Pushed by volcanic forces four miles from the sea floor and a mile into the warm trade winds of the North Atlantic Ocean, are the dramatic cliffs and spires of Madeira. A place of legend since Roman and Viking seafarers first gazed upon these cliffs, Its fertile slopes were eventually claimed by Portugal in 1419 and settled soon after.
Madeira Island | Portugal
The volcanic activity may have settled down millennia ago. But rich soils and spring climate of the island means it explodes in lush vegetation through out the year.
Capital of Madeira
Capital of this island is Funchal. It was named after the wild fennel which once carpeted its hillsides. Population of the city is just over one-hundred thousand and the it is situated on the island’s Southern coast. This is the island’s only true city.
This beautiful Island seems to be closer to Africa than it is to Portugal. Anyway in Funchal, the textures of Lisbon are never far away. Walk streets paved with patterned stone work that shows the spirit of Portuguese pride and their rich culture. You can explore ancient churches and homes which have endured German U-boat attacks, pirate raids and earthquakes.
Fabulous Museums and Botanical Gardens
There are a lots of fabulous museums in Funchal. For nature lovers, the finest exhibits can be found outside.
Set high on a sunny slope over the city, The Botanical Gardens in in this island exhibit the plants which thrive across the its diverse biomes. The gardens feature rare species native to the island, as well as hundreds more brought here by green-thumbed sailors and settlers throughout the ages. Just two miles away at the Palheiro Gardens, stretch your legs along trails that wind through sweetly-scented woodlands and exquisite flower beds centuries in the making. As Funchal developed in the 1800s, wealthy residents moved further up the hillsides to escape the noise and smell of the bustling port.
Seeking for Serenity
If you’re looking for a little serenity, go to Monte Palace Tropical Garden by riding a cable car. The garden features olive trees. If we go back to Roman times, tranquil Japanese Gardens and mosaics represents great moments in Portuguese history.
While the formal gardens are impressive, it’s often the more practical plots that steal the show. From Funchal, head west along the coast to the neighbouring town of Câmara de Lobos, where grapes and bananas ripen on terraces and the fruits of sea dry in the salty breeze. Câmara de Lobos is the gateway to Cabo Girão, one of the world’s mightiest cliffs.
Take a deep breath and step out upon the glass cliff-walk, the highest in all of Europe. And yes, those are crops down there; Madeira’s farmers will plant wherever the soil is good, and the growing conditions at the base of Cabo Girão are the most highly prized on the island. You’ll find plenty of colossal views just a fifteen-minute drive east of Funchal too.
At Garajau, follow the steady gaze of The Sacred Heart Statue out to sea and watch divers far below enjoying the undersea gardens of the marine reserve. If you feel like joining them, ride the cable car down to the clear waters below.
Madeira Beach and the Cliffs
While this place certainly can’t lay claim to the world’s sandiest beaches, its dramatic cliffs, warm waters and coastal towns more than compensate. Just around the corner in Canico, Reis Magos Beach is the perfect place to chill out and enjoy a little reflexology. You’ll find plenty of places to cool off in neighbouring Santa Cruz too.
After your swim, follow the promenade beneath the battlements of Fort São Fernando, past palm trees and pastry shops. And into the whitewashed embrace of the old town. The modern ring road and tunnel system string together coastal towns and beaches. These each one has a little different from the last.
Madeira Island’s Sunniest Spot
And if the roar sound of breakers echoing off the cliffs is your idea of pleasure, consume a night or two nights at Paul do Mar. While the south coast gives the best sunshine, the north coast gives plenty of drama & adventure. Feel the potential of the wild Atlantic in the natural swimming pools belongs to Porto Moniz.
From the city of Seixal, hike the levadas into mist-covered interior of this island.
Island’s Underground World
While at Sao Vincente, slide into caves and lava tubes & learn about the volcanic forces that shaped this island. Explore Madeira’s underground world. Then treat yourself to a blow up of pure Atlantic air at Ponta de São Lourenço, the island’s eastern-most point.
Follow the pathway along this narrow peninsula which dips like a tail of the dragon into the sea, only to resurface repeatedly in the far-off deserted islands. Once you’ve explored the beach, head to the mountains where the landscape becomes even more extreme. Less than an hours drive from Funchal is Pico do Arieiro, the third highest peak here.
Even at this harsh altitude where the views stretch away forever, vegetation finds a home amid the nooks and crannies. From here, experienced hikers can head off along the knife-edged trails to even higher peaks, the same peaks that guided Portuguese explorers to this island six hundred years ago.
When those explorers first stepped ashore on Madeira’s southern shores, they dropped to their knees in grateful prayer and the outpost of Machico was born.
Just a few decades later, church bells echoed off the newly terraced slopes, Forts guarded the town from passing pirates, and mills crushed sugar cane into liquid gold. Each Spring, the citizens of Machico and towns all across here decorate their streets with floral carpets. They give thanks for their island’s riches and bounty. Once you’ve bathed in Madeira’s waters, walked its gardens and touched its clouds, you’ll be giving thanks too.
Source : Expedia