17 Sep A Weekend in Madeira
A Weekend in Madeira
This weekend we were hosted by Belmond Reid Palace and Abreu Events DMC on a fam trip to Madeira, Portugal. We’ve fallen in love with Madeira and so in today’s blog we are sharing with you some of our favourite experiences and what this destination can offer your group.
The Portuguese island of Madeira is easy to reach at just over 3 hours flight from London Gatwick to the city of Funchal. There are also regular direct flights to Funchal from Birmingham and Manchester. Madeira has only one airport, and its runway along the coastline offering spectacular views of the island from the moment of arrival. No doubt your group will also enjoy spotting the infamous Christiano Ronaldo statue outside of the airport, a perfect selfie opportunity.
A short twenty minute transfer from the airport is the Belmond Reid Palace hotel where we stayed. Steeped in history, it has been the jewel of the islands hospitality scene since being established in 1836 by Scotsman William Reid The hotel cascades it’s way down the cliffside, from high tea served on the terrace of the highest floor, down to the garden level with swimming pools and a spa, and continuing all the way down to the ocean with a private sea bath. The hotel is famous for hosting Winston Churchill for a holiday during which he wrote his memoirs, and the presidential suite he stayed in can be booked. It’s an ideal hotel for groups, with 158 bedrooms, most with a terrace or balcony and ocean views, and a variety of room categories to accommodate all groups and budgets. There are 4 restaurants onsite as well and conferencing facilities which have been newly renovated in 2018.
If one can bear to leave the stunning hotel there are a plethora of unforgettable experiences to be enjoyed on the island. The island seems to have it all – incredible coastline surrounded by the azure of the North Atlantic Ocean, seaside vineyards, epic mountain peaks, and endless terracotta rooftops of the beautiful old buildings which residents call home. The climate in Madeira is warm, even in winter the temperature won’t fall below 16 degrees making it a perfect destination for winter sun. And with an unlimited supply of fresh air and water, the island is lush and green, brimming with tropical flowers and fruits, which gives Madeira its nickname of being the Floating Garden.
Our activities began with a cable car ride to the top of one of the highest peaks with stunning views over Funchal. Once at the top there are two options for getting your group back down the mountain – either back on the cable car or by being a little bit brave and enjoying the totally unique tradition of getting people downhill with speed, via a Madeiran Toboggan Ride: a basket which is skied down the hill by men in wearing traditional straw hats and very sturdy shoes. It’s a good laugh and a thrill not to be missed. Once safely back in Funchal no doubt your group will be in need of a stiff drink, so it’s the perfect time to walk to the market and sample the strong local tipple Poncha, as well as the amazing tropical fruits – we tried about six different flavours of passion fruit whilst we were there! That evening we had dinner at the Michelin star restaurant William’s which is at the Belmond. Head chef Luis Pestana is the first Madeiran ever to be awarded a Michelin star and now competes with Mr Ronaldo for celebrity status.
In the morning, breakfast is served poolside at the Belmond Reid Palace. There was no relaxing by the pool for us however, we were collected in a minibus for 40 minute drive from the hotel to the mountains. It’s well worth rising early in Madeira to enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the mountaintops, and for an extra special experience we could even arrange an al fresco silver service breakfast for your group outdoors. Or for something a little more challenging there are a range of adventure sports on the mountains including mountain biking and, as our group experienced, canyoning. After some initial confusion in which we thought we would be spending the morning on a leisurely canoe journey, we soon realised something else was in store as we were kitted up in helmets and thermal wetsuits, an essential uniform as we were to spend the next three hours descending a waterfall. The activity is called canyoning, and the expert guides from the island ensure it is a safe and enjoyable experience. From the top of a waterfall we abseiled down rock faces, plunged into pools and slid along natural rock slides. It was lots of fun, not too physically strenuous and an excellent team bonding experience.
We had worked up an appetite from this so after a pit stop at the Belmond Reid Palace to refresh we headed to a secluded vineyard restaurant which can only be reached by cable car or boat. Faja dos Padres was originally a monastery and its vineyard has been producing Madeiran wine since the 15th century. In modern times it has been owned by the same Madeiran family for generations, and is now also is an organic farm and a beachside restaurant. As a grand finale to an unforgettable weekend we were collected from the jetty outside the restaurant in a high powered speed boat. The boat took us out on an expedition to spot whales and dolphins, which can be found in Madeira’s waters most of the year. We were lucky enjoying to find a pod of dolphins who followed our boat and put on a display leaping out of the water. There are lots of options for groups to enjoy the ocean, including hosting up to 200 guests on catamaran for a dinner and party. After our boat trip our Madeiran adventure had sadly come to an end, but not before a final shopping trip. Madeiran’s are all about eating and drinking so a perfect take away gift is of course a bottle of sweet Madeiran wine and some Madeiran tea cake, a gift which will allow your group to continue to savour the delights of Madeira after they’ve returned home.
If you’re interested in Madeira as a destination for your conference or incentive travel please get in touch with SevenEvents to find out how we can create a bespoke programme for your group.