When you’re travelling to a new destination, the first thing many visitors will do is buy the guidebook or research on the internet for all the best places to go. However, in some locations there are many hidden gems that the guidebooks neglect to feature. Madeira is one such destination, and as much as you’ll love all the major attractions your guidebook will tell you about, there is a wealth of beauty and amazing experiences to be discovered which never quite made it into the lists. Here are some of the top picks for visitors to Madeira:
Funchal Old Town
The whole of Funchal is a part of the island worth spending a day or two in, and your guide book will no doubt point you in the direction of some of the biggest and most historic sights in the area. But for a real flavour of Madeira, head down to the old town, where you’ll see colourful markets, vibrant stalls selling exotic flowers, beautiful embroidery and some of the most traditional and delicious restaurants in the city.
Cameros do lobos
Just a small fishing town, but bursting with character and traditional pastimes, the Camera de Lobos is the perfect place to sit and people watch. See the fishermen landing their catch and then wandering off to the local cafes and bars to play cards on upturned wine barrels. Round off your visit with dinner at a local restaurant, where you can sample some of the freshest and most delicious seafood on the island.
Take a walk in the mountains and you could find hundreds of hidden gems as the densely forested valleys give way to unrivalled mountaintop views of the island. For one particularly stunning example, head to Fanal on the road from Ribeira da Janela up to Paul da Serra. From the forester’s house, make a small climb to the viewpoint to see the north coast of the island laid out at your feet.
Some of the islands best hotels are the little known boutique offerings perched high in the mountains and forests, and the small spa retreats tucked away in the quieter towns. Even some of the mainstream hotels, such as the cliff bay hotel Madeira, voted most romantic hotel in Madeira by TripAdvisor users, offer luxurious facilities and excellent access to attractions.
The Poncha da Madeira
Most visitors will choose to sample a Madeira wine with their meal, and quite rightly so, but don’t overlook the other delicious drinks of the island in your haste to taste its namesake. The Poncha is a real taste sensation which has to be tried while you are there. Made from coconut spirit with herbal tea, spices and sugar, a Poncha is just the thing to refresh you after a hard day exploring.
Festa da Anona
With so much fuss about the flower festivals, this February based festival of fruit is often overlooked. The Anona fruit, or Cherimoya, is hard to find outside of the island, and the festival has grown from humble beginnings into a colourful feature of the islands calendar. Expect street entertainers, live musicians, markets and events all around the north coast as well as many examples of the uses of this tasty Madeiran fruit.