Nearly four years after moving to Portugal my feet finally set foot on the rugged, volcanic island of Madeira. Over the next few days and weeks, as I explored, I’d quickly realise what a mistake it had been waiting so long to visit. The photos of Madeira I’d seen online before had either been moody and foggy or cruise-ships and crowded. In reality, it’s a perfect paradise that packs a lot in.
The archipelago of Madeira consists of the main island, the golden-sand beach escape of Porto Santo, and a few other islands that serve as uninhabited nature reserves.
An autonomous region of Portugal, Madeira’s location at the same latitude as Casablanca and just above the Canary Islands give it warm weather, while the topography brings four micro-climates to the island. This is what makes it so diverse.
From the sunny south, with banana plantations and cities that climb up cliffs and mountains, to the rugged north, where waterfalls tumble down lush green cliffs coated in ferns towards natural swimming pools below. In her interior, dramatic mountain peaks dance in the clouds, and a network of walking-routes follow irrigation channels.
I only had a few ‘must-visits’ on my list when I arrived to Madeira. The famed Fanal forest which is often coated in fog, the stunning Pico do Arieiro to Ruivo route which takes you above the clouds, and a boat trip to see dolphins and whales. I saved these best till last, for the final few days of my month-long trip – but the weather had other ideas for exploring some of the UNESCO listed nature!
With a hectic storm rolling in, and heavy rain, all three of these trips were cancelled. Usually, missing out on the top things in a destination would be upsetting, but over the trip, I’d found so many amazing spots in Madeira, I knew I would be coming back.
So, this is a work in progress, I’ll certainly be adding more photos of Madeira to this essay in the future – but I hope these images inspire you to see what an incredible island Madeira is, even when you take out the ‘must-visit’ and most iconic spots!
Cabo Girao Viewpoint
One of the highest sea-cliffs in the world, Cabo Girao is best admired from the coastal community of Câmara De Lobos – but the view from the top is also pretty amazing. Here you’ll find a glass-bottomed platform where you can walk out and look down on the village below, with panoramic views back to the city of Funchal.