Two inhabited islands, sub-tropical climate, rare vegetation, stunning scenery and a blue sea where you can swim all year round. Is it a distant and paradisiacal destination?
The only footballers in the world to give their name to airports have both worn the Manchester United jersey 7: George Best, who christens Belfast Airport in Northern Ireland, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who since 29 March 2017 has named Madeira International Airport. The air route is the most obvious to reach the archipelago, with direct flights from Lisbon and Porto. The connection between Madeira and Porto Santo is made both by plane (15 minutes trip) and by Lobo Marinho ferry (two hours and 15 minutes).
Nothing like choosing to go on a fish and seafood diet during your stay, with the famous cake of the shredder to go with it. Grilled limpets are famous, usually served in a frying pan with garlic butter sauce, but also tuna steak, swordfish fillets, mackerel and horse mackerel. The exception to this rule is the famous bullock kebab, traditional of Câmara de Lobos. The “dentinhos”, small doses of homemade snacks are a good accompaniment to the drink. The mythical poncha, based on cane brandy, but also the less known nikita and crow’s foot.
Just don’t reveal the ingredients so as not to spoil the surprise.
Halfway between Europe and Africa, the island got used to seeing overnight visitors from an early age, as it served as a stopover on many trade routes. From the 19th century on, tourism flourished, with the arrival of many Englishmen looking to spend the winter in a mild climate. Tourism today represents more than a quarter of the regional GDP and there is therefore no shortage of hotels of all kinds. From the historical ones, such as the Belmond Reid’s, where Winston Churchill was a frequent guest, to the modern ones, with a bold and awarded design, such as The Vine, without forgetting the resorts for the whole family, such as the Pestana Group, Porto Bay and Savoy, or the retreats in the middle of nature, such as Quinta da Serra, in Câmara de Lobos, or Quinta do Furão, in Santana.
If Madeira were a country, it would be one of the smallest in the world, with a total area (about 800 km2) smaller than Hong Kong, São Tomé and Príncipe or the Feroé Islands. Nevertheless, it is easy to fill a two-week stay with activities. Because there is so much to see and explore. Walk the trails and levadas of the Laurissilva Forest, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, climb from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, the highest peak in Madeira, get off by cable car to Praia do Garajau or Fajã dos Padres, dive in the crystal clear waters of Porto Moniz or Caniçal, go scuba diving, canyoning, mountain biking, climbing, coasteering, paragliding, or simply observe birds or rare vegetation. Or even, relax in Porto Santo. You just have to choose.