certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
Upon arrival, you will find a glass platform suspended 580m high above the Atlantic Ocean. Though it might be a little stomach-turning, from Cabo Girão you can truly enjoy the vast natural beauty of Madeira and capture some stunning photographs that are sure to headline your travel album back home.
If you aren’t enamoured with the idea of standing on a transparent sheet of glass over 500 metres above sea level and want to keep your feet on more solid ground, then consider admiring the island’s gorgeous landscapes by other, less daunting means.
The archipelago is hugely popular amongst hiking enthusiasts who are attracted to the islands because of their varied ecology and challenging walking routes. From these paths, you’ll be treated to some of the best panoramic views anywhere in the region.
One of the most liked (and most testing) hikes on the island is the mountain-top trek from Pico de Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. Pico Ruivo is the highest point on the island, so you can expect to be rewarded with uninterrupted vistas across the islands and the water.
Best time to visit
When travelling solo, you typically have far more freedom around the time of year you’d like to visit, meaning you can make the most of the unique opportunities that each season provides. The best time to visit Madeira will vary for different visitors, and will largely depend on the types of activities you want to do whilst there.
If you’re looking for the warmest temperatures and don’t mind a bit of extra footfall in the tourist areas, then summer will be the best time to visit. The region will be at its busiest at this time of year, so if you’re looking to indulge in some of the more popular tourist attractions then do bear this in mind when booking your stay. You may also find that prices are higher, due to demand.
By the time autumn arrives, temperatures will be slightly milder, but it’ll still be relatively warmer than other parts of the continent. This could make autumn the perfect time to visit, particularly if you’re looking to explore the hiking routes without having to contend with the scorching heat of summer. It’s worth noting that the weather is more likely to vary from day to day at this time of year, so come prepared for all eventualities if you’re planning an outdoor-based itinerary.
As when travelling to any traditional ‘summer’ destination, visiting Madeira in the winter will make it an all-round more affordable trip. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to experience the islands’ traditional festivities enjoyed at this time of year, allowing you to see the island in a completely different way, and through the eyes of the locals.
In spring, the island of Madeira transforms into a horticultural paradise, as wildflowers bloom all across the rugged landscapes. You’re also likely to find favourable weather conditions and a balmy climate, as well as less footfall which could make for a more relaxing vacation.
For a long time, Madeira was seen as a difficult place to get around, with a lack of well-maintained infrastructure making internal travel slightly challenging. Particularly for solo visitors, exploring the island was a somewhat arduous experience. However, significant progress has been made to present Madeira as a far more attractive holiday destination when it comes to accessibility and getting around.
With limited public transport, getting around the island can sometimes be a little tricky without a personal means of transportation. If you’re looking to explore different areas, then hiring a car will give you the opportunity to see some of the more remote places. But car hire is not a necessity, particularly if you have a penchant for exploring a place by foot. The installation of tunnels across the island has made road travel far safer and more accessible, and the majority of the roads are smooth and in good condition.