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MADEIRA: why you should go to the island of Eternal Spring

Photo: Thomas Krych | The World Daily 


The World Daily - Travels Desk | MAY 2021


If you're looking for a place to bask in any season, go to Madeira. On the island of "Eternal Spring", the air temperature never drops below 15 degrees C. However, this is not the only reason why you should plan your stay in Madeira.


The volcanic island in the Atlantic, 850 km west of Lisbon, is said to be the perfect retirement destination. Madeira is not Ibiza, full of club music or the Canary Islands, thick with half-naked bodies.

Madeira is distinguished. The days are for walkers and tourists and the nights are calm and quiet. In pre-pandemic times, only on Friday evening, young people gathered in front of small venues in Funchal, the capital and largest city of the island. But the young people discuss in small groups, holding in their hands inseparable glasses with ponchos, a drink made of rum, honey, lemon juice and orange. The meetings are held in a friendly and subdued atmosphere, and the participants give the impression that, yes, they quite like their city, but would rather live and have fun in Lisbon or Porto.




Why Madeira?

Though Funchal is a fast-growing city, full of pristine basalt-paved passages, flower beds and blue-blooming jacaranda trees, the whole island feels serious and immersed in the past. Indeed, in recent years, Madeira has been entwined with a network of modern expressways that allow you to reach almost every corner of the island, and the latest generation of cable cars takes tourists to Mount Monte above Funchal, but visitors are not looking for modernity.

People come to Madeira for quintas - former residences of princes and aristocrats, turned into comfortable hotels and restaurants where you can spend fall and winter enjoying the pleasant climate of the island. People also come here for traditional, hand-made embroidery, which was once passed down from generation to generation, and today goes to the hands of wealthy clients, including crowned heads from around the world.

Madeira is also chosen for hiking along the levadas - a five-hundred-year-old network of irrigation canals that still irrigate the fields.




The main attraction of Funchal, the descent down the mountain of Monte with slides (wicker baskets on skids), is an idea from over a hundred years ago.

They used to be used to transport goods from mountainous fields to the city centre. Later, European patients who were treating respiratory ailments in Monte joined them; they were carried upwards in fabric hammocks stretched between two poles. Now they are travelled by tourists looking for adventures.




The four-kilometre route runs along the streets of the city, between parked cars and crosses successive intersections (don't worry, toboggans have priority). When cornering, the sled sometimes becomes sideways. Passengers then scream in terror, but the drivers efficiently guide the vehicles to the right track. Accidents are said to be extremely rare. 


Madeira - the island of flowers

What is Madeira's greatest asset? Our driver becomes concerned and finally decides that he needs to consult a colleague by phone. The local inhabitants take every question of this type very seriously. They want to present the place where they live in the best possible light, because they know how important tourism is. They constantly emphasize that Portugal and Madeira are not the same. The island enjoys a lot of autonomy, has its own budget, parliament and government, sharing only the land army and the defence ministry with Portugal.

"Flowers," the driver announces finally. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and a mild climate (the average temperature in summer is 25 degrees Celsius and 17 degrees C in winter) favour exotic plants and lush nature.

The island is called the "floating garden" for a reason. The sight of orchids growing by the road, African strelitzias and protheas is everyday life here. On the terraced slopes, fruits ripen: bananas, passion fruit, papayas and green-shelled anons with white, vanilla-citrus flesh that are difficult to buy in Europe, as well as philodendron fruits resembling an elongated green cone. They are sold as banana-pineapple and actually look like a large banana wrapped in a pineapple peel.

To see the richness of the local flora, just walk to the Mercado dos Lavradores - the old market hall in Funchal - where the stalls are full of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

You can also go to the Jardim Botanico on Mount Monte, or poke your nose outside the capital and take a trip through the dense Laurissilva forests in the centre of the island. They include, among others, laurel trees, from which bay leaves are obtained.


Madeira for the active

While touring the island, I stop to soak up the view of the cliffs falling straight towards the waters of the Atlantic. The most famous is Cabo Girao, the second highest in the world (580 m above sea level), the highest located cape in Europe.

The rough, rocky coast of Madeira, however, means that there is not what tourists like the most - sandy beaches. There are only two shabby scraps of coastal sand on the entire island, brought from the Sahara Desert. Thanks to this, however, this place has never become a target of mass tourism and has managed to maintain its original character. Instead of holidaymakers on deckchairs waiting for drinks, I see more groups of people with trekking poles, tirelessly traversing the routes running through green hills and valleys.


Madeira - Coronavirus

Travelers to Madeira must either show a negative coronavirus test 72 hours prior to travel, or undergo an on-the-spot screening test. You wait for the result in isolation. You must also submit a completed whereabouts and health condition form no later than 12 hours before departure.


© The World Daily 2021 | Travels Desk