This floating garden of verdant vegetation is the home of orchids, anthuriums and birds of paradise, as well as many other flowers with unforgettable aromas and unexpected colours. White clouds drift across skies of blue while, below, boats plough their way through the deep blue sea, contrasting sharply with the green of the island’s forests and mountains.
The island of Porto Santo invites you to spend some time sunbathing before diving into the clear transparent waters of its vast sandy beach, running uninterrupted over a total of nine kilometres. The calm sea, with its gently lapping waves, is ideal for such sports as sailing, windsurfing or water skiing. After this bout of personal therapy, you should head for Funchal and make your way deep inland on the island of Madeira, where some truly unforgettable adventures lie in wait for you. Have you ever imagined walking through a fantastic forest, many millions of years old, where the trees and shrubs never shed a single leaf? You can realise this dream in the world’s largest and best preserved evergreen forest, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
Another unique attraction is the series of irrigation channels known as “levadas” that are a result of the enormous project of building an irrigation system for the whole island. With a total length of roughly 1,400 kilometres, these channels form a network of pathways that you will want to follow and explore, discovering some truly breathtaking landscapes in an unforgettable encounter with nature in its purest form. Feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins when you accept the challenge of a somewhat more daring climb to the top of Pico Ruivo and Pico do Areeiro. You’ll find yourself walking above the clouds with the whole island below you at your feet.
Enjoy some magnificent panoramic views as you try the unusual experience of a cable car, helicopter or even hot-air balloon ride over the island. In Funchal, visit the cathedral, convents, museums, churches, chapels and fortresses. If you can’t resist bright and happy colours, then walk into the market and wend your way amidst the stalls displaying fruits and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and smells. As you spend your time touring the island, you will find various statues erected in honour of historical figures such as João Gonçalves Zarco, the discoverer of Madeira, and Christopher Columbus, who lived for a while on Porto Santo and whose house you can visit. In this seaside garden, the local gastronomy will delight visitors with its sophisticated dishes of fish and exotic fruit. The famous Madeira wine, so greatly appreciated all around the world, is another of this island’s great treasures.
And what about Madeira as seen from the sea? In the marina, where each day large cruise ships can be seen sailing in and out of the harbour, there are boats you can hire to take you out into the Atlantic Ocean and all around the archipelago, including the remote islands known as the “Ilhas Selvagens” (the “wild islands” and the refuge of the extremely rare monk seals) and the “Ilhas Desertas” (the “deserted islands”, which are a genuine sanctuary for sea birds).
Rounding off all these pleasures is a calendar of events that includes, amongst other delights, Carnival parades, the annual flower festival and the Atlantic Festival, composed of firework displays and musical concerts. The year’s high point is, however, the magnificent firework display held to mark the beginning of the New Year.
The inhabitants of Madeira are warm and friendly people, given to smiling all year round, and then there is the mild climate that makes it seem as though it is forever spring, turning this into the perfect place for resting both mind and body. Indulge yourself in the island’s sophisticated spas with natural swimming-pools, saunas, thalassotherapy, hydromassage and Turkish baths. Here, in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, where there is no need for either time or timetables, the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere of Madeira awaits you.