There are very few good reasons for me to get up at 3am. Luckily, catching a flight is one of them, especially to a destination as beautiful as Madeira.
In the five days that I spent there, I went dolphin and whale spotting on a catamaran, travelled to the north of the island over the mountains (I thoroughly recommend this), took an open-top bus tour of the capital, went on a Levada walk and took a ride on the cable-car (a great personal victory as I am absolutely petrified of heights)!
Madeira has in the last four years been twice voted as Europe’s Leading Island Destination, and twice as the World’s Leading Island Destination by the World Travel Awards, and the minute that you step off the plane it is easy to see why. Stunning views greet you every which way; look down and you see beautiful flowers, look up and there are mountains to one side and panoramic sea views the other, while chocolate box houses punctuate the verdant but volcanic landscape.
The island of Madeira is a dormant volcano (there hasn’t been any sign of activity for 180,000 years) and because of the fertile soil anything and everything grows there. Eucalyptus, banana trees, exotic flowers, cacti and aloe vera are plentiful.
The Portuguese island is a year-round tourist destination, with typically Indian summers and a New Year’s Eve fireworks show that is record breaking; of which some of our villas offer fabulous views. I’m told that the island is particularly beautiful at Christmas when the surrounding slopes and streets of Funchal are decorated with fairy lights.
No visit to Madeira would be complete without a trip to Funchal (named after fennel, which was growing abundantly in the area when the island was discovered). You can visit the famous flower market located in the old town, wander the Botanical Gardens, have a tour of Blandy’s Wine Lodge or take tea in the world-famous Reid’s Palace, where Sir Winston Churchill retreated for his painting trips. It is here that you will find the cable car…perhaps you will be braver than me and make the descent back down in a wicker basket that is physically pushed down a 4km, steep, polished, street! What an experience!
The south-west side of the island is equally as beautiful, but with the added advantage of the mountains protecting it from the climate. Although it may not have as many tourist attractions, it boasts more hours of sunshine on this side and a countryside environment. If non-touristy areas are the sort of thing that you’re looking for then I highly recommend a trip to JARDIM DO MAR. I can also recommend a trip to the fishing village of CAMARA DE LOBOS, home of the traditional poncha drink; make sure you try one, but any more than three can be lethal! It is this side of the mountains that you will find the rest of our villas.
*We have a range of villas in Madeira, traditional such as CASA RUBEN, CASA FLOR, modern such as VILLA TERRA and VILLA FABIO or a mixture of the two like the three sister villas, VILLA TORRES, CASA XAVIER or CASA TIAGO, which was custom-built and comes with a shared beach hut on an almost entirely private beach. For added luxury, be sure to check out CASA DO CARLOS, or if golfing is the aim of your holiday, book a stay in VILLA CARINA. Most of the villas offer complete privacy, all of them offer spectacular views, and all gardens have sunny spots.*
I mentioned before about the traditional poncho drink, but another delicacy you should be sure to try is the Espada; a black scabbard fish that is absolutely delicious, and not to be confused with espetada which is beef on a skewer and equally tasty. You will often find in restaurants that there is a set meal, usually including the dish of the day. Across the island this can start from as little as €6 a head, even in the capital.
But please don’t just take my word for it, be sure to fly out there and visit Madeira for yourself. Head to the north of the island and see the natural pools, spend a day at one of the man-made beaches, go scuba diving, take a walk along one of the 2,000 miles of levadas, visit the largest laurel UNESCO Heritage Site forest in Europe, but most importantly please remember to bring back some of the delicious Pasteis da Nata for me here in the Villa Select office, because I cannot find anything as good here in the UK!
A member of our Villa Select team would be delighted to create a bespoke Madeira holiday for you and yours. Call 01789 595 437 today to find out more.