The floating garden. The island of eternal spring. The garden island. Madeira has many names, each one conferring an almost magical beauty on this little European outpost. Hidden away in the Atlantic, 300 miles from the Moroccan coast, its landscape staggers as it soothes.
MADEIRA IS UNDENIABLY DRAMATIC. Lush gardens perch on rugged cliffs, clear skies mingle with crystal waters and mountains clamber into the clouds. Its Atlantic setting means winter never comes, so a warm breeze blows whether you visit in January or July.
It’s the delights of nature that draw many to the island. For the best views, take the winding road up to Pico de Arieiro. The mountain air is incredibly clean, so breathe deeply and soak up the surroundings. Levada walks are a great way to explore; travel through lush emerald forests and enchanting valleys to the heart of Madeira. Monte Palace Tropical Garden wows with exotic flora and serene Japanese gardens. Take the cable car up and ride back into town on a traditional wooden toboggan.
If you crave nostalgia, climb aboard our replica of Columbus’ Santa Maria. With the sails hoisted high and crew rushing about the rigging, you’ll feel like you’ve journeyed back in time. Make sure to keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales swimming beside the ship. Back on dry land, there are plenty of local restaurants to stop for a bite. Fresh tuna and swordfish are favourites, while local poncha makes an excellent aperitivo. Just take care; its sweetness belies its strength. Of course, no visit to Madeira would be complete without sampling the island’s most eminent export. The 200-year-old Blandy’s Wine Lodge offers excellent tours and tastings—you can even have cases of fine Madeira wine shipped home.
Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is charming. Cobblestone streets lead to Portuguese style plazas, houses have whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs. History-lovers shouldn’t miss the Jesuit church and Museu de Arte Sacra. But the Mercado do Lavradores is a must for all. This Art Deco farmers’ market dazzles with colour. Purchase handicrafts and dazzling flowers or head to the fish section to see the island’s freshest catch.
With its captivating landscape and convivial pastimes, Madeira captures heart and soul like few other places can. This truly is the pearl of the Atlantic.