The Portuguese discovered Madeira on the 15th century. Right in the middle of the Atlantic, the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo are a haven of natural beauty. The exotic colours of the flowers stand out from among the blue sea and the emerald green vegetation; this is an archipelago where two thirds are a protected area and where the largest Laurisilva forest in the world is located, and was included by UNESCO in its World Heritage list.
The springtime temperature, felt all year round, cries out for open air activities. You can go for a walk along the network of levadas (irrigation channels), visit the city of Funchal and discover the heritage associated with the Discoveries or roam freely around the island. Boat rides are an excellent way of admiring the coastline from a different perspective, for diving or for whale and dolphin watching.
Amazing surf spots such as Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar among many others mentioned on the book “Barbarian Days” from William Finnegan, a Pulitzer award. Ocean water temperature range from 16º to 24º Celsius degrees.
The gastronomy is very rich, from meat being the most traditional dish the famous beef kebab on a bay stick, which gives it an unmistakable flavour. Home-made couscous, wheat soup and wine- and garlic-marinated beef are also highly sought after. The fish such as black scabbard fish fillets and tuna steak, is tasty, and is prepared in the traditional way, accompanied by crunchy fried corn. The octopus and seafood, including limpets, periwinkles and many others, is also delicious.
In Madeira, a land of exceptional climate, there is a wide variety of crops, including sugar cane and tropical fruits (from the much appreciated bananas to pineapple, avocado pear, custard apple, mango and passion fruit), which are also used in drinks and delicate desserts.
The famous Madeira wine, made from more than 30 grape varieties, the best of which are Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and Malvasia, is drunk as an aperitif or a digestive, and is perfect to accompany the traditional (sugar cane) honey cake. It is also from sugar cane that the famous poncha brandy is made, prepared with honey and lemon.
The bolo do caco is a must. Only this is not a cake, but bread baked on a piece of tile which usually accompanies kebabs with garlic butter. Bread in Madeira is also made from yam: the delicious small ring-shaped yam loaves. Queijadas cheese cakes and the fennel boiled sweets are also in great demand.
In such a naturally welcoming environment, balance and well-being are taken for granted. Madeira offers various tourist complexes and accesses to the sea with prime conditions for leisure boating and scuba diving. The island of Porto Santo, in particular, is the ideal place to escape from stress and undertake a thalassotherapy programme, or a beach holiday combined with a spot of golf.
Popular feasts, which take place all year round, are opportunities to appreciate traditional gastronomic flavours and see Madeira partying, especially for the Carnival parades, the Flower Festival, the Atlantic Festival and, above all, the end-of-year fireworks display.