The island’s geography alone is enchanting: volcanic peaks are feathered with pine forests; on the fringes, most beaches like Calheta are blessed with golden sand, except for Ribeira Brava – a litmus strip of striking black volcanic grain and pastel-blue ocean.
These beaches set a relaxed scene for Paradise Found, but Madeira is a theatre of adventure deserving exploration. You’ll be ‘living levada loca!’ navigating through the elaborate system of 16th century mini-canals (or levadas), built to irrigate rainfall. Weaving through forests and waterfalls, these walks will delight leisurely amblers while ardent ramblers will be rewarded with astonishing valley-views, particularly from Pico Ruivo’s soaring summit. However, the caves of São Vicente could well be the highlight of your holiday.
From the flowering laurel to the hillside villas and chapels, white is a trending colour. In Funchal – Madeira’s untarnished urbane capital – you can sip a balmy latte while snacking on ‘Bolo do Caco’ bread enriched with garlic, parsley and butter. Obviously, you can’t leave Madeira without a bottle of its fortified finest and there’re plenty of wine lodges to visit including The Old Blandy (in Funchal) which educates with tastings and talks. It’s a great way to wind down after a traditional toboggan ride, if feeling audacious enough.
If Madeira is considered small, then Porto Santo is microscopic, although Columbus deemed this island fit for his marriage. Contrasting to the predominate calculus matter found here are the intense hues of Funchal, where a flora-filled exuberance compensates for the lack of golden beaches. Here, thousands of vibrant, exotic plants vie for attention, exemplified by the luscious likes of Jardim Botânico, the city’s pride-and-joy, and the nearby Monte Palace Gardens. Below, the ‘Mercado dos Lavradores’ is a bustling hive of activity, with many vendors still donning traditional Madeiran garb.
It’s fitting that the national flower is the Bird of Paradise here; whether inhaling eucalyptus in the woodlands, caressing expertly-hand-made embroidery, sipping a glass or five of world-renowned vinho, watching whales or simply enjoying a soundtrack of melodic fado; all the senses will be in for a stimulating rollercoaster ride through paradise.