With it’s close proximity to Africa, Madeira enjoys subtropical temperatures all year round.
Similar to the Canary Islands, even January can see temperatures around 17c. Largely untouched by mass tourism, it has a very different vibe though. Madeira has found the perfect balance for a sustainable tourism industry with the Madeira Reserve created in 1982 supporting this ethos. It covers around two thirds of the island including areas of total and partial natural preservation, protected landscapes and leisure zones. With its vast and dramatic landscape, it is now becoming popular with those in search of adventure as well as a relaxing, slow paced holiday. With an increased choice of flights from the UK, it is a great option for a break all year round.
Madeira has very few natural sandy beaches but what it lacks in this department it more than makes up for with its astounding natural scenery. Levadas which are small irrigation channels on the island cover around 2,500 km and allow visitors to experience the breath-taking landscapes. Trails range from a gentle stroll through the deep, lush vegetation of the laurel forests to an exciting hike over peaks and mountains taking you on top of the clouds and through waterfalls. Joining one of the many boat trips on offer from Funchal which take you in search of dolphins, whales and monk seals is another excellent opportunity for nature lovers.
Curral das Freiras (‘Nuns Valley’) is also a must see. The small village sits in a valley in the heart of the island formed by volcanic activity or as recent theories believe, erosion. The surrounding mountains and dramatic drops will take your breath away. After a hair-raising journey to the view point, you will feel like you are on top of the world looking down on the village below. There are day trips on offer which will take you to the unspoilt towns and villages on the island. Sample the Madeiran Poncha made from pure sugar cane spirit, honey, lemon juice. The drink is made with a specially carved object from wood that mixes the ingredients.
For those in search of more adventurous experiences, Madeira can give you all the thrills with canyoning, kitesurfing, jet skiing and paragliding to name a few. The warm sea temperatures also make it ideal for snorkelling, diving, sailing, surfing and sport fishing all year round.
Most of the hotels in Madeira are low rise and of a very high standard ranging from 3-5*. 3* hotels like the Do Carmo Hotel in Funchal give you the opportunity to be in the heart of the capital city. If you are in search of a 4 or 5* hotel with all the facilities you could need, the 5* Pestana Grand, although 3 miles from Funchal, is a good value choice with saltwater pools and spa situated right on the coastal path taking you into Funchal. Smaller boutique hotels like the Estalagem Jardim do Lago or Quinta da Bella Vista are traditional Madeiran Quintas set in beautiful botanical gardens and give you a little piece of paradise. Madeira also offers a high-quality dining scene from Michelin star restaurants to family run traditional Madeiran eateries with great value set menus. The delicious ‘Espada’ fish is found on almost every menu. If you are looking for a trendy bar to have a cocktail or two, Funchal will not disappoint with its sophisticated, laid back atmosphere.
Madeira offers plenty to see and do for a week’s holiday but with a good choice for direct flights, it also works well as a multi-centre break with Lisbon for a city experience and the Azores for more outstanding beauty and nature.