Five reasons to visit Madeira
With a year-round temperate climate – with averages of 20°C – Madeira makes the ideal holiday spot whatever time of year you’re planning to get away, delivering summer fun, winter sun and everything in between
Back to nature
Thanks to its mid-Atlantic location, this Portuguese island enjoys a subtropical climate, with warm air travelling over from nearby North Africa boosting its summer temperatures to a satisfyingly sun-kissed 25°C or higher, plus bracing ocean breezes ripe for riding the surf and enough annual rainfall to keep its hills and forests green and lush. Talking of forests, Madeira is home to some of the oldest in the world. The protected Laurissilva, found in the Parque Natural da Madeira, is believed to be up to 20 million years old – and the trees you’ll discover on any walk through the dense, lush vegetation date back centuries.
With such diverse flora and fauna, no wonder Madeira is a hiker’s paradise, with routes ranging from easy to adventurous, coastal to vertiginous. For a tranquil trek with views of coast and countryside, try the Vereda das Funduras route – an 8.7km stretch that takes in varied terrain and offers the opportunity to see a mix of indigenous plants and animals. The mountains are not just for hikers, of course. If you prefer two wheels, mountain bike trails are plentiful, and you can even try your hand at canyoning or trail running. Water babies are catered for, too, with impressive swells sure to satisfy any surfing palate, plus scuba diving and watersports activities near Porto Santo.
For adventures of an altogether different kind, make your way up the hill in the capital of Funchal and brave the famous Monte toboggan rides. Strap yourself into a wicker sleigh and let expert drivers transport you – at speed – to the bottom of the hill. With only their rubber-soled shoes as brakes, this one’s not for the faint hearted, but it’s an absolute Madeiran rite of passage. Similarly, no trip to Madeira would be complete without tasting its famous fortified wine. Book a vineyard tour to learn about how it’s made and enjoy tastings as you explore the volcanic orchards.
What’s on in Madeira
Wine aside, the island’s cultural calendar is filled with events. The streets come alive in February with parades at the annual carnival celebrations, while May brings blooms of all colours and varieties in the Madeira Flower Festival (n.b., due to Covid, the 2021 flower festival is taking place in October). Music’s on the cards, come summer, with both Funchal Jazz and Summer Opening festivals bringing the city’s Santa Catarina Park to life with performances from local and international artists. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the scenes of a Hollywood blockbuster when the Columbus Festival comes to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo in September. A re-enactment – complete with sailing ship and traditional dress – of the explorer’s visits to the islands – is followed by a procession through the streets and a 16th-century market to round off celebrations. Here in autumn? Don’t miss the island’s Wine Festival, where food, music and viniferous delights come together in one big celebration. The year comes to a close in spectacular style here, with fireworks lighting up the skies in an extraordinary display on New Year’s Eve.
Where to stay in Madeira
Whether you’re looking for chic city boltholes or relaxing beach hotels, Madeira has it covered. Those wanting privacy, harbour views, indulgent spa facilities and stellar dining credentials should look no further than Reid’s Palace by Belmond. Don’t miss its Michelin-star William restaurant offering the best of the island’s local ingredients served up with contemporary European flair. For something a little more rural, check into pink-hued BIO Hotel – Hotel Quinta da Serra, located 820m above sea level and nestled among the lush green landscape. If you’d prefer to be in the heart of the action, try the Sé Boutique Hotel in the shadow of Funchal Cathedral. It features 54 bright, design-led rooms and arguably the bar with the best view on the island.
Take your travel to the next level with American Express
Find out how its Accelerating Business Card can take you further, faster
Photo journal: Gibraltar
Sweeping beaches, hidden caves and a confluences of cultures make Gibraltar an alluring destination
More from Europe