Whilst Madeira might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of bucket-list locations, these small islands are quietly making a name for themselves. Set off the coast of northwest Africa, Madeira boasts sunny coasts and atmospherically cloudy highlands, along with a vibrant culture and delicious cuisine that is influenced both by the sea and fresh produce.
Additionally, Madeira is of course famous for the Madeira alcohol, a fortified wine that ranges from dry to sweet and is produced by repeatedly heating the wine and then aging it in order to develop the flavour profile.
If that hasn’t already got your mouth watering, take a look at three more reasons that Madeira deserves a place on your bucket list.
Adventure for all seasons
In the spring, for those who love the water, look to hire a canoe or kayak, whilst the water is calm and good for beginners. For those who want slightly more of an adrenaline boost, join a kayaking trip with a guide, who can show you to the faster paced areas.
The summer brings the opportunity to go coasteering, where participants work their way around the coastline, jumping into the warm water below, with an official guide. If you want to get in the water but aren’t keen on jumping into the sea, you can take a trip to the Valley of the Nuns, and swim in the natural spring of Poço dos Chefes. The pool was made deeper by the locals and can be reached by public transport from Funchal in under an hour, making it perfect for those visiting the islands without a car.
In autumn, go up the Monte Hill in the cable car, and make your way back down via the more adventurous route – toboggan! Not one for the faint-hearted, your driver will whisk you down the twists and turns before you return to Funchal. The mild winters suit the adventurous traveller, too, as they’re perfect for hiking and mountain biking.
The botanical gardens
Even in autumn, Madeira offers comfortable average temperatures of 14-20°C, meaning that you won’t be confined to the indoors for your whole trip. In the summer, for those who love the heat, temperatures soar, reaching towards 25°C.
Madeira’s mild temperature has another advantage too – it creates the perfect climate for its many botanical gardens. There are six main parks: Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Madeira Botanical Garden, Orchid Garden, Palheiro Gardens, Santa Catarina Park and Municipal Garden. Monte Palace and Madeira Botanical Gardens are the most famous, so if you’re tight for time, these are the not-to-miss spots, but all offer a range of interesting and beautiful plants.
The volcanic swimming pools
One of Madeira’s natural gems is the famous lava pools at Porto Moniz. These pools are made of volcanic rock and jut into the sea itself, so they fill naturally with salt water. There are two areas: a family and child-friendly pool with disabled access, which is lifeguarded and has steps, and a more natural area that hasn’t been modified. The pools are open all year and the entrance cost is €1,50.
To sum up
Wherever you go in Madeira, there is plenty to do for every type of traveller. Therefore, it is a perfect addition to any travel bucket list and needs to be visited again and again at different times of year to truly see all the islands have to offer.