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Located way out in the Atlantic Ocean, the subtropical island group of Madeira is a region of Portugal. The archipelago is made up of two main populated islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, with a number of other smaller islands with no permanent residents. With a mild climate throughout the year and plenty of rainfall, Madeira is a patchwork of brilliant green and is often known as the ‘Garden Island’. Funchal, the largest city and capital, is a charming place with a distinctly Portuguese vibe. Expect whitewashed stone houses, incredible seafood and friendly locals. The island’s interior is ruggedly beautiful, with vast vegetation-covered mountains towering over the small coastal fishing villages.
Funchal - Named for the abundance of fennel (funcho) on the island, this one time important port city is the capital and still retains incredible beauty from its 17th century peak.
Santa Cruz - A small city on Madeira island with a rather wonderful golf course.
Machico - Madeira’s second biggest city offers a great starting point for the mountain tracks and, should you not fancy the hike, is the location of a huge annual food festival showcasing traditional island cuisine.
Porto Santo - The smaller of the two main islands in the archipelago, Porto Santo is located around 27 miles north of Madeira. Home to a large coastal plain, the island also boasts some beautiful sandy beaches.
The Garden Island is home to an incredible array of plants and flowers, with a moist climate keeping things colourful all year round. Visit the Funchal Botanical Garden or Orchid Garden to truly appreciate the flora of this fertile island. Madeira is also known for its rugged hills and cliffs that cascade down into the water. The Cabo Girao is one of the world’s highest ocean cliffs, at a massive 590 metres above sea level. Hike up this, or a number of other impressive viewpoints including Pico dos Barcelos and Monte. Elsewhere on the island there are the 15th century Levadas, a system of aqueducts that carried water from the mountains to farmland.
The island’s mountains provide incredible opportunities for hiking and trekking, with a huge network of established paths and trails traversing from coast to coast. Ponta de Sao Lourenco on Madeira’s east coast is a nature reserve that offers stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as being home to diverse plant species. Descend from the rocky cliffs to sea level and a beautiful sandy beach where you can swim. The island is also renowned for its golf courses, many of which sit on cliff tops overlooking the ocean. Sea kayaking around the enchanted coves and bays of the island is another great way to explore. With fishing, diving and sailing all also available, there’s no shortage of ways to spend your time on Madeira.