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Inspiration for a trip to Madeira, the island of eternal spring

Madeira is 500km from the African coast and 1000km from the European continent, 1 1/ 2 hours from the Portuguese mainland, about 3 hours from all major European countries. Like most islands of Europe, Madeira is well connected with flights from mainland Europe, the Azores, and Britain. There is a regular ferry connecting Funchal with Porto Santo, and Madeira has its own airport, which has some services to Europe.

A typical holiday to Madeira is based in or around Funchal (many major hotels are west of Funchal) and exploring Madeira is done via organised day trips or by renting a car. It is almost always sunny in Porto Santo and Funchal, as well as on the south shores of Madeira Island.

Within the Madeira Islands are dramatic natural landscapes, imposing mountains, and tropical forests, as well as a population that is welcoming, reflecting the laid-back nature of the Portuguese. Madeira is more than beaches and sunshine, and Ribeiro Frio Natural Park is a great place to explore if you would like a different outlook to life on the island. Hike any of the numerous trails crisscrossing this park, and explore the scenic beauty of the islands forests and rugged mountain environments, which is easily one of the best things to do in Madeira.

Madeira is not a classic beach vacation destination, Madeira is the place to get off and explore, soak up some local culture, or seek solitude by hiking on any one of the gorgeous trails that traverse the island. Madeira is one of the four islands of the Madeira Archipelago, offering British-style hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, and a variety of adventurous ways to explore the islands waterfalls and lush landscapes. Madeira is varied and charming, one of the truly unique vacation destinations in Europe.

Originally built in 1927 as a way of welcoming those arriving on Madeira island by sea, this is an excellent photo opportunity, offering stunning views of Desertas (uninhabited islands) and Reis Magos and Galo beaches. Madeira is not just an island to lounge around the hotel pool on (although that is definitely cool, too), but one to hike, whale watch, rock climb, snorkel, and take the road out to the gorgeous towns along the coastline.

Madeira is just a short ferry trip away from Spains Canary Islands, and less than two hours from both the Azores and mainland Portugal by plane, making it an easy, multiple-day stop on a longer regional trip. Known as the Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira has gorgeous natural landscapes, adventurous hiking, natural pools, waterfalls, great food, and a nearly tropical feel yet within the confines of a European destination.

This Portuguese archipelago is definitely tempting, and not only because it is once again featured in Englands Travel Green List. Situated just a few hundred miles from the West African coast, Portugals relatively small island of Madeira is an incredible destination. Yet...despite that, Madeira is usually treated like just another pitstop in an Atlantic cruise, leading to a lot of tourists visiting its capital city alone.

Not only does Funchal, the capital, offer the largest choice of places to stay in Madeira, but is where you will find the largest selection of restaurants, bars, and shops.

The most typical place to have Espetada is at Camara de Lobos, but it is a dish that is found at a lot of restaurants all over Madeira. You will find espetada throughout the island, served as an appetizer or a side, and also as a sandwich: a bao do caco sandwich topped with a rego is totally tasty.

I think a 10 days - 2 weeks is a good length for your trip to Madeira (and longer if you are looking to also explore Porto Santo Island). If you are going to Madeira, you are smart to book all legs of your trip in Portugal in one single ticketing process.

You will also want to factor in driving time for getting around Madeira and for changing weather that may keep you from visiting certain places. Remember, weather can change fast and unexpectedly throughout the year, especially in the mountain areas at the centre of the island. It is during summer when the majority of travellers focus on Madeira; therefore, you will find it harder to escape from the crowds during this time of the year.

If you are looking for sunshine on a trip to Madeira, I suggest planning a little flexibility, so you can check the weather and the webcams, and choose a half-day to visit less cloudy areas on the island. I would definitely recommend booking at least 2 different accommodations, so you get the chance to experience the different aspects of Madeira, and also cut down on travel time (especially if you are looking to catch sunrise).

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