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Incentive Travel > Familiarisation Trip: Madeira

Blog » Incentive Travel » Familiarisation Trip: Madeira
18th Feb 2016

Do you know where to find the world's most impressive new year’s firework display? How about Cristiano Ronaldo? No? What about Madeira Wine? Well, the hint is in the name, they all come from the little island of Madeira a true hidden gem in the North Atlantic Ocean, West and slightly South of Portugal.

The island is surrounded by the waters of the Gulf Stream, offering it's visitors warm comfortable summers and mild winters. This, combined with the diverse range of day and night activities, fresh, local produce and variety of hotels and restaurants to suit every taste and budget, makes Madeira the ideal incentive travel and holiday destination.


Sent on a 4 day educational trip in December to test the waters, I left a cold and rainy London and touched down in Madeira to a pleasant 21 degrees. A classic Old Timer Bus greeted us at the airport and we began our 24km Airport-Hotel transfer to the internationally renowned 5-star Belmond Reid’s Palace.     


Set in subtropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Reid’s Palace has for more than a century been the ultimate place to unwind and relax in the sun. Situated within walking distance of the capital city Funchal and with direct access to the sea, Reid’s palace boasts 163 rooms and suits, 4 dining areas including an afternoon tea terrace and cocktail bar, heated outdoor pools, tennis courts, sauna and 6 meeting rooms which can accommodate up to 180 guests or delegates. The William Reid room, with it’s large ‘window wall’ of glass, overlooks the sparkling blue waters of the ocean, an ideal place for bright ideas and fresh thinking.



The first evening, dinner was served at the famous 17th century Blandy’s Madeira wine lodge. Whilst beautiful on the eyes, Funchal’s streets are mainly cobbled or paved with pebbles from the beach, so ladies, best to leave the heels at home or bring a spare pair of flats. At the wine lodge, a Mandolin Orchestra played a set of classical and easy listening tunes, offering the perfect backdrop as we sampled a selection of their finest award winning vintage Madeiras. Evening dinner is served across the courtyard in a separate tasting room where the walls are lined with shelves of wines, some dating back to 1908 making up the largest and most famous collection of Madeira Frasqueira Vintages in the world.


Madeira offers a wide range of fun and interesting daytime activities to keep your clients or staff entertained. Take a tour of Old Town Funchal, the historical Nucleus of the Parish of Santa Maria which dates back to 1425 when the settlement of Madeira began. View the hand painted doors that line the narrow cobbled streets which lead to the famous Mercado dos Lavradores where subtropical fruit, veg, fish and flowers are sold. A short walk from the market is the embroidery factory where visitors can get acquainted with the most beautiful handicrafts of Madeira. 


In the center of the small city is the 15th century Se-Cathedral and nearby the ‘Teatro Baltazar Dias’. Built in 1888, the theatre exemplifies architectural balance and elegance where the interior is comprised of a wide and ample foyer and an equally noble hall on the floor above suitable for small gatherings and functions. Both these areas precede a horse shoe shaped auditorium divided into the ground floor pit seating 190, balcony seating of 60 and private boxes to seat 134 facing a large stage and overhead is the beautifully hand painted ceiling.


For those not afraid of challenging the laws of gravity, hop on the cable cars and head 3,173 metes up to Monte, a parish in the higher areas of the city which nowadays is still a pilgrimage place and offers stunning views over Funchal. To return to basecamp, don your straw hat and jump into a wicker toboggan! Winding 2km downhill and controlled by ropes held by 2 ‘Carrerios’, (strong men dressed in white also wearing straw hats and leather boots as foot breaks) tobogganing is an exhilarating experience. The lack of protection from the front adds to the rush of adrenaline as passenger’s faces defy the wind and speed of the decent. 


Perfect for those warm evening, take a guided bus tour up into the mountains to visit Eira do Serrado to discover one of the most breathtaking views in the Mediterranean with dramatic mountains and 800m deep valleys.

To really reward your team and round your trip off with a truly unforgettable experience, set off on board a private sailing boat and view the Southern coast of the Island from a slightly different angle. Set sail towards Faja dos Padres, a private paradise accessible only by boat or by a panoramic cliff lift 250m long where you can enjoy a lunch of local dishes on a private terrace and sample more home made wine before sailing back along the south coast, passing by Europe’s highest cliff and keeping a close watch out for the dolphins and turtles that inhabit the waters.


Food in Madeira consists largely of freshly caught seafood and delicious, locally produced wine. The island boasts a very diverse range of restaurants from modern and contemporary to traditional and authentic. The GF Restaurant we visited is where the cruise liners dock for after dinner drinks and treats at the newly opened Design Centre. The center consists of a roof top glass walled restaurant, and outdoor cocktail bar, meeting room, and a large exhibition space which can seat roughly 100 guests, at the top of an old fortress on the harbor wall. Furniture designer Nini Andreas Silva’s stylish pebble seating collection pieces provide ultimate relaxation for guests the roof top deck over looking the Atlantic Ocean.



Our final meal was at Forte de Sao Tiago, a former fortress of Funchal bay and now a Contemporary Art and Military Museum offering an interesting atmosphere and unique location by the sea. Its restaurant offers an exceptional menu of local, fresh food with an exotic presentation. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner of fresh seafood, roast beef and oozing chocolate pudding washed down with fine Maderia Wine while acoustic Pop-rock, musical group ‘The Grumpies’ performed a wonderful background music set to keep the atmosphere buzzing and enjoyable. A fabulous end to a thoroughly enjoyable trip with a lovely group in such a beautiful Country.


For full details of all the establishments mentioned and to see the full itinerary, contact Black Mango on 01244 893185 or email [email protected]

Written by Catherine Jones


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