The Portuguese island of Madeira has managed to amass quite the collection of aliases – The Floating Garden, Pearl of the Atlantic, The Island of Eternal Spring – and it won’t take long for you to see just how apt they are once you arrive on this Mediterranean wonder.
It’s not only on-land that Madeira gets to impress though, with things under the waves being even more alluring than their above-water counterparts. Its proximity to the Gulf Stream ensures warm waters, and as the shoreline falls within the islands Parcial do Garajau Nature Reserve the protected inhabitants of the area features some truly spectacular plant and sea life.
Amongst the highlights are the colossal Atlantic Manta Ray, the wreck submerged ship Madeirense and Europe’s most endangered mammal, the monk seal. Whether free-diving, scuba diving or snorkelling, you can be sure of a truly once-in-a-lifetime underwater experience.
The islands subtropical climate means that public parks are so much more that the meagre displays we’re used to in Northern Europe, the parks of Madeira positively exploding with diverse and show-stopping displays.
Capital city Funchal, in particular, offers visitors an incredible selection, from the jungle of Orchids at Jardim Orquidea to the Oriental majesty of the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, but for the best all-round experience it has to be Santa Catarina Park. Its views alone are worth the visit, blessed with a glorious panoramic perspective of Funchal harbour, but be sure to seek out the various historic statues dotted about the park as well as looking around the parks chapel.
Behind the beauty of the gardens belies an infrastructure of island-wide waterways that have acted over the years to ensure Madeira is properly irrigated. The Levada’s, as they’re known, run alongside pathways that conveniently wind their way through many of the islands most beautiful and view-laden areas, these trails proving to be one of the islands most popular activities.
Some paths will lead you alongside waterfalls, other offering breath-taking views of the colourful gardens below, but all are sure to convince you that the islands many names are all worthy titles.