What does the word ‘Madeira’ conjure up? Maybe it’s a large slab of cake or a glass of its famous fortified wine, but there’s much more to this group of Portuguese islands situated off the African coast in the Atlantic Ocean, and now it’s more easily accessible as you can get a direct flight from Málaga to Madeira during the months from July to September.
Voted Europe’s Leading Island Destination at the World Travel Awards in 2020, Madeira’s warm climate, combined with its unique location, makes it a great year round destination. If you want a bit of winter sun, you will find average temperatures around 16ºC during this season.
The main island of Madeira is volcanic, with luscious green valleys, steep rugged cliffs and pebbly beaches. Most of the beaches are pebbly, although there are a handful that aren’t, including Seixal in the north-west of the island which is known for its photogenic black sand. A few miles away are the natural lava pools of Porto Moniz, where you can swim in the crystal clear waters without worrying about the waves.
For those who love outdoor pursuits there is lots of opportunity to get out and about in the natural habitat, whether that is hiking or biking. The extensive natural reserve and coastal cliffs offer stunning views.There are also eleven cascading waterfalls to visit that are dotted all over the main island, amongst the more well-known are the 100m high Risco Waterfall group located in Rabaçal, Paul da Serra, part of the Madeira Natural Park. The Rabaçal viewpoint, located at Pico da Urzeon the Paul da Serra plateau, offers unforgettablescenery within a vast wooded area. From this point you can see the Rabaçal valley, one of the most beautiful in Madeira, surrounded by the lush vegetation of Laurisilva forest, a 20-million-year-old subtropical rainforest declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Madeira Island is one of the best locations in the world for whale and dolphin watching. From November to March, humpback whales and other species can be seen off the coast of the island, and there are plenty of boat trips with experienced guides and spotters to choose from.
The pleasant climate makes it possible to grow a myriad of plants from all over the globe and a visit to the Madeira Botanical Garden and Palheiro Gardens is a must if you want to see some truly stunning tropical plants and beautiful flowers. No wonder that the island’s nickname is the “Floating Garden of the Atlantic”.
Funchal, Madeira’s capital,lies on the island’s south coast. Take time to stroll through the Rua de Santa Maria in the old town and enjoy the colourful Painted Doors project where every door has been turned into a work of art. Stop off at one of the many cafés, bars and restaurants offering both traditional and international cuisine. Take the cable car up to Monte Palace Tropical Garden or,if you’re up for something more unusual, speed down the hill on a Madeira Toboggan Ride in traditional wicker basket sledges drive by two men (carreiros).