Top 5 Best Locations in Madeira
If you are the kind of traveller who is not content to just fly in and flop by the pool, rest assured Madeira offers a wealth of interesting places and areas to visit
Voted ‘Europe’s leading island destination’ for six consecutive years, Madeira has an enchanting mix of rugged landscapes, lush gardens, warm weather, wine and culture galore. It’s also easy to get to – you can fly from eight major UK airports with Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, securing a package with a deposit of just £60, and find yourself in beautiful subtropical climes in no time at all.
Once you arrive, here are five of the most beautiful places to visit.
Taking its name from the small, well maintained chapel called Our Lady of Prazeres, and resting on a vast terrace enveloped by eucalyptus forests with sublime Atlantic Ocean views, the village of Prazeres easily ranks among the island’s prettiest. It packs quite a lot in too, coming complete with a parish-run quinta where llamas and pot-bellied pigs rootle about, a herb garden and a charming tea house.
Valley of the Nuns
This geological marvel of Curral das Freiras is not to be missed. The vast cauldron of virtually perpendicular peaks was thought to be formed by either erosion or volcanic activity. It served as a refuge for a party of nuns in 1566 who fled from pirates besieging their Santa Clara convent, where it is said they also brought the convent’s treasure. Be sure to sample some of the chestnuts harvested in this remote parish or, better yet, come in October to take part in the annual chestnut festival.
Ponta do Sol
Ponta do Sol is perhaps Madeira’s most charming coastal village with rows of pastel-fronted buildings, and it is also officially the sunniest place on the island. The pebble beach here is modest, but this sunny, secluded spot is especially prized for its glorious sunsets. Budding divers can also investigate a shipwreck off the coast, while culture lovers might want to explore the Church of Nossa senhora da Luz: built in the 15th century, it has Manueline and neo-mannerist architecture.
Ponta de São Lourenço Nature Reserve
At the easternmost tip of Madeira lies a nature reserve that is home to spectacular volcanic rock formations and hiking trails lined with numerous rare species such as Ice Plant, Everlasting and Cardoon, plus a wide variety of birdlife and marine mammals. The unusual geology of the reserve boasts a landscape like no other, complete with pyroclastic rocks, basalt dykes and eroded coastlines dotted with a series of islets. Add in a secluded black sand beach and it is not hard to see why the 9km-long peninsula has been protected since 1982 and continues to be celebrated today.
Finally, don’t overlook the island’s capital Funchal. The old town (or Zona Velha) has been revitalised in recent years, thanks to the Open Doors art project decorating the doors of dozens of local businesses housed in former 19th-century fishermen’s cottages, and is now a lively and sophisticated dining and drinking area.
The busy food market of Mercado dos Lavradores is always worth visiting throughout the week, where you can spy bundles of green bananas and huge catches of prized local delicacy scabbard fish, in a handsome art deco structure decorated with hundreds of distinctive hand-painted tiles. Elsewhere, the Quinta das Cruzes manor house museum and the 16th-century cathedral are certainly worth seeking out.
Two Madeiran delicacies to try
Black scabbard fish with banana
Tasty fillets of black scabbard fish taste far better than they look, seasoned with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Along with the fillets, peeled bananas are dipped in egg and flour, fried in oil and then sprinkled with fresh parsley.
Tomato and onion soup
A simple starter that feels like a warm hug on a chilly day. Chopped onions are mixed with garlic, fresh tomatoes, oregano and olive oil. The dish’s centrepiece is a poached egg, which cries out to be dunked with a crisp slice of toasted bread.
Few places combine European charm with tropical luxury quite like Madeira – it’s a grown-up weekend break that has something for everyone. Fly to Funchal via eight UK airports, including Birmingham, Manchester, London Stansted, Edinburgh, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle. You can secure your holiday with a deposit of just £60 deposit per person and get a generous 22kg baggage included.
Original Article by Jools Stone, Telegraph Online
17 OCTOBER 2019 • 10:15AM