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Madeira: Europe’s own tropical archipelago

l’Archipel de Madère et ses incontournables

5 things you cannot miss in Madeira

Choose Madeira as your next holiday destination and enjoy a range of beautiful scenery within walking distance! Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and protected by the Azores High, the archipelago is in a subtropical zone, so it enjoys mild temperatures all year round. Madeira is made up of magnificent mountainous islands with endemic vegetation. While you can explore it by car, it is best explored on foot, along the many hiking trails.

Learn about Madeira’s wonders at the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

Start your exploration of the archipelago with the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, where the landscapes of Madeira are distilled into a single garden! Enjoy getting lost in one of the most beautiful tropical gardens in the world, perched on the hills of Funchal, while admiring the view over the ocean. The surprising Monte Palace Museum is also well worth a visit. Its two permanent collections are dedicated to minerals and contemporary Zimbabwean sculptures.

Discover the island’s best viewpoints

Setting off to find Madeira’s best viewpoints is a fun way to give your hike purpose. Found on cliffs, at the top of peaks or beside extinct volcanic craters, they showcase the wide variety of the island’s landscapes. While some, such as Miradouro do Véu da Noiva and Miradouro dos Balcões, are widely known, others are still local secrets, including Miradouro da Raposeira and Boca da Encumeada.

Try out a unique form of hiking by following the levadas

Levadas are irrigation channels that run all over the main island. The Portuguese started digging them back in the 16th century to transport water from the northwest to the rest of the island, mainly to supply the sugar cane fields. Today, they make up a hiking network that’s over 1,000 kilometres long!

Levada do Norte: this 65-km levada is found at an altitude of 550 metres. It follows the southern slope of the Ribeira de Serra Agua valley, providing stunning views from a steep hillside over 550 metres above the valley floor. Its northern route crosses three tunnels nearly 1 kilometre long.

Levada das 25 Fontes: treat yourself to an easy hike through the laurel forest of Madeira. Enjoy magnificent valley views and wild waterfalls nestled in the heart of the mountains.

l’Archipel de Madère et ses incontournables

Embark on a culinary journey with Madeiran cuisine

The archipelago’s inhabitants whip up unique dishes based on local ingredients, which bring flavours you won’t find anywhere else. Treat yourself to the tropical fruit grown in Madeira, such as bananas, guava, cherimoya and passion fruit. Savour sweet potato flatbread (bolo do caco) and local shellfish such as limpets, tuna and other fish caught off the coast. And don’t forget to try Madeira wine, a natural fortified wine that the Portuguese have been producing since the 15th century.

Madeira: a wine infused with history

Although Madeira’s wine industry dates back to the discovery of the archipelago by the Portuguese in 1419, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the “estufagem” ageing process was invented, which is now the main feature of winemaking in Madeira. The fortified wine was a favourite of many historical figures, including Winston Churchill and American Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Shakespeare even mentioned it way back in 1598 in his play Henry IV!

See marine animals in their natural habitat in the Atlantic Ocean

The archipelago is one of the best places in the world to see large marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. Local agencies regularly organise boat trips that respect the environment and the animals. If you enjoy scuba diving, set off to explore the Madeiran seabed, which is remarkably well-preserved and home to many different types of fish. The island of Porto Santo is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where you might be lucky enough to spot Mediterranean monk seals and loggerhead sea turtles.

Photos credits : © Istock

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