Madeira is well-known for its beautiful landscapes, warm climate and its friendly people. The island blooms with colour everywhere, thanks to sweet-smelling flowers bursting from the many gardens, trailing from balconies and planted in brightly coloured pots outside homes and shops. Madeira is a haven for those who love the outdoors. Leave your flip-flops by the pool and put on some hiking boots to explore Madeira’s hidden interior, by walking the levada routes or hiking the hills to experience the fairytale-like landscapes, crashing waterfalls, lush laurissilva forests and spectacular mountain vistas. If that sounds too much like hard work, there is so much more to Madeira for those who want to do things at their own pace. Relax on one of the pretty sandy beaches, or while away a day exploring the diverse capital city, Funchal. Football fans should enjoy the CR7 museum, which is dedicated to Madeira’s most famous footballer – Cristiano Ronaldo. There you’ll find trophies, medals, photographs, statues and memorabilia tracking his career. A visit to Funchal wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Blandy’s Wine Lodge, where you can have a tour around the vineyard and taste some of the wines that have been made here for over 200 years.
“With so much history waiting to be uncovered throughout the cobblestone streets of Madeira, you will feel just like one of the early explorers discovering the island and its beauty for the first time.”
Levadas were built in Madeira in the 16th century to allow farmers to irrigate the farmlands and to provide access to water for the islanders. Today, they make beautiful walking routes and there are so many to choose from, so it doesn’t matter where on the island you’ve made home for your holiday. One of the prettiest routes to walk is the Levada do Alecrim, also known as Lakes of Madeira. You will pass rock pools and cascading waterfalls, which make for a cooling dip in the warmer months, lush green landscapes and beautiful indigenous flora and fauna.
2. Madeira Botanical Garden
For first time visitors to Madeira, a visit to the Madeira Botanical Garden in Funchal is a must. Exotic plants and flowers from around the world took to the island’s climate so well that they now grow freely here, so there is plenty to see, with over 2,000 different plants in this botanical garden alone. The gardens are also home to Louro Bird Park which has over 300 species, including blue and yellow macaw, cockatoos and parrots – it makes for a really colourful day out. The garden’s other attractions include a Natural History Museum, amphitheatre and café.
3. Madeira Wicker Work
One of Madeira’s main exports is wicker, so bringing one of these handmade products home as a souvenir will make a great memento of your holiday. The local willow trees provide the rods, which are cut, peeled and then boiled making them more elastic and easier to manipulate into the likes of baskets and chairs. Camacha Wicker Factory is the main outlet for these products and even has a workshop where you can see the talented weavers creating their masterpieces.
4. Cable Car
From Funchal you can hop onto the cable car to take you to the hilltop municipal of Monte, but rather than returning via that mode of transport, there’s a much more exhilarating way to get down – a wicker toboggan ride. You will hurtle down the hill at round 30 miles per hour in a wicker basket, pushed and steered along by a couple of locals. This was once a traditional way to transport goods and people down to Funchal quickly and efficiently. These days, the Monte-to-Funchal toboggan run is a fun, perfectly safe, and truly exciting experience, so a must-do for visitors.
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