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Stone-paved path with steps and rope guidelines leading up to craggy peak with views of mountains in the distance and sharp drop off

Sense of place: Madeira

Discover a world where bathing in natural pools, trekking through vibrant rainforests and reclining on soft, black-sand beaches are the norm. Madeira is a must-do trip for any adventurer, and here’s why...


Closer to Morocco than to its parent country of Portugal, Madeira is a European island with a distinctly exotic character. Subtropical climes preside over the mountain-clad, rainforest-strewn archipelago, promising everything from 1,800m-high hiking to mind-blowing deep-sea diving.

TASTE… Sizzling espetadas

These beef skewers are seasoned with salt, garlic and bay leaves to create a succulent, mouth-watering culinary experience. For something more adventurous, go for the unpretty but beautifully flavoursome black scabbardfish, the island’s most prized catch. To experience the broadest range of eatery options, stroll along Funchal’s coastline. Try to get a table at Il Gallo d’Oro, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant helmed by executive chef Benoît Sinthon, and be sure to grab some bolo do caco – local bread slathered with generous amounts of garlic butter or meatier toppings.

Bolo do caco bread on a wooden platter with a dollop of garlic butter in a sphere on a wooden spoon

Bolo do caco bread with a dollop of garlic butter

SMELL… The exotic fragrances of the Botanical Garden

Home to more than 2,000 varieties of fancy flora, Funchal’s botanical gardens are divided into seven sections, ranging from the island’s endemic and indigenous plants to medicinal and aromatic offerings, not to mention a bird park. Enjoy the flowers’ sweet aromas before heading to the on-site bar overlooking the grounds, which is perfectly positioned to take in views of both the gardens and coastline.

FEEL… The rich textures of Madeira’s embroidery scene

Introduced in 1784 by an English family who settled there, embroidery is a significant part of Madeira’s heritage. The island has become known for its intricate textiles, which are hand-sewn by local workers. Patterns are printed on to sheets of fabric, then sent out to homes across the island, where locals painstakingly stitch over the prints to create exquisite patterns for tablecloths, bedlinen and all manner of other textiles.

HEAR… The waves gently lapping over the soft sand of Seixal beach

Madeira has an abundance of beaches, and Seixal’s is easily the most striking. Made up of incredibly soft, black sand and surrounded by mountains and lush green bush, it’s the perfect place to take some time out and kick back. Top off the trip with a visit to the natural pools just around the corner to enjoy bathing in this mesmerising environment without the distraction of sea currents.

Aerial shot of Seixal beach which is a craggy coastline with rocks and outcrops. Natural pools can be seen in the bright blue sea. The land rises steeply from the coast up the mountain sides

Seixal beach has natural pools and waterfalls to explore

SEE… The panoramic views from the peak of Pico Ruivo

On a clear day, the entirety of Madeira is visible from coast to coast but, should the weather obscure the view, there’s still plenty to see on the way up to the island’s highest point, including the red-legged partridge and the plump Madeira firecrest bird. Choose from two ascension routes: one 12km trail for the confident hiker that scales steep slopes, sharp edges and tunnels, and one that takes half the time and is easier to navigate, climbing up 300m over the 3km course.