Located 1076 kilometers south-west of Portugal, Madeira is an archipelago comprising 4 islands. Forget Christano Ronalado and his legendary goal-scoring, Madeira has enough going for it to please both tourists and inhabitants alike. Wherever you turn, you are greeted with spectacular views of the cliffs and oceans, stunning green scenery and mind-blowing sunsets. Read on to discover everything Madeira has to offer.
Adventure-lovers, Madeira is calling! The beaches aren’t designed for tourists sipping on cocktails, but are made for exploring. So rent a car or catch the local bus and head to the north of the island to São Vicente. From a quaint church built in the 1600s, to a pebble beach perfect for surfing and unmissable underground caves formed 890 thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption, São Vicente has plenty for you to discover. And even if you’re not a surfer, you can still sit down on the pebbles and enjoy the magnificent sunset, the descending sun turning the waves golden.
Funchal, Madeira’s capital, is simply wonderful. The turquoise coloured water and white and yellow buildings together gives the town a distinct Mediterranean feel. For the best views, hop on a cable car to Funchal’s Botanical Garden or to the Monte Palace and take in the beauty of the place. Then, to get down again, try Funchal’s “Monte Sledge”, a unique and incredibly special experience that has origins in the 19th century. It involves sliding at high speed down Funchal’s narrow, winding streets on two-seater wicker sledges, pushed and steered by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and straw hats.
Not tired yet? Then get ready for a trip through Madeira’s “Levadas”. Levadas are narrow irrigation canals used to disperse water and are specific to the island. Madeira has 2100 kilometers of these artificial canals in total, many of which resemble highly organised hiking trails. One of the best ways to explore the island’s Laurel forest, which was declared a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site in 1999, is to follow one of Madeira’s famous levada walks. And although the 28 routes are well signposted, it is always recommended to go with an experienced guide or a local trekking and canyoning expert.
Madeira loves wine so much that it is almost a sacred drink. But the lesser known Poncha, a cocktail made with “aguardente de cana” (a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice) is a traditional drink in Madeira as well. Originally invented by the fishermen of Câmara De Lobos, it has a very sweet taste without a strong alcohol taste. But don’t be fooled! Even if it doesn’t taste that strong, it still has a kick to it! Exotic fruits including tamarilho, a cross between a tomato and a plum, and the island’s fresh seafood also makes Madeira an unmissable culinary culinary destination. We recommend Mercado dos Lavradores, a fruit, vegetable, flower and fish market in Funchal, to sample some local produce.