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Because the island of Madeira in Portugal is perfect for every tourist

The Portuguese island of Madeira claims enormous bragging rights. Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, its location between Africa and Europe guarantees a mild and subtropical climate all year round, ensuring the archipelago’s unparalleled reputation. The lush volcanic landscape, towering vistas and cultural heritage dating back to the 15th century make it a must for visitors of varying tastes. Whether it’s sampling gastronomic delights, admiring waterfalls, or trekking through ancient rainforests, consider your wish list ticked. Adventure awaits everyone; now it’s about deciding what yours looks like.

Depending on your risk appetite, there are five ways to explore Madeira: on foot, by 4×4 jeep, by cable car, by boat or by sled (more on that later). If, like me, the fun starts with your taste buds, then put on the most comfortable shoes and get ready for an epicurean trip to the capital Funchal.

Food and wine guided tours, such as those offered by Discovering Madeira, are a delightful way to taste local dishes with a local guide. Expect small-group walks through Old Town hangouts with nine stops, 11 food tastings, and six drinks. Tip for professional users: wear loose fitting clothing. Start with a tasting of Madeiran wine at The Old Blandy Wine Lodge, a family-run winery located in a 16th-century Franciscan monastery. Then, try the garlic marinated pork and rustic bolo de cacao (sweet potato bread) with regional beer. Compare it to modern fusion tapas like black sheath and passion fruit croutons paired with a Verdelho wine.

Bolo do Caco Gastronomy Image: Francisco Correia
Madeira wine Image: IBVAM
Madeira wine Image: IBVAM

Wait, there’s more. After strolling Rua de Santa Maria’s captivating “Painted Doors Project”, stop for a famous Poncha (fresh citrus juice, honey and rum) served with lupine beans before exploring the equally colorful Mercado Dos Lavadores market. farmers.

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Madeira Tourism Painted Doors
Madeira Tourism Painted Doors

In a lively art deco building, here you can find emblematic flowers such as the bird of paradise, spices, fish and exotic fruits such as maça (apple cream) and pineapple-shaped monstera deliciosa (fruit salad plant). Attention: the prices are high. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere, not the sales pitch.

Poncha Image: Jose Mendes
Poncha Image: Jose Mendes

Do you have a sweet tooth? I look forward to the delicacies of artisan chocolate and traditional sugar cane cookies from the praised Fabrica pastry shop in Santo Antonio. If you have space (or a free stomach), treat yourself to a queljadas (cottage cheese pie) or a Bolo de Mel (ginger and molasses pie) from one of the confeitarias and thank me later.

Bolus of Mel Image: Francisco Correia
Bolus of Mel Image: Francisco Correia

In the meantime, let’s change gears and take a look at the famous nature reserves of the island. Famous for hiking, trail running, mountain biking and canyoning, the most famous are the walks of the levada (aqueduct). First built by settlers to bring water to inaccessible farmland, these 200 open-air irrigation canals wind their way through the most picturesque parts of the land, including Madeira’s indigenous and prehistoric Laurisilva forest, a World Natural Heritage Site UNESCO site of 15,000 hectares consisting of Lauraceae trees. Occupying about 20% of the island, the sweet scent of laurel and laurel among the tree trunks covered with moss and lichen makes this place magical.

Levada Nova from Pta do Sol Image: Francisco Correia
Levada Nova from Pta do Sol Image: Francisco Correia

Given the island’s sharp cliffs and steep, winding roads, a certified 4×4 jeep guided tour is a smart way to travel. Madeira Adventure Kingdom and Bravelanders both offer safe outdoor experiences tailored to your abilities, especially for hikers. An easy rule of thumb, you’ll find challenging trails in the central mountains and north, with an easier pace in the south. Experienced hikers will love the sunrise and sunset on Pico Ruivo, Madeira’s highest peak at 1,862m. For beginners, the recommended trails are marked as PR – routes less than 30 km long. PR6 / 6.1 – the walk to the Risco and 25 Fontes waterfalls is a moment without filters that will take your breath away. Do not miss. PR11 – a 1.5km trail ending at Balcões viewpoint, overlooking the Ribeira da Metade valley, will attract wildlife lovers with its flock of Madeira Finch and Firecrest birds, happy to land with an outstretched hand . Landscape enthusiasts will love the viewpoints, such as those above Nun’s Valley (a small village in the crater of an extinct volcano) or standing above the clouds at the famous Pico do Areeiro (1,818m); pure gold.

Do you fancy something elegant? Why not take a 15-minute cable car ride from Funchal to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens? Located in a hilltop village 550m above sea level, the 18th century palace park is home to a DIY craft of endemic and exotic flora and fauna. South African cycads (one of the largest collections in the world), hydrangeas and proteas, Belgian azaleas, birds of paradise, Scottish heather, Himalayan orchids, Madeiran Laurisilva and millenary olive trees extend over 70,000 square meters of property where peacocks, ducks and swans roam between installations of modern art and African sculptures.

Pay particular attention to the collection of tiled panels along the walkways and the vegetation, considered one of the most important in the country, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the oriental gardens. Pagodas, bridges, koi carp, marble dragons and a giant golden Buddha grace the property, as do lion-like dogs, which are said to protect negative energies. Expect to spend two hours but be prepared to stay longer. Back in Funchal, experience a new means of public transport such as the iconic carro de cesto (wicker sleigh). Each sled can accommodate up to three people, plus two drivers who travel the dizzying hills and hairpin bends of the mountain. Spoiler alert: the trip ends at the village of Livramento, a 50-minute walk from Funchal; also served by taxi and bus line 19. It’s fun though.

Mount cableway @miguelmoniz
Mount cableway @miguelmoniz

Speaking of which, a dolphin and whale watching excursion is an amazing way to create memories. At over 3,000m depth, Madeira’s ocean is home to local and endemic wildlife such as the common dolphin, sperm whale and loggerhead turtle, with an endangered monk seal refuge on the Desertas Islands. The greatest chance of spotting these creatures in their natural habitat is on the south coast of Madeira from April to September, with daily boat departures from Funchal, Calheta and Machico.

Dolphin Image: VisitMadeira
Dolphin Image: VisitMadeira

If relaxation is more your speed, the 2.5-hour boat trip north-east to adjacent Porto Santo gets you the goods. The island’s nine kilometers of sandy beaches are a nice addition to Madeira’s prevalent pebble variety, especially since its therapeutic benefits (think coral, shell, and sea urchin sediments) attract wellness adherents for psamotherapy ( heated sand) and thalassotherapy (sea water).

Praia do Porto Santo Photo: Henrique S
Praia do Porto Santo Photo: Henrique S

As the adventures go by, consider yourself spoiled for choice. If your wishlist needs to be reloaded, you can always return.

TO REMAIN

Melia Madeira Mare

Prices starting from € 104 price per room and night

Next to the Lido, 20 minutes drive from the airport and 20 minutes walk from the historic center of Funchal.

TO FLY

Fly direct from Dublin to Madeira Funchal with Ryanair twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays.

  • Flight time: 3 hours 40 min

PACKAGE

Although air and sea temperatures average between 18 and 24 ° C, microclimates exist from humid and humid mountains to arid Porto Santo. Bring light clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen, a hat and waterproof jacket, as well as hiking shoes or sturdy trainers depending on your favorite activity.

SEE

The A-frame thatched houses in the village of Santana, including an authentic restored mansion from 240 years ago.

The Cabo Girão viewpoint: a glass “Skywalk” suspended 580 meters above sea level, the highest promontory in Europe. The impressive view from Penha d’Águia to Porto da Cruz.

CLICK

TO DISCOVER

TO EAT