Madeira is a tropical Atlantic island 520km off the West Coast of Africa, home to a population of just 255,000. It is considered a part of Portugal, though is an autonomous region, and is certainly proud of the fact. The locals speak Portuguese, and there are many crossovers in lifestyle and culture aside from the shared language, but the Madeiran populace certainly won’t shy away from identifying their distinctions from the Portuguese.
Being further south than the mainland, and a mountainous island, it enjoys a wonderfully unique set of microclimates which many would argue supersede Portugal mainland, making it a popular holiday destination for their own nationals and foreign tourists alike.
Despite a reputation for catering to the more mature, or let’s say vintage traveller, Madeira is a stunning and exceptional natural marvel no matter your age. Being a volcanic island, housed atop a still active volcano, it is nutrient rich, and has been afforded no shortage of utilisation for its tropical climes. The island is littered with astounding and unrivaled terraces upon which they grow fruit that many will traverse a lifetime without ever tasting, let alone seeing.
The climate being what it is, you could grow almost anything, and so they do. For plant enthusiasts this island is a paradise. No matter the time of year you visit, something you’ve never seen before will be in bloom. In the modern day we see restrictions across the world on the transportation of plant matter from place to place, but Madeira was made an international botanical marvel many moons prior to such rules.
As a result, Madeira is home to flora originating from every corner of the globe from Brazil to Australia, all of which compliment one another gloriously, culminating in a spectacle unlike anywhere else.
In our month we hiked and sailed and swam and ate. There are countless walks to be enjoyed along the famed 2400km of Levadas, the incredible waterways which have been maintained through the centuries, feeding the farms in the lower parts of the island which see less rain, with the waters that shower the plateaus above.
With its azure blue waters, and black sand beaches, striking sea cliffs and towering mountain peaks, it is no wonder it has a thriving and evolving adventure tourism trade. From paragliding to scuba diving, whether you enjoy flying on top of the world or sinking deep under its watery skin, there’s a sport for everyone nowadays on Madeira.
It would be impossible to write about Madeira without giving credit to its cuisine and culture of abundance when it comes to hospitality. As one can imagine, being an isolated set of islands in the Atlantic, menus boast enormous varieties of fish, including their famous Madeiran exclusive black scabbard.
The soil is of such potency that much of their produce is organic as they simply do not require fertilisers to grow vast, voluptuous vegetation of superior quality. By way of restaurants, with being such an international holiday hub, every cuisine is on offer. Whether you are seeking a local cheap bite or the finest of dining experiences, Madeira has a spectrum of wonderful restaurants to suit every desire, with so many options the list would be entirely inexhaustible in a month long stay.
The parting picture I’d like to paint for you of Madeira is one of a lifestyle in which a divine balance has been struck, where the health of a historic and unique culture matches that of the Earth on which it stands; rich, nutritious and crucially, alive. I certainly look forward keenly to spending more time there, immersing in that lifestyle, and departing enriched as I have this time.