Top Travel Trends 2019 Madeira
Once a land of pirates, the Portuguese island of Madeira is adrift in the sparkling blue Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco. It offers a warm, balmy haven of hilly natural beauty, European cuisine eaten outside in the sunshine and great shopping! Having been long geared up to receive visitors of every nationality, this is a cosmopolitan paradise that will give you sun, fun and spectacular views.
Its a great place to enjoy with the little ones, but theres also a lively vibe you can tap into if youre with a partner or friends. As for romance, it has it all. Colourful sunsets, cocktails a-plenty and the chance to walk hand in hand on secluded mountain tops, taking in the scenery.
Due to its proximity to the Canary Islands, one of the most popular ways to explore Madeira is as part of a luxury all-inclusive cruise package that will take you to both Madeira and the Canaries. Theres an interesting contrast between the sandy, or rocky beaches of Madeira, and the black sand of the volcanic Canaries. Its also possible to combine a trip to Madeira with an escorted tour of Morocco. Lets have a look at how you can best spend your time in this exciting destination, to take in all the highlights and find out why theres such a buzz attached to.
24 hours in Funchal
This is Madeiras capital and its definitely worth setting aside a day to explore the art and architecture here. One must-visit street is the Rua de Santa, on which each door has been decorated by a local artist, and sculptures abound. The nearby architecture itself is pretty impressive too, particularly the City Hall, which has been revamped in a 1940s style and is adorned with portraits of the Portuguese kings.
The cobbled streets of the old town, from which you can take a cable car up to a high peak with a great view point, blend seamlessly with the modern parts of the city, in which youll find international cafes and restaurants. However, if youd like to get a taste of traditional Madeira, you could head over to the marketplace, with its brightly-coloured displays of flowers, fish and other fresh produce. Here, youll market-seller women in traditional dress.
Its known as the Mercado dos Lavradores and its interior is decorated with hand-painted artisan tiles depicting regional themes. The heady smell of the herbs and spices will make you keen to taste the snacks on offer, which you should definitely attempt to wash down with a glass or two of one the delicious local wines.
If the market puts you in the mood for shopping, then there are some other great places to explore in Funchal. There are lots of large commercial shopping malls, many of which are open until 11pm and offer cheaper prices than the UK. Some of the malls contain cinemas, which show English language films. The Santa Quitria shopping centre is exceptionally impressive and has 7 cinemas!
For gift-purchasing, theres a traditional wicker products store in the Rua do Castanheiro which provides a lot of choice, but there are also embroidery factory outlets all over the place. Madeira wine lodges deserve a mention too, simply because they all offer tastings and its a fun way to spend an hour or two.
Of course, in all the fine weather you might prefer to be outside in Funchal. There are a couple of beautiful gardens on your doorstep here. The Botanical Gardens is split into 6 separate plant sections, giving you the opportunity to stroll through the indigenous species of the island, walk under palm trees, enjoy the shade of the arboretum, discover the aromatic smells of the medicinal plants, admire the succulents and, for hardcore plant enthusiasts, also take in the agro-industrial plant collection. If youre travelling with the kids, dont worry about them being bored by the endless greenery. Theres a parrot-filled bird park and natural history museum here too to keep them entertained.
The other garden is the tranquil Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, where peacocks roam around freely and the lakes are filled with koi carp. This garden is on lot of different levels and crammed full of exotic flowers, frees and African sculptures.
Trekking in the countryside of Madeira
Levadas are irrigation channels; the result of a 16th century open canal system. They bring the mountain water down to the city and are ubiquitous in Madeira. Following them makes for very picturesque trails and you can even go right up onto the hills, through the Laurisilva Forest; the worlds largest laurel forest, in your pursuit of their furthest points. From up here, youll be rewarded with a great view of the coast. There are 200 different trails associated with following the Levadas, each of them pretty, and many of them set against a lush, dramatic backdrop.
For a closer view of the ocean, you could head down to the Cabo Giro on the south of the island, which offers cliff-top views. Or, if you want to climb higher, you could aim for Madeiras peaks. Pico do Arieiro is 1,818 m high and on some days, you can find yourself looking down at the clouds from the summit. On a cloudless day, you might be able to see across the sea to neighbouring island, Porto Santo, which is 30km away.
Higher still is the Pico Ruivo, which is only accessible by foot, so a minimum level of fitness is required for you to reach the summit by its easiest trail, from Achado do Teixeria. However, the more athletic among you might prefer to take the more strenuous trail across from the Pico do Arieiro. Youll find a tap at the top to refill your water bottles.
The cuisine of Madeira
The food here is hearty and inspired by its European settlers. A great starter is tomato and onion soup, which is garlic heavy and boasts a poached egg in the middle. Why not follow this up with tuna steak, beef on a skewer, known as Esperada, or garlic pork.
What might seem unusual to the UK palate is the meat accompaniments. Tuna is often served with maize, the garlic pork is cubed and forms part of a sandwich filling, while the beef sits on the plate with a special Madeiran bread made with sweet potatoes, named bolo do caco. Another popular speciality here is a fish found almost exclusively in the coast around Madeira; the Black Scabbard. The fillet of the fish is served in a peeled banana!
Follow all of this up with a passion fruit pudding, which makes the most of fruits which are grown on the island, mixed with jelly, condensed milk and cream. It looks, smells and tastes incredible!
Booking your trip to Madeira
Here at Aspen Travel, we partner with huge, respected names in the holiday industry in order to be in a position to offer you a wide range of packages provided by tour operators we trust to be a safe and exciting pair of hands. One of our favourites travel partners when it comes to Madeira as your exclusive destination is Titan Travel. Theyll provide you with an 8 day itinerary, which will really help you gain an insight into the island, its history and culture.
Their tour will provide you with flights, luxury overnights and a personal tour guide, not to mention the transfers, entrance tickets and all the food youll need. You explore Funchal at your leisure, hike up the mountains and do a full circuit of the coastline. Dipping down then into a valley rich with chestnut trees, youll take in the sights of the Eira Do Serrado, including an important pilgrimage site. View Tour
Whether you choose to visit Madeira for a sun-soaked, relaxing holiday, or you want your trip combined with an exciting cruise around either the Canaries, or Moroccan, please get in touch with our team here to make your reservations. Well be able to answer all your questions about Madeira and the various packages available, as well as complete the booking process for you with minimum hassle! Call us during your lunch break and your holiday could be booked for the end of the week! We look forward to helping you find the best trip to suit your travel budget and preferences.