Best time to visit: May, June, July, August
Average high: 21˚C
Average low: 16˚C
Price of meals: 2/5
Holiday type: Adventure / Beach / Family / Romantic
Madeira is an autonomous Portuguese archipelago simply covered in colour: hot, yellow sunshine; lush green trees and bright flowers; long, sandy beaches and bright blue water. No wonder it is known as “The Floating Garden”.
The islands only have a population of about 300,000, yet every year they welcome 1.4 million tourists. The cosmopolitan capital, Funchal, is full of things to do. Holidaymakers should consider visiting the stunning botanical gardens which offer an incredible view of the city and its coast, before riding all the way down to sea level in a wicker chair guided by traditionally dressed locals in the Monte Toboggan Run.
Madeira is especially popular for its gastronomy and Madeira Wine, so dining out is always enjoyable. Couples will also not want to miss a gentle stroll beside the beautifully intricate Levadas aqueducts.
Bus tours, hire cars and taxis are all comfortable ways to explore the rocky scenery. Pico do Ariero is the island’s third-highest peak but offers some of the best landscape views. The peninsula of Ponta de São Lourenço to the east presents the perfect contrast between the volcanic rock of the island and the turquoise water around it, though the best way to understand Madeira’s geography is to venture inside its impressive São Vicente Caves.
The island is full of activities for adventurous types. Trail running, canyoning, paragliding, mountain biking and jeep safari tours are all popular favourites.
Arguably, the least populated beaches can be found on the smaller island of Porto Santo to the north. Meanwhile, those wanting to be a bit more active can use the sea winds to indulge in water sports, or explore the teeming marine wildlife via kayak, boat tour or scuba diving. After all, Madeira is a prime spot for whale and dolphin watching.
Like its Canary Island cousins to the south, Madeira is known as the Island of Eternal Spring, the Floating Garden and the Pearl of the Atlantic because of its year-round subtropical but mild climate. The north of the archipelago can get a bit cooler, but temperatures rarely drop below 10˚C on the more northerly Porto Santo Island even in the winter. The heat of being close to Africa and the Tropic of Cancer is made more bearable by the Gulf Stream and Canary Current. Rainfall is at its minimum in June, July and August.
One of the reasons that Madeira is so popular is that eating out is a little cheaper than UK while offering incredible food and drink to enjoy. A meal for one averages €6, while a three-course meal for two people can be as little as €20, although it normally averages closer to €30. Drinks are cheaper, too. Domestic and imported beer averages €2, coffee can be as cheap as 60c and is unlikely to exceed €2, while water is normally available for less than €1.
Winter need not be that gloomy time of year with dark days and wet nights. Swap the fireplace for blue skies and sunshine and the gloves and scarf for shorts and sunscreen by booking a winter getaway ...
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