Travel fans might have known about Madeira before Cristiano Ronaldo made it famous, but it was pretty much unknown, which is why it is important to talk about this wild and wonderful place.
Beautiful Madeira is a mountainous volcanic island located 1076 kilometers south-west of Portugal and is one of the autonomous regions of the country. The landscapes will make you forget Ronaldo and his goals, as Madeira is truly magical and magnificent for both its tourists and its inhabitants. Wherever you go, you can see cliffs overlooking the ocean, vines covering hilly slopes like mazes, and sunsets that will leave you speechless. Here is a list of activities you should not miss in order to fully experience this amazing island.
Between waves and trekking
If you love adventure, you should definitely visit Madeira. The island is not about beaches where tourists can sip trendy cocktails. It is about discovery and audacity. So rent a car or get on the local buses, and head to the north of the island towards São Vicente where you will find a splendid church from the 1600s, a pebble beach perfect for surfing, and the unmissable caves of São Vicente, carved out in underground lava from an eruption that occurred about 400,000 years ago. Even if you don't surf, you can sit on the pebbles and enjoy the idyllic view of the sea at sunset.
Funchal, love at first sight
Funchal, the capital of Madeira, is just wonderful. Its cobalt blue water, white and yellow buildings give it a profoundly Mediterranean look. To admire it properly, get on the cable cars that will take you to the Botanical Garden or to the Monte Palace and soak in the beauty of the place. You can then get on the "Monte Sledge", a unique and very special experience which has been the most popular form of transportation in the area since 1850.
Nature and Levadas
Still eager for out of the ordinary experiences? Then get ready for a trip through the Levadas of the island. Levadas are narrow irrigation canals used to disperse water. The island has 2100 kilometers of artificial canals, many of which resemble highly organized hiking trails. Crossing the island's forest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, passing through the Levadas, is one of the best ways to fully experience the natural setting of Madeira. But even if the 28 routes are well signposted, it is always recommended to get an experienced guide or a local trekking and canyoning expert.
Food and Poncha!
Wine is an almost sacred drink in Madeira. But the lesser known Poncha, an alcohol based on "aguardente de cana" (a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice) is a very popular drink as well. Originally invented by the fishermen of Câmara De Lobos, it has a sweet taste. But be careful because even if it doesn't taste that strong, you might get a little "confused" after a few glasses. Exotic fruits such as tamarilho, a cross between a tomato and a plum, and the seafood also make Madera an unmissable culinary destination. So you should visit the Mercado dos Lavradores to try some local cuisine.