Volcanic, sub-tropical and densely forested, the island of Madeira feels tailor-made for adventure. Its compact size gives you plenty of time to dart around its beautiful terrain, and still be back at your hotel in time for dinner and cocktails. Here are five ways to embrace your adventurous side in the capital Funchal and beyond.
Swim in a volcano
Funchal has made up for its lack of sandy beaches with some inventive swimming options. Take the natural pools at Doca do Cavacas. These saltwater baths attached to the rocky, volcanic coastline offer a dramatic – and guaranteed molten-lave-free – backdrop for your dip.
Plummet in a wicker basket
It's Madeira's number one touristy thing to do, but we challenge you not to squeal with delight after heading up into the clouds on a cable-car ride to the village of Monte. There, you’ll find a novel way to descend – carros de cesto, aka ‘tobogganing’ in wicker baskets, steered by two boater-clad drivers.
For a boat trip that is anything but ordinary, climb aboard the Bonita da Madeira, a 23m wooden ship that makes excursions to the beautiful Desertas Islands – part of the wider Madeira archipelago and, as you might expect from the name, exhilaratingly deserted.
Take a hike
Madeira’s mountainous terrain is crisscrossed with scenic ‘levadas’ – walkable man-made canals that islanders constructed centuries ago to harvest the mist from plants at high altitudes and channel water into the villages below. The views from the narrow paths are spectacular and just the right level of scary.
Have a whale of a time
Love whales? Hang out with our colossal cetacean friends almost all year round in the waters just off of Madeira – pilot, sperm, fin and Bryde’s species are all common sightings, as are sea birds and giant pods of dolphins that frequently lark about for everybody’s amusement.You can book a tour with Madeira Wind Birds.