We’re not sure you’re fully prepared for the subtropical wonders of Madeira. We all know it as the garden isle, perhaps famous for its botanical garden and a dash of Madeira wine. A few of you might even be expecting a slice or two of cake. Which all sounds a little pedestrian, depending on how hard you hit the wine. Sweep all of that sleepy nonsense away and Madeira’s a little Portuguese firecracker. The surrounding waters rarely get a mention, but ask any scuba diver and they’ll tell you the seabed’s just swimming with rays, seals and colourful shoals. Quirky wrecks, snorkelling with dolphins and island hopping to even better beaches are all up for grabs too.
On land, hiking routes weave you through the mountains via the levadas. Madeira’s irrigation system hardly screams adventure, but, trust us when we say, it’s worth following these waterways. Perch (safely) on cliff edges and you’ll be among some of Europe’s rarest seabirds. Explore the shoreline and you could end up chatting to the owner of a micronation. Natural pools practically beg to be swum in. Towering skywalks with glass floors peer down on to crashing waves and Cristiano Ronaldo is practically worshipped as a god. Madeira delivers on the unexpected, and if you do one thing? Well… just try the poncha.