I have been to mainland Portugal before but this little gem of an island surprised me. I was expecting Lisbon with even better weather (as it shares the same longitude as Morocco), typically yellow sandy beaches and similar flora and fauna to home. What I did see was far more spectacular.
Firstly, even the drive from the airport was unusual in the sense that there are so many tunnels because everything is uphill, including the roads! Madeira, having been created by volcanic activity, is incredibly hilly, which is perfect for hikers (who should try one of their hundreds of levada walks) and adventurous cyclists. It also explains why everyone is so fit on the island.
Secondly, the beautiful birds of paradise, vibrant bougainvillea’s, papaya, and avocado trees, sweet sugar cane and abundant banana trees, reminded my family of growing up in Kenya surrounded by the varied vegetation only found in tropical climates. The flora growing there was far more diverse than I expected, with even its unique banana-passion fruit growing here.
Whilst much of this fresh fruit is eaten, much more of it is turned into alcohol! Anywhere you go for dinner, you will be offered an after dinner liquor in many flavours or their Madeira wine. If you don’t drink and would rather have a cake, their famous bolo de mel, uses their locally grown sugar cane.
The glorious weather was beach weather everyday so once we did get to a beach after all the sightseeing; I walked across their glistening black sand! It is black because of the volcanic activity on the island from the past and is truly unique to islands similar to this.
If you’re after both serenity and something truly picturesque with tons of nature, book your next getaway here. It is like an oasis where you can get back in touch with mother nature, escape the bustle and kickback (with your trainers so you can attempt the advanced levada’s if you’re feeling lucky!)