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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Ponta Do Sol

Ponta Do Sol, Portugal

With more hours of sunshine than anywhere else on Madeira, a holiday to Ponta do Sol gives you sun, surf and bags of style. Just 40 minutes from Madeira airport is this 500-year-old village, nestled among banana and sugar plantations, in a steep ravine. At the bottom sits a small port and harbour. A smattering of boutique hotels and stylish restaurants mingle with terracotta-roofed houses climbing up the hillside, giving the place an exclusive, chic feel. The best Madeira has to offer is right on your doorstep here, from the mountainous volcanic terrain to show-stopping black beaches accessible by boat.

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Hit the water...

And we don't just mean a gentle swim at the beach. Grab a helmet, abseil down a canyon, wade through a river, cross a waterfall using a couple of ropes - this is called canyoning.

The volcanic landscape of Madeira is perfect for throwing yourself around narrow gorges and getting wet and dirty in the process. It's an exhilarating experience you'll never forget. For more adrenaline-inducing fun, just add surfing to the mix and head for the beach. Windsurfing, kitesurfing and plain old surfing are on the menu, as is paddle boarding and diving.

Bring your heart rate down with a spot of whale or dolphin watching and enjoy getting close up to the magnificent creatures, which live near the coast. You may also get to see giant turtles swimming near your boat!

Quick Tips

  • Roman Catholic
  • Euro
  • Portuguese
  • GMT - None

Have a head for heights?

Holidays to Madeira are an intimate affair because of the island's small size. The capital of Madeira, Funchal, is only 25 minutes away, so go there for your urban fix. If you've got a head for heights, hop on a cable car for a 15-minute ride up to Monte. The views from here are fantastic, and you're guaranteed great holiday photos.

To get back down to Funchal quick-smart, take a wicker toboggan ride. You'll feel the wind in your hair as you whizz down the hill at 40km an hour!

Once your feet are back on solid ground, Funchal Cathedral awaits. Built in the 16th century, it has a beautiful wooden ceiling and silver processional cross that's well worth seeing.

Get out in the fresh air

Your Ponta do Sol holiday provides the opportunity to get stuck into some outdoor experiences you wouldn't get at home. Go trekking along the Levada da Moinho, which was originally built to transport water around the island. You'll get a real feel for the mountains as you walk through the forest following the irrigation channels constructed in the 15th century. If you're a runner, why not try ultra trail running? The mountainous terrain and lush vegetation will challenge and thrill you as you explore the habitat around the village.

If you prefer your exercise to be of the two-wheel variety, hire a bike and hit the mountain trails. Unpaved roads and levadas (water ways) make for some exciting riding through the Laurisilva forest.

Sample succulent Madeiran cuisine

You'll want to sample some delicious authentic Madeiran cuisine on your holiday in Ponta Do Sol. Both meat and fish feature heavily on restaurant menus. If fish is what you fancy, try bacalhau com natas – salted cod cooked with cream, onions and potatoes. Bife de atum, is tuna steak served with vegetables. Or opt for espetada, beef or chicken kebab cooked over a fire and served with bolo do caco (bread) or milho frito (fried corn).

For dessert, why not try a piece of bolo de mel (honey cake), accompanied by a glass of the famous Madeira wine? If you're after something a little stronger, ask for a glass of Aguardente, a strong sugar cane rum.

The garden island

Fertile soils and a fantastic climate means flowers, flowers and more flowers in beautiful Madeira. You must visit one of the island's botanical gardens on your Ponta do Sol holiday. The Madeira Botanical Garden in Funchal is home to over 2,000 tropical and subtropical plants and around 60 species of exotic birds. Catch the cable car up to the gardens and bag yourself some outstanding photos of the area at the same time.

If you want to throw some culture into the bouquet, head for Monte Palace Tropical Garden, which is also in Funchal. As well as a vast exotic plant collection, the gardens also have a Koi pond, black and white swans, and an oriental garden. You'll also find the Monte Palace Museum and its exhibit of African sculptures situated in the garden.

Holidays to Ponta do Sol feed the body and the soul with enchanting scenery, tranquillity and magnificent sunrises worth getting up for. It's easy to see why they call Madeira the garden island. The hot summers and rainy winters weave their magic through the lush vegetation of the surrounding vineyards and banana plantations, and flowers bloom in its botanical gardens. Lift a glass of Poncha (island rum with lemon and honey) and say cheers to this slice of Portuguese paradise.