Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:51 PM
Madeira is a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean, which is located approximately 520 km from the coast of Africa. Its dramatic landscape and range of amenities offer something for everyone and make it an excellent choice for a break at any time of the year.
You can find excellent deals on flights to Madeira, as well as holidays, at Monarch. Here are just a few of the island's top attractions to get you in the mood for your getaway.
The vast majority of holiday destinations around the world will boast about the landscape you'll find when you arrive, but Madeira is truly spectacular. The island is volcanic and its topography is characterised by mountains in its interior and sheer cliffs that drop into the sea. As it's a tropical island, it also boasts lush vegetation and beautiful blooms, and is home to the biggest evergreen forest in the world – the Laurisilva Forest, which is protected by the Madeira National Park.
As you might expect with so many natural attractions, Madeira is an excellent place to visit if you're keen to get out and about and explore on foot. Don't be put off by the mountainous nature of Madeira's terrain, as there are plenty of walking trails you can follow that aren't too strenuous.
The majority of these follow the island's levadas – irrigation channels carved into the sides of the mountains to provide a reliable water supply to the farms and villages further down the slopes. Wandering along these small tracks will lead you to some amazing viewpoints and give you the opportunity to see some of Madeira's varied flora and fauna.
Madeira has a favourable year-round climate and is a popular destination for people seeking a bit of sunshine. As it's an island, it will come of little surprise that there are numerous beaches you can visit. The majority of these comprise of basalt pebbles, rather than sand, due to the isle's volcanic origins. In addition to the beaches, there are numerous saltwater swimming pools – called lidos – dotted around the coastline. These are particularly good for families, as you won't have to worry about the sea being rough if your children fancy a dip.
One of the best things about Madeira's beaches, though, are the dramatic cliffs that flank them. You'll often see farming terraces perched in seemingly impossible places partway up the cliffs and mountains, with small rope ladders offering the only form of access.
Keen gastronomes will certainly enjoy a holiday in Madeira, where you can sample some truly delicious local specialities. Seafood is a staple of the diet here, and you should have no difficulty in finding restaurants serving up freshly-caught fish. The capital Funchal is home to a wide selection of establishments, offering everything from local specialities to more international cuisines.
One must-try dish is the espetada – a type of kebab on laurel wood skewers that is usually made with beef. The meat is prepared simply with garlic and salt before being cooked over a wood fire.
Madeira is also famous for its wine, which is produced using a unique method that involves heating the liquid for extended periods. It is well worth visiting one of the vineyards, as the grapes are grown on terraces cut into the mountains. If you are based in Funchal, you can head to the Madeira Wine Institute, which is home to a museum detailing the history of Madeira wine and its production.