Madeira island, pearl of the Atlantic
The natural wonders, the astonishing views, the warm and calm sea, the gastronomy and the friendly people are some of Madeira’s highlights.
Approaching Madeira from the air is an unforgettable experience even for those who, like me, are afraid of flying. At a distance, the island rises imposing as if it is embracing the clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and when the plane turns at high-speed to land on the airstrip the image of the houses balancing downhill like a cascade in the midst of thousands of banana plants and gardens of exotic flowers will overcome any fear you may feel.
Madeira’s charm guessed from the sky does not let you down once you are on the ground. Named as the Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira should also earn the epithet of Eden on Earth due to its incredible natural beauty that seems to be untouched by men in most part of the territory. Even in the lively and touristic Funchal, nature is well-preserved and coexists peacefully with human intervention.
The luxuriant vegetation, combining tropical and Mediterranean characteristics, is one of the islands highlights along with Laurisilva of Santana neighborhoods, the largest surviving area of laurel forest, believed to be 90% primary forest, therefore acknowledge by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. In fact, the all island seems to be a floating garden painted with many and vibrant colors.
The warm temperature and profound blue of the Madeira waters exercises an irresistible appeal on you, either you intend to go just for a swim or to do scuba diving among a rich sea fauna. It won’t be easy to leave it behind to explore the highlands of the island, believe me. However, fight the temptation because places like Pico do Areeiro, Monte, Santana, São Vicente, Cabo Girão or Ponta de São Lourenço are one of a kind and will present you with some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see in your entire live. A word of advice though: If you are planning to rent a car to discover the island, choose one with a powerful motor, for the ups and downs on the way are challenging, in spite of the many tunnels that make your live much easy. If you prefer, there are several companies of organized tours for tourists, but remember that with them you won’t have the opportunity to explore some amazing spots that are out of the tourist routes. Check your hotel reception for more information.
If you are a fan of walking, Madeira is your destiny. The levadas are a not to miss experience and as there are tracks of different difficulties, it won’t be hard to find the most fitted for you. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes and to take a coat for the temperature may get colder on the highest locations.
All your efforts will be rewarded by the local gastronomy where the espetada (grilled cubes of meat hung on a laurel stick), the Bolo do caco (a typical bread cake), the fillets of black scabbard fish with banana and the limpets rule over a diversified kitchen well accompanied by the famed Madeira wine and poncha, a strong alcoholic beverage.
Finally, there are the people. Friendly, chatty and helpful are some of the adjectives one could use to describe Madeira inhabitants. Yet, no matter the words I choose they won’t do justice to their ability to make you feel at home.