When you travel in Europe, you can usually choose to go skiing in the winter, or maybe hang out on a beach in the French Riviera. Once you’ve seen a few castles though, they all start to look the same, and another beach holiday with nightclubs and a string of beach-front hotels starts to feel ho-hum. Where can you go this year that is within easy reach of mainland Europe, and affordable? Well, what about Madeira?
Madeira, what’s a Madeira?
Madeira is a beautiful Portuguese island that is located off the coast of West Africa. It is pretty easy to find. To start with, find Casablanca in Morocco and the island of Tenerife. Then, draw a line straight west into the Atlantic from Casablanca, and another line straight north of Tenerife. At the point where the two lines cross, you will find the island of Madeira. Madeira is an archipelago comprised of three islands, Madeira, Porto Santo and Desertas. The island has been under Portuguese control since 1420, and it shows in the architecture and in the culture that permeates every corner of the island.
What makes Madeira different?
Many people have asked me what is it that makes Madeira so different in my eyes. There are quite a few things that make it stand out. There are the usual things such as the lovely Madeira wines, the flowers, the famous embroideries, but in my opinion it goes much deeper than that. You can enjoy a Madeiran wine anywhere, and you can buy flowers at the shop down the road, right? What really makes this island stand out to me is the fact that despite being an island out in the Atlantic, there are really no beaches to speak of. This lack of beaches means that the party crowd tends to skip over this as a destination and head of to Ibiza or somewhere similar. What that means is you have a stunning island covered in eucalyptus forests, ringed by ocean cliffs, and a majestic string of mountains in the centre. It is a peaceful place where you can relax in one of the seaside villages, or go walking along the levadas (old aqueducts) in the mountains.
A little tip… when you’re flying into Funchal, make sure you look out the windows as you approach the runway. It is quite an experience and the runway is built on pillars extending out into the Atlantic.