November 23, 2012

Algarve vs. Madeira: Which is Best for Your Next Break?

Portugal is a really popular destination for holidays, and with good reason – but it can be a tad difficult to pick between all those amazing locations. Two of the best-loved holiday hotspots are the Algarve and Madeira, so I’ve compared them to help you decide which would be best for your next break.

The Algarve

The lowdown:

Chances are you’re familiar with the basics of the Algarve, since it’s easily one of Portugal’s most popular holiday destinations. So, what is it that makes holidaymakers like you and me flock there year after year? Personally, I think it’s the sheer variety of attractions it has to offer.

I mean, it has all those traditional holiday staples, like gorgeous beaches and great weather, but there’s also plenty of scope for walking, horse riding, water sports and even soaking up historical attractions. So, no matter what you’re into, it’s not exactly difficult to find something that interests you here. Below, you’ll find some of the top things to do and see:

• Visit Lagos: this is one of the best places to get to grips with some local history – especially as it’s where a lot of Portuguese ships set off from during the Age of Discoveries. There’s an impressive fort you can visit, as well as Ingreja de Santa Antonia, which is a lovely little church.
• Scuba diving: there’s loads of great marine life to be spotted here – head to Pedro de Ancora for the best local scuba diving.
• Abseiling: like a little adventure? Make a beeline for the Monchique mountain range and you can have a go at abseiling – just make sure you have a head for heights!
• Golf: the Algarve is a paradise for golfers, since there are just so many courses; two of the best are Monte Rei North and San Lorenzo.

Best for:

As I mentioned above, the Algarve really does has something for everyone, but I think it’s a destination that suits beach bums and activity lovers best.


The lowdown:

An island off the coast of Portugal, Madeira is very different from the Algarve. Sure, things like the language and cuisine are points of similarity, and both have great coastlines, but they offer completely separate holiday experiences.

In my humble opinion, there are three things that distinguish Madeira as a holiday destination and these are:

• Its hotels
• Its walking opportunities
• Flowers (sounds odd, but you’ll see why soon)

Let’s start with the hotels. What makes establishments in Madeira that little bit different is their service, which tends to be very attentive and personal – much like you’d imagine hotels of the past to have been. So, it’s a great choice if you fancy being pampered.

In terms of walking, there’s an impressive variety of paths to take in Madeira. The mountains, like Pico de Areeiro, are prime fodder for serious hikers, but a lot of walkers opt to follow the levadas. Irrigation channels that cover the countryside, these are typically used as walking trails by ramblers – and they’re great for finding gorgeous local scenery. Plus, since there’s 1,400 km of them, you’re unlikely to run out of options!

Meanwhile, Madeira is also famous for its incredible flowers. While you can admire them just by walking around, true enthusiasts should time their visit to coincide with the annual Flower Festival, which is usually held just after Easter in Funchal. Expect fantastic displays, parades and lots of other floral treats!

Best for:

I feel like the above has already done the job of telling you who this destination is best for, but for the sake of clarity, it’s a real winner for walkers and keen gardeners – and anyone who wants to relax in a good old-fashioned hotel.

Have you been on any luxury holidays to Portugal with Sovereign recently? If so, leave a comment and let us know where you went.