After 3 days in the Azores, I took the 8:10pm flight from Ponta Delgada to Funchal, arriving at 11:15pm local time.
As long as you upload a copy of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your arrival, proof of recovery, or your vaccine card (which we did) on their travel portal madeirasafe.com, and show the nurses at arrivals the hard copies before you head out from the airport, you’ll get through. Otherwise be prepared to get tested before they let you out of quarantine.
It was a 20 minute and €30 cab ride from the airport straight into the city center of Funchal, where I checked in at The Marketplace by Storytellers at midnight:
Funchal is the capital and main city of the autonomous region and island of Madeira. And where Ponta Delgada had soul, Funchal has attitude. The vibes here are so much more bustling than the surreal calm of The Azores, at least during daytime.
Because when night falls, it becomes a different animal:
Since my lodgings are located right across the street from the very touristy market hall Mercado dos Lavradores, that would be my first stop the next morning:
Sé Cathedral is a few minutes walk away:
I nevertheless began my first morning in Funchal with necessary coffee at Art Corner Café:
Eat all the local bread Bolo do Caco:
Next door you can orient yourself and where you really are at the Madeira Story Center, which features interactive exhibits of the island’s history:
After a stroll around town, take the Funchal Cable Car across the street from the Story Centre for 16 euros each way:
At the top you can stroll about the Monte Palace Gardens and the church at Monte.
You can also take another circular cable care back down to visit the Botanical Gardens below, or take a toboggan for a hefty fee down the hills:
Later in the afternoon we booked a fun last-minute 3 hour tour on one of Madeira’s Sidecar Tours, which picked us up in front of our lodgings at 2pm:
Our first stop outside of Funchal was the viewpoint over Camara de Lobos:
Further out west and you can’t miss the dramatic cliffs of Cape Girão; at 580m in height they are the tallest cliffs in Western Europe:
Free admission. Try (not) to look down!
We eventually drove as far west as the viewpoint over the village of Ribeira Brava:
If you look far off in the right place you’ll catch a glimpse of the controversial sea bass farms here:
If you are in need of unique things to visit in Madeira, consider a 15 minute walk along the shore to the CR7 museum to look at all the medals and trophies Footballer Christiano Ronaldo, who was born and raised on this very island!
There’s even a life sized chocolate statue of him here. Why.
After a slow 2 days here and on our departure from Madeira (and eventually beginning our 48 hour window on our return back to the USA), we scheduled a rapid antigen test beforehand at one of the pharmacies in our neighborhood. Many already have testing tents set up in front of them but they only take appointments, which you must arrange at the sponsoring pharmacy itself.
Timing our flight back to NYC to be 4pm exactly 2 days from today, we selected the 4:35pm time slot the next day to be tested. This way our tests could count not only for our return back to the States, but also our layover in Madrid beforehand just in case we wanted to leave the airport.
The next afternoon we checked in at the tent located about a 2 minute walk past the pharmacy in front of Sé Cathedral:
They really go up there in that nose here! Our rapid antigen test results were ready within 45 minutes and we picked them up back at the pharmacy where we originally scheduled our tests:
Then I uploaded my test result to the new app Verifly so I can make sure I minimize the fuss on my way back to NYC.
In the meantime, next stop: Porto!
A word of warning: make sure you agree on the fare to the airport to be €30 from Funchal; ours insisted on the meter, which seemed shady since it’s usually a flat fare, and during which he then sneakily pressed a button on the meter that went from “1” to “2” and claimed there was a “night surcharge” (there isn’t, otherwise our fare getting in at midnight 2 days ago in the same yellow cab wouldn’t have been €30). The metered fare then began to accelerate at to double the original rate.
We would have ended up €45 on the meter but after a little internet sleuthing and catching him in the act, he relented back to €30, but then entered €40 anyway on the credit card terminal. The shamelessness. :/
- At time of posting in Madeira, it was 15 °C - Humidity: 58% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a