Named the Best Island Destination in the World at the World Travel Awards™ for six years running, there’s no wonder that Madeira is a favourite with Silver Travellers, and these days there’s ever more to enjoy here. Situated in the Atlantic, just a short flight from the UK, its mild and subtropical climate (average air and seawater temperatures are between 18°C and 24°C) makes it attractive year- round, which much to discover and partake in.
Activities in nature
You’d like to be active on holiday? Look no further – for walking, hiking, trail running, golf and mountain biking. With dramatic mountains, this is a volcanic island after all, so high you can get above the clouds and an interesting coastline, with ideal temperatures for outdoor activities, there’s every reason to get active. Walk the levadas (irrigation channels) on the mountainside, run the trails that take you deep into nature, and why not try canyoning in the many streams? And if less adrenalin is your choice, birdwatching or golf will keep you on the move. Jeep tours are an option too, if you’d like to take in or photograph the rugged scenery whilst being driven – sometimes properly off-road.
Activities at sea
The ocean around the island is not only good for swimming, surfing, sailing and stand-up-paddle boarding (easier than it looks), but also for snorkelling and diving especially around the artificial reef of the Madeirense boat sunk at 30 meters deep, off Porto Santo, which attracts the best divers in the world. Imagine having the opportunity to explore clear waters, with visibility to 20 metres deep, where dolphins and whales are found, along with barracudas, morays, amberjacks, cutlassfish, giant anemones, rays and giant groupers. There are several beaches from which to dive too. If you’d rather be on the water, whale watching trips are popular, and you can expect to see dolphins too.
For a real blast of fun and speed, but no snow, take a ride in one of Funchal’s carros de cesto or toboggans. Covering 2 kilometres on the road in about 10 minutes, you’ll sit in a large wicker basket controlled by two experts, Carreiros do Monte, who have distinctive straw boaters and a white uniform. Their thick soled rubber shoes are used as brakes. There are just 100 toboggans with 150 ‘drivers’ who pass their knowledge to apprentices as they retire. Originally a method of transport for quint owners, nowadays, it’s an essential element of your Madeiran holiday. Head to Monte in Funchal to begin.
Gastronomy in Madeira
The local food is truly a treat! With abundant fish in the sea and shellfish too, you’ll be able to sample the fresh tuna, black scabbard fish and limpets from local waters. Try beef or pork espetadas, the Madeiran kebab, flavoured with bay leaves, grilled over open flames. Your barbeque skewers at home will never taste the same! Restaurants range from those in the Michelin Guide with 2 stars to more simple establishments for fish of the day, chips and salad. Do try bolo de caco, it’s a round loaf of bread and sweet potatoes which is cooked on a hot stone then spread with garlic butter. The passion fruit mousse is a local delicacy, the fruit grows everywhere and is easily available. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never leave an island restaurant hungry.
Cultivated on terraces, the grapes in Madeira enjoy the benefits of a mild climate, and winemaking has evolved to take advantage of the heat, creating a fortified wine, which is 17 to 22 per cent alcohol. This is a wine to gently savour, appreciating its age. Using a historic process from the 16th century, estufagem, where distilled sugar cane (now brandy) is added to the wine, originally created to keep it good on long sea voyages, the wine is generally drunk as apéritifs and digestifs. You can visit the vineyards and enjoy a tasting. Enjoy the Wine Festival in late August/early September, which combines with traditional Madeiran culture and folklore.
Gardens and parks
The British are described as a nation of gardeners and the horticultural delights of Madeira will offer a visual feast. As you would imagine, the sub-tropical climate encourages an astonishing variety of plants to grow across the diverse terrain. Strelicias, magnolias, anthuriums, orchids and any number of trees just love the climate here. From the UNESCO Laurissilva Forest, over 20 million years old, to the Jardim Botânico da Madeira with its formal planting and the cliff side Rocha do Navio Nature Reserve preserving the unique habitat, parks and gardens across the island are filled with interest year-round.
For more information go to Visit Madeira
For holidays to Madeira, take a look at Silver Travel Advisor’s partner companies who travel there.