Europe / Portugal

Madeira: The Hawaii of Europe

During my summer trip to Portugal, I had the opportunity to visit both Madeira and the Azores. I had previously read on the internet that these two island groups compete for the title “Hawaii of Europe” Let me explain why Madeira, in my opinion, deserves this label far more and why it is the most beautiful island I’ve ever visited.

The itinerary

When my friend and I were looking for cheap flights this summer, we came across a fantastic deal to Portugal. However, the flights were not to the mainland, but to the relatively unknown Portuguese islands. Our first flight from Germany was to São Miguel, the largest of the Azores islands.

We then booked a flight to Madeira, known as the digital nomad‘s paradise. After that, the journey continued to mainland Portugal, where I had the opportunity to tour Lisbon and Porto before returning to Germany.

Welcome to the Azores

Colonial cities

On the first day, we began touring Ponta Delgada, the largest city on the Azores. Right away, I spotted something interesting. The architecture and homes are similar of Cartagena, Colombia. You might be wondering how two cities so far apart can have anything in common.

This is due to the fact that both of these cities were colonized by the Portuguese and the Spanish, respectively. As a result, they have a similar ambiance in terms of architecture and style.

Colonial city
Very narrow streets and small houses

Thermal heaven: Furnas

The next day, we rented a car and drove to Furnas. Furnas is a small village located within a volcanic crater. We got to travel to Terra Nostra Park, which has several hot spring pools for swimming and a beautiful surrounding environment for a fast hike.

We began roaming around and discovered lush vegetation and incredible wildlife. Nature was really different from what we were used to, but in a good way. Overall, we believe that visiting Furnas is vital for any vacation to the Azores.

Terra Nostra Park
Hiking in the Terra Nostra Park

Monte Palace: an abandoned hotel

The Hotel Monte Palace, built in the late 1980s, was meant to be the peak of luxury vacation in the Azores. Back then, flying from Europe to North America was more expensive than flying to these beautiful Portuguese islands. However, barely 18 months after it opened, the owners filed bankruptcy, and the building was abandoned.

Monte Palace
Lots of graffiti in the hotel

It is now technically prohibited to enter, yet when we went there, we noticed a number of individuals roaming around inside. So we took a chance and went into the building. It was straight out of a horror film. Water and decaying materials were everywhere. The structure appeared to be on the verge of collapsing at any moment.

When we discovered the stairway to the top, our entire experience altered. We walked all the way up and discovered something completely new. We got to climb onto the hotel’s roof, and let me tell you, the view from there was spectacular. All of the Sete Cidades were visible. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy, but it was still a 10/10 experiment.

Sete Cidades
Watching nature from the hotel roof

Trip to Madeira

First impressions of Madeira

Propeller plane to Madeira
First time flying on a propeller plane

When you arrive at Madeira’s “Cristiano Ronaldo” airport, the first thing you see are their awards. The World Travel Awards voted the Madeira Islands the best island destination in the world for the sixth time in a row. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?

We checked into our hotel and went in search of a brunch spot the next day. We struggled to get food practically every day in São Miguel. Because Madeira is more touristy, this was not an issue anymore. We discovered a hipster breakfast spot, where I had my first Açai Bowl (it was pretty good).

First breakfast in Madeira
Eating from a fake coconut

Incredible “Miradouro” views

We headed out to tour the island, beginning in the east, at the Ponta de São Lourenço. The wonderful thing about Madeira is that you can find these so-called “Miradouros” all over the place. These are basically locations where you may park your car and just enjoy the scenery.

Ponta de São Lourenço, Madeira
Admiring the Ponta de São Lourenço

We came to the charming village of Faial while travelling down Madeira’s steep roads. This location was breathtaking. It was in the center of massive mountains but still near the sea. The village was incredibly peaceful, and the people were extremely nice. There, we had the nicest views and the best tomato soup. It’s difficult to put into words, but that’s when we realized why Madeira is known as the “Hawaii of Europe.”

madeira views
The pictures do not do the views justice

The vibrant city of Funchal, Madeira

On our final day, we decided to explore Funchal, Madeira’s largest city and Cristiano Ronaldo’s birthplace. If I were to describe this place in one word, I would say it is vibrant. People are everywhere, but it does not feel crowded. The city is also incredibly well-organized and clean.

We strolled through the market and even rode the cable car up the hill. The highlight of that day was witnessing a large event that apparently only happens once a year. There were food trucks and delicacies from several Madeira Island locations. This was definitely the nicest way to end our trip to Madeira.

madeira event
Definitely a colorful event

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