The magic of Madeira
Dazzling landscapes, flower-filled gardens – not to mention the famous fortified wine and delicious cake – are all to be discovered on Cunard cruises to this rugged green isle.
Nicknamed “The Land of Eternal Spring” for its subtropical climate, compact Madeira island (one of four in an archipelago), lies off the west coast of North Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is blessed with beautiful weather, making it a tempting travel destination all year round.
The capital, Funchal, has a natural harbor where old trading vessels took on supplies of wheat and sugarcane, often in exchange for plants from their native lands. This may explain why the island is such a botanical paradise today. Here’s just a look at what’s to be discovered on vacation in Madeira …
The island’s unique wicker toboggans – called Carreiros do Monte – transport people and goods in speedy fashion downhill from Monte (where you can take in panoramic views). Two “gondoliers” steer sleigh-like toboggans on waxed wooden runners all the way down.
“The Old Town’s pockets of creativity include painted doors on the 15th-century street, Rua de Santa Maria, that create a modern-day open-air gallery.”Rachel Jackson, port presenter on Queen Elizabeth
Cabo Girão Viewpoint
This skywalk with reinforced glass is Europe’s highest cliff-viewing platform (1,900 ft). Admire bird’s-eye views of Câmara de Lobos and Funchal, and gaze down at the ocean below.
Stroll around Funchal’s charming Old Town – or Zona Velha – where pretty cobbled streets open up to spacious squares, such as the beautifully tiled Praça do Municipio. Former fishermen’s cottages and merchants’ houses are now characterful restaurants and bars.
Enjoy a ritual
Take afternoon tea on the terrace at Reid’s (Belmond Reid’s Palace hotel), which has welcomed guests including Sir Roger Moore, George Bernard Shaw, and Sir Winston Churchill. Of course, Madeira cake – bolo de mel – is sure to be served.
Caves of São Vicente
The scenic coastal drive to the volcanic caves takes in plummeting valleys and villages, including Serra de Água. Explore the lava tubes and discover how the island was formed.
More to discover
Câmara de Lobos
This picturesque fishing village was a favorite of Sir Winston Churchill, who painted here. See the spot where he set up his easel, and relax in characterful cafés that use upturned barrels as tables.
Take a walk alongside this network of ancient irrigation channels, built to bring water down the mountains to farmland. Still in use, the 1,000 miles of narrow channels are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Try filete de espada com banana – battered black swordfish topped with baked banana. Enjoy espetada, where skewered chunks of seasoned beef are cooked over hot coals. Lastly, be sure to try poncha, a drink made from fermented sugarcane syrup, citrus juice, and honey.
Go to market
Rub elbows with local shoppers at Mercado dos Lavradores, which sells fish, vegetables, and exotic fruit, and see stallholders in traditional dress (it’s the law) ply their wares.
A taste of Madeira
Shakespeare mentions the seductive qualities of Madeira wine in his play Henry IV. Visit the wine museum for an in-depth history, or sip decades-old vintages at a Blandy’s Wine Lodge tasting to fully appreciate just one of the many wonderful things Madeira is famous for.
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