Situated around 300 miles off the coast of Africa and 620 miles from mainland Europe, the Madeira archipelago is one of the most exotic short-haul locations accessible to British holidaymakers, with a lush sub-tropical climate and plenty of stunning natural beauty to discover. Verdant forests, crystal clear waters and dramatic coastlines are just some of the attractions on offer here.
First stumbled upon by a Portuguese fleet under the command of Infante D Henrique in 1419, the archipelago is considered to be the first major find of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. It consists of the two inhabited islands of Madeira and Porto Santo, as well as a number of smaller uninhabited isles known collectively as the Desertas. In this article we’ll focus on the attractions that can be enjoyed on the main landmass after which the archipelago is named, and if you find yourself suddenly stimulated to book a trip to Madeira then you’ll be able to do so through Monarch Holidays.
Without further ado, here’s a look at what’s on offer in Madeira.
With its quaint forested mountains and huge variety of flora and fauna, there is certainly no shortage of natural beauty spots on the island of Madeira. One place worth checking out is the Curral de Freiras, or Nun’s Valley, which is a small isolated village nestled among towering peaks where locals live off the crops they sow. Taking a hike up one of the nearby mountains is well worth the effort, thanks to the amazing views that can be enjoyed from the summit.
Commonly referred to as the floating garden in the Atlantic, Madeira is famous for its incredible variety of tropical plants, and these can be best enjoyed by paying a visit to one of its many parks and gardens. At the turn of the century, the island’s capital Funchal was declared European Flowering City 2000, beating off competition from a number of other locations across the continent which had applied for the honour.
Another popular activity among holidaymakers here is to take a stroll along the famous Levadas. These are aqueducts created by the Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, and were forged by carving tunnels into cliffs in order to divert water from the rainy northern territory to the rest of the island. Running through mountains and forests, these stunning waterways – of which there are more than 2,500 km on Madeira – are quite a sight, and following them is perhaps the best way to get a taste of the island’s wonderful landscapes.
Scuba diving is a big deal in Madeira, with the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean – which fluctuates between 18 and 24 degrees C depending on the time of year – teeming with wildlife. Among the species that can be seen here are manta rays, monkfish and barracudas, while those who want to stay above the surface will also be able to take part in a spot of whale and dolphin watching, with large numbers of cetaceans found around the archipelago throughout the year.
Garajau’s Natural Reserve – the only marine reserve in Portugal – is the place to go to catch a glimpse of Madeira’s submarine environment in all its glory.
With black volcanic sand surrounding much of the island, a trip to one of Madeira’s beaches is quite an experience and provides some seriously striking scenery. There are also a number of pebble beaches, although if it’s luxury and relaxation you’re after then Porto Santo is the place for you.
With its 9 km of golden sand, it’s among the most peaceful and picturesque spots on the island. The sand here is even believed to have therapeutic properties and has been used to alleviate pain caused by rheumatism as well as to aid the recovery of broken bones.