The flower island of Madeira is only a quick jump away from the European mainland and is the ideal holiday destination for those seeking peace and quiet and those looking for adventure - the green island, situated in the Atlantic Ocean off Portugal, is considered the "Hawaii of Europe" and is ideal for both package tourists and backpackers. Surfers and hiking enthusiasts in particular will find what they are looking for here.
What a panorama! If you only climb a few stairs and alleys in Madeira's capital Funchal, you will have a magnificent view. A sea of houses and lush gardens that nestle against the steep lush green slopes. Around half of the 280,000 islanders live in the cosmopolitan capital - even world footballer Christian Ronaldo, of whom everyone here is extremely proud, comes from Funchal. And Empress Sissi also travelled to the Isle of Flowers to cure her lung disease.
Due to its geographical location and volcanic origin, Madeira offers a mild, spring-like climate with pleasant temperatures all year round, making the island an ideal year-round destination.
Madeira makes wanderer's hearts beat faster. Famous are the water canals that have been the basis for a sophisticated irrigation system for centuries. The narrow paths along the levadas are the best way to explore the green heart of the island. The King's Tour leads in about three hours to the highest point of the island, Pico Ruivo at 1,862 m.a.s.l. A magnificent hike, always keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. While the sun is shining at the coast, the clowds usually cling stubbornly to the mountain flanks and fog at certain altitudes is a constant companion. But whether the sun is shining or the clouds are overcast - everywhere it smells of fragrant laurel. The laurel forests, which are under UNESCO protection, can only be found on the Micronesian islands. Due to the favourable microclimate of Madeira, there is almost no plant that does not thrive here and that is why seafarers and visitors have brought all kinds of plants and seeds to Madeira over the centuries. Thus, beside strelicias, angel trumpets and orchids, one also finds avocado and mango trees, papayas and figs, lemons, limes and huge rosemary bushes.
Those who like surfing will find excellent conditions in Madeira. The most famous and best surf spots are in the west of the island near Paul do Mar. Apart from that, surfers also love Ponta Pequena, a beach between Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar and Lugar de Baixo in Ponta do Sol.
For those who are looking for quietness, I recommend to visit the northern parts of the island. Many places are almost deserted. The north is rougher, wilder, more original and the coast drops so steeply and ruggedly to the sea that in many places there is barely space for settlements. The narrow coastal road winds its way between the sea and steep rocks and reminds one of tropical Hawaii. In the north, there are also bathing possibilities, for example in Seixal or Porto Moniz, even if they are "only" artificial bathing pools, as Madeira does not have any natural beaches.
These can be found on the sister island Porto Santo - accessible by propeller plane or ferry and an ideal day trip. Porto Santo, 42km from Funchal, has beautiful sandy beaches. In addition to a refreshing swim in the Atlantic Ocean, the Ponta da Calheta café-bar invites you to have lunch with delicious scallops, prawns, octopus and fine side dishes.
Madeira also offers an excellent range of fish and seafood thanks to its proximity to the sea. Grilled limpets, tuna steak and black scabbardfish with banana are just some of the regional delicacies. But also meat lovers do not miss out on the flower island: Espetada, a beef skewer spiced with laurel and sea salt and skewered on a laurel branch, tastes delicious. In the summer, many festivals are held in the villages of Madeira, where people have a piece of fresh meat cut, look for a branch and grill the espetada themselves over an open fire. They serve fried corn and a typical flat bread of the region with herb butter and garlic. And of course a glass of wine is always part of the meal. Madeira's wines are world-famous. Usually enriched with a little brandy, they have matured in barrels for at least five years.
And what you must not miss: a basket sledge ride in the alleys of Funchal. On a two-kilometre-long track and at a speed of up to 40 km/h, tourists are chauffeured down the mountain at breakneck speed through the narrow alleyways and curves of Funchal. In the year 1758, a Briton had introduced the first sledge. At that time, to facilitate the transport of fruit and vegetables from high altitudes down to the market. Shortly afterwards, residents began to use the carros as a means of public transport. Since then, the profession of basket sledge driver has also been available, which can be learned in a four-week course. Therefore: trust the local guides, get on, hold on tight and enjoy. A unique attraction!
That'll get you there:
nonstop with Edelweiss
How long am I supposed to go:
1 - 2 weeks
Best time to travel:
all year round
Hiking, basket sledge ride, Porto Santo, surfing
Overnight stay tip:
Belmond Reid's Palace