Madeira is on the green list and 23C – perfect for a much needed post-pandemic break
As our flight landed at Madeira’s spectacular Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, British holidaymakers on board erupted into a spontaneous round of applause.
It wasn’t just a relief to arrive safely on the runway, which is perched on a foreland jutting out into the choppy Atlantic Ocean.
Rather, for many, it was pure joy to finally be able to travel to a sunny destination after months of dark lockdown.
Because Madeira is on the UK government’s green list, which means it’s one of the few destinations we can currently travel to without needing to quarantine on our return.
So what can you expect from these Portuguese volcanic islands 320 miles west of Morocco? Well, rocky, sun-drenched beaches, craggy mountain scenery, and tropical hikes, if that’s your thing.
Or, if you prefer, all-inclusive resorts where you can relax by the pool with a cold drink. Most British travelers I have met just wanted to relax in the 23 ° C sun after months of pandemic gloom.
Ali Rogers, 55, and his partner Shaun Cunning, 57, from Locks Heath near Southampton, flew with Tui on an 11-day break. The doctor’s receptionist, Ali, revealed, “We’re going to lie by the pool and relax in the sun. We want to de-stress. “
A reminder that this is a vacation, but not quite as you know, comes right away to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport. A statue of the legendary footballer – born on the island – has a Covid mask brazenly slipped over his face.
Making sure your Covid tests meet requirements is now just as much a part of the vacation as packing sunscreen.
To enter Madeira, you need proof that you have received two vaccines – which can be displayed on the NHS app – or a negative ‘fit-to-fly’ PCR test.
Upon returning to the UK, you must pass a lateral flow test before your return flight plus an additional PCR two days after arriving home. It’s tedious and can get expensive.
But sun and sea giant Tui, who I flew with last week, offers inexpensive testing packages costing between £ 20 and £ 60 per person for greenlist countries.
Upon arriving in Madeira, I simply showed my negative flight certificate uploaded to the Madeira Safe website upon exiting the baggage area and was then in the sun 22 minutes after disembarking the plane.
You can also take a test when you arrive at the airport and wait in your hotel room for the test result in quarantine if you prefer.
Nicknamed the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ for its year-round mild climate, Madeira – a 3.5-hour flight from the UK – has long been a staple on British holidays.
There was a mix of vacationers on my flight, ranging from older couples to families with teenage children. Soon we were greeted with a glass of local fortified wine at the four star all inclusive Riu Palace Madeira hotel.
You can check in remotely using an app and receive your keys by a hidden receptionist. The keys are in an envelope with a welcome pack.
From my bedroom, I could hear the comforting sound of Atlantic breakers rolling against the beach below. At the hotel’s buffet lunch, each diner picked up their own pliers to help themselves before placing the tool in a basket.
Subsequently, many people were content to just soak up the sun next to the two outdoor pools. But there is plenty to do if you fancy an excursion.
Capital Funchal has a charming old town of narrow, cobbled streets and sidewalk cafes.
The bustling farmer’s market, Mercado dos Lavradores, is worth a visit. It is an exotic mix of fruits, vegetables, flowers and fish that testifies to the tropical climate of Madeira.
From the old town you can take a scenic 15-minute cable car to the hillside suburb of Monte. Then you can descend on one of the famous wicker slides, piloted by two straw hat-capped drivers who deftly use their boots as breaks as you travel 1.2 miles downhill at up to 20mph.
A bus ride out of town reveals a tropical paradise of craggy peaks and plunging cliffs. The mountain air is fresh and fragrant with herbs. At the magnificent Cape Girao, the second highest cliff in the world, a glass-ground observation platform offers a breathtaking view of the beach 580 meters below.
GO TO: MADEIRA
COVID: On the British government’s green list. Proof of double vaccination, negative PCR or recovery from cornavirus within 90 days is required by Madeira. You’ll need a side-flow or PCR test to re-enter the UK, as well as a second-day PCR test, with Tui offering discounted tests for travelers from £ 20.
GET THERE / STAY: Seven all inclusive nights at the 4H Hotel Riu Palace Madeira start from £ 787 per person when booked online, including flights from Gatwick on July 12th and transfers. Book at tui.co.uk or visit your local Tui Holiday Shop.
MORE INFORMATION: See visitmadeira.pt.
Dining at the Vila da Carne restaurant, eight kilometers from Funchal in the picturesque Camara de Lobos, is a carnivore’s dream. Espetada – grilled beef on a long skewer – is brought to the table along with delicious local garlic flatbread by masked waiters.
Alentejo red wine is the perfect combination for the palate. Madeira has had low rates of Covid infection and its strict safety guidelines aim to keep it that way.
Tourists must wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking, on a sun lounger or in the pool, while restaurants and bars enforce a strict 10 p.m. curfew.
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By the pool at the Riu Palace hotel, the resounding verdict is that those cheers upon arriving on the plane in Madeira were not misplaced, despite Covid rules.
“Worth it to be here,” said a Manchester couple nestled among fellow British tourists on lounge chairs.
It’s no wonder, then, that Tui has added additional summer flights to Madeira from Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. Madeira is ready to welcome them.