Madeira is Portugal's most visited archipelago located approximately 500 km or so off the coast of West Africa in the north Atlantic Ocean and consists of three volcanic islands: Madeira Island, Porto Santo and the Desertas Islands. It also lies 400 km north of Tenerife in the Canary Islands and is the outermost region of the European Union.
The largest of the three islands that make up this stunning archipelago is Madeira Island. In turn, it is the archipelago's top destination chosen by tens of thousands of tourists each year and offering plenty more in terms of fantastic accommodation, exciting events, inspirational activities and unique things to see in comparison with the very small island of Porto Santo which is mainly a beach destination with only a handful of hotels and attractions and the even smaller Desertas Islands which are inhabited only by tropical insects and almost extinct monk seals.
Characterized as the "Pearl of the Atlantic", the "Floating Garden of the Atlantic", or even the "Island of Flowers", there is one prevailing belief among admirers of Madeira Island - that it is without a doubt one of nature's majestic gems. Untouched in many parts and bursting with vibrant colours and flourishing forestlands, the island of Madeira's most alluring attractions are its natural features mainly predominant in the northern parts of the island which contain intimidating but beautiful mountains and peaks that will take you above the clouds. Other features include exotic wild and marine life; a surrounding ocean of multi-coloured blues and turquoises; an array of tropical flora including the famous "Bird of Paradise" or Estrelicia and the world's largest surviving Laurisilva (Laurel Forest), an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Complimented by an almost year-round mild climate, Madeira Island is a great travel destination for nature-lovers and has gained increasing popularity among thrill seekers looking to perform activities like paragliding, canyoning, surfing, rock climbing, abseiling, and lately coasteering.
Madeira's well-known capital of Funchal is where almost all of the island's most famous events occur such as the annual Carnival festival, the Flower Festival and the New Year's Fireworks display. Funchal is the hub and most urban part of the island where you'll find iconic attractions, the best hotels, restaurants, cafés and street performers which are all accompanied by a buzzing city atmosphere. It is bang in the centre of Funchal where you can learn all about the island's most interesting history, its traditional folk dance and song, and regional productions such as Madeira Wine (Vinho Madeira), embroidery work (Bordados) and handicrafts such as exceptional wickerwork. The capital also offers a range of appealing activities both on land and off land that will present you with different perspectives of the island. Enjoy standing at the summit of Pico do Arieiro, Funchal's highest peak; or slide down the steep hills of Monte in a fast-paced toboggan ride before taking a once in a lifetime boat tour in a catamaran or "Pirate Ship" or before spending an afternoon deep sea-diving or swimming with dolphins in the sparkling blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Apart from the urban capital, Madeira Island is comprised of several other regions which can be divided into semi-urban cities such as Câmara de Lobos, Santa Cruz and Machico, to very rural regions like Santana, Porto Moniz, Ribeira Brava, Calheta, Ponta do Sol, and São Vicente. Popular in their own ways, each location, some more than others, are known for their emblematic appeal. Enjoy breathtaking views and sceneries, bathing complexes, beaches, golf courses, Quintas and botanical gardens, soaring heights, and some of the best trail walks (Levadas) and hiking grounds in the world. Whilst hopping between municipalities, checking and trying out all that Madeira Island has to offer, take a break and delight your tastebuds with the appetizing flavours of typical Madeiran cuisine and drink.
Tranquil and enchanting yet thrilling in so many aspects, Madeira offers holiday-makers a little bit of everything making it a perfect destination for all ages and tastes whether you're looking to kick back and relax or embark on a series of stimulating adventures.