There is no doubt that the island of Madeira is re-entering its hay day. After being struck by deadly flooding in 2010, the island is back to its best and is returning as a top pick for holidaymakers from all over Europe and farther afield. But what is it that keeps people coming back to this unique little island, and what should you definitely not miss while you are there?
1. Gourmet indulgence
The food and drink in Madeira is unique and delicious enough to be the only reason to visit this island. Traditional Madeiran cuisine is a sumptuous fusion of the Mediterranean herbs, fish dishes and flavours combined with a distinctly African twist. Try the evil looking, but delicious, ‘espada’, or scabbard fish, served with intensely sweet local bananas, or the typical ‘Picado’ which is a beef and garlic dish. As well as sampling the Madeiran wines on offer, try a Nikita, which is a refreshing drink made from beer, ice cream and pineapple.
2. Fabulous flowers
The vibrancy and colour of the people of Madeira are only further complemented by those of the gardens and flowers. For over 300 years people have brought species of plants and flowers to the island, and today the place is bursting with colourful displays in the parks and botanic gardens.
3. Sun, sea and seals
The coastline in Madeira is a peace seekers paradise, with miles of quiet beaches and hidden coves to discover. Take to the water to enjoy anything from windsurfing to scuba diving, or take a boat trip out to see to spot dolphins and seals. Companies in Madeira offer trips out to the Desertas Islands, 12 miles off the coast, where you might catch a glimpse of some of the 40 or so monk seals that live here, some of the very last of the species left in the world.
4. Wild mountains
Madeira is famous for its volcanic interior and miles of unspoilt mountain countryside. When other islands were felling their trees for resources, Madeira committed to protecting theirs, which is now the biggest original Laurel forest in the world. Looking like a set from Jurassic Park, visitors can make the most of these mountainous areas by walking some of the 1,300 miles of ‘Levadas’; old water courses that wind their way up to mountain peaks and back down again.
5. Luxurious accommodation
All across the island, the accommodation is stepping it up a gear. From gorgeous cliffside hotels such as the Madeira Regency Cliff which offer unrivalled views of the sparking blue ocean, to the traditional high teas served at Reid’s where style and elegance from Churchill’s reign is delivered in abundance, the facilities here are in a different class. There are also new boutique and spa hotels opening up here and there, such as the Vine in Funchal which features a bath at the end of the bed, and the cabins on stilts at the Quinta das Eiras.