Discovered by the Portuguese in 1419, Madeira is noted for its beauty and enjoys a warm early summer climate, with its water warmed by the Gulf Stream. The island is really the tip of a huge mountain protruding from the ocean beneath. The interior is very fertile, originally volcanic, with jagged ridges and peaks rising to two thousand metres. Deep ravines lead down to unspoilt fishing villages.

The island is sometimes known as the floating garden of the Atlantic. The warm climate allows all kinds of richly coloured flowers such as bougainvillea, hibiscus and orchids. There are several gardens to visit, including three Botanical Gardens in Funchal. The famous Madeira wine is produced from terraced rows of vines, alongside banana and sugar plantations.

Many of the hotels and quintas (traditional old family manor houses) offer a high standard of friendly, good old fashioned waiter service. Cost of meals and drinks are generally inexpensive compared with many other destination_blogs.

Two thirds of the island is a designated National Park, with 600 miles of walks, many along the famous Levadas, the mini canals used as irrigation systems to distribute water to the drier south. A drive around the island is challenging but rewarding, with stunning views, particularly around Santana.

Funchal

Madeira’s capital, Funchal, where half the population lives, has a stunning coastal setting as well as a natural harbour which includes a seafront promenade lined with restaurants and bars.

The centre is crammed with chic clothes and specialist shops. There is also a 16th century cathedral, the old town with the best of Funchal’s bars and restaurants, old Custom House, the Palacio de Sao Lourenco and various museums.

Many of the hotels and quintas are around Funchal, some in elevated positions, with gradients and hills to match. A number of properties offer complimentary transport to the centre and there is a good, reasonably priced bus service and taxis. Many clients hire a car for some of the time.

Porto Santo

Lying around 40km northeast of Madeira, Porto Santo is an ideal island for anyone looking for a quiet, peaceful beach holiday in an unspoilt location, with its all-year dry climate, clear warm ocean water and a 9km sandy beach. For golfers, there are two 18-hole courses and walking is also popular.

Most of the activity is centred on the small town of Vila Baleira, with a few beach hotels and restaurants. The local museum records the marriage of Christopher Columbus to the Governor’s daughter.

Two-centre holidays can be arranged as the islands are only two and a half hours apart by ferry. There is now a direct flight from London to Porto Santo.

Photo: Cliffs Madeira (visitportugal) – 16

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