One suspects the Portuguese island of Madeira will attract a lot more British holidaymakers than usual this year as it’s one of only a very few accessible destinations on the Government’s green list, but, in truth, this North-Atlantic beauty is deserving of all the attention she gets. With a subtropical climate and year-round warmth, it’s a destination you can sell this coming winter too. Here are five of the best activities in Madeira to wow your clients:
#1 Take a hike
One of the best ways to explore Madeira is on foot, hiking along its man-made walking trails next to the canals, or ‘levadas’, which were dug to bring water from the northern slopes to the south of the island. In total, there are 2,000kms of trails, from sea level to almost 2,000 metres. Stick to the south for gentler walks, or to explore the mountainous routes head north.
#2 Book a dolphin and whale-spotting boat trip
Having been couped up inside for a year, many holidaymakers are reconsidering whether it’s right to gawp at captive whales and dolphins in aquariums, but in Madeira you can see them swimming, free, in their natural habitat of the mid-Atlantic ocean. The waters around the island are home to about 28 different species of cetaceans, including Bottlenose Dolphins and huge Blue Whales.
#3 Tour the market
Not just any market, but the famous Mercado dos Lavradores in the historic capital, Funchal. The building alone, which is a combination of art deco and modernism, is a sight to behold. And then there are the stalls piled high with fresh flowers, fruit and veg, fish, meat, herbs and spices, plus local delicacies such as bolo do caco (bread) and queijades (milk tarts). Tesco will never seem the same again.
#4 Go for a toboggan ride
Not as romantic as a gondola for two in Venice, but a heck of a lot more fun, a hair-raising toboggan ride down a hill in Funchal is one of the island’s craziest activities. These wicker and wood ‘carros de cesto’, some big enough for a threesome, are steered by chaps in white with straw hats, which just seems to make it all the funnier.
#5 Sample the local wine
If it was good enough for Shakespeare (and apparently it was), you should make sure you don’t leave Madeira without tasting its famous wine, made from grapes cultivated in the island’s volcanic soil. With a high alcohol content of 17-22% it’s a liqueur wine made for sipping, perhaps on a terrace overlooking the sea after a long day’s sightseeing?
For more about Madeira, go here