We are very happy to finally share with you some inspiration on the islands of Madeira. As we didn't make it to Madeira yet (it's a top priority on our list for 2020/21), we asked our friend Ana Lobo, founder of My Bookpack Portugal, to share with you their impressions and knowledge. Thank you Ana for writing this beautiful and personal article and for sharing your passion of discovering Portugal with us
Madeira was nowhere near the top of my list for a long time. Mainly because I had a misconception about the destination – I always thought of it as a (not my type) resort-like holiday destination.
However, while I was traveling in São Miguel (Azores) a few years back, a traveler mentioned Madeira was the most beautiful place he had ever been in Europe and showed me a few photos which surprised me.
Back then I was about to start my travel planning project in Portugal, so I immediately started researching about the archipelago and it quickly became a top priority. I understood the potential it had as a destination and I wanted to explore the island myself to be able to help others do it.
It is true many tourists head to Madeira and lay down in one of the many resorts without moving around much and that the area filled with seafront resorts can be a bit scary for those into more authentic travel experiences like we are. But it is also true that with the right plan and tips you will soon discover Madeira offers a fascinating mix.
Here is why we loved Madeira island so much.
Fascinating Mix of Landscapes
Madeira Island is probably the place with the most diverse landscapes in a short distance I have ever been to. Within a 10-minute drive you can go from a black sand beach to a desert-like landscape, then to a forest with lush vegetation and finally to a mountainous terrain. During one week I had an amazing holiday with very different things to see and do day after day.
Another big surprise was the city of Funchal, Madeira´s capital city. Its city center is lovely, with beautiful facades and historical buildings. There are excellent restaurants and bars that are a must for foodies like us. Gastronomy is actually quite different from mainland Portugal as there are lots of tropical fruits influencing the most typical dishes. Madeira is also known for its beautiful gardens, some of which among the most beautiful in the World. In fact, just by wandering around the city you will see a huge variety of beautiful and colourful flowers, which makes it a delight to walk around. Another surprising aspect is the street art not only in Funchal but also in other locations around the island.
Swim all around
Although there are only a few sandy beaches, there are great swimming spots all around the island and guess what? The water temperature is much better (meaning warmer) than in Portugal mainland. It is literally the place where you should always have a swimming suit in the car to go for a dip during a road trip or at the end of a hike.
For the ones who must have some relaxing days on a sandy beach, good news is Porto Santo island, with a paradise-like beach, is just a couple of hours away by ferry.
Levadas are irrigation channels that were built all around the island to bring water down the mountains to all the madeirenses. Nowadays most of the hiking trails in the island follow these levadas and offer stunning landscapes. There are many options with various lengths and difficulty levels. As I was pregnant back then, I went for easier ones. However, the rest of the group also did the challenging hike between the two highest peaks which is a definitely a rewarding experience thanks to the incredible views along the way.
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Text and pictures by Ana Lobo, Founder of My Bookpack Portugal