This bewitching Portuguese island – perched 900km into the Atlantic off the mainland’s southwestern coast – packs an abundance of rugged adventure, enthralling culture and decadent food and wine into its compact size.
Even the pickiest of holidaymakers are spoiled for choice here. Culture enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of engaging historical sites and atmospheric open-air markets, replete with friendly vendors selling artisan wares and archaic woven wicker baskets. Foodies can fill themselves with the local staple of octopus prepared lagareiro-style in olive oil; while thrill-seekers can delight in high-octane sledding down the steep hills of the charming capital Funchal. Meanwhile football fans will be psyched to visit the CR7 museum dedicated to prodigal son Cristiano Ronaldo (although the hilariously grotesque and now-notorious bust of the footballer has been removed from his namesake airport, alas).
The volcanic outcrop also appeals to those in search of awe-inspiring landscapes: think black-sand beaches, towering peaks blanketed in laurel forests and hiking trails along the the old levadas irrigation channels punctuated with vibrant villages, all the way down to the wineries of the southern coast. Speaking of wine, Madeira's famed tipple remains fresh almost indefinitely after the cork is popped thanks to a unique winemaking process involving extreme heat and oxidisation. Not that a bottle of this delicious nectar will last long after being opened, of course.
Natural beauty, a laidback atmosphere and wine that can last for centuries – is it any wonder Madeira’s been voted Europe’s top island destination at the prestigious World Travel Awards multiple times?
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