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Pushed by volcanic forces from the sea floor into the warm trade winds of the North Atlantic, are the dramatic cliffs of Madeira. Volcanic activity may have settled millennia ago, but the island’s rich soils and spring climate means Madeira explodes in lush vegetation all year round.
Madeira’s capital, Funchal, was named after the wild fennel which once carpeted its hillsides. Walk streets paved with patterned stonework that evokes the spirit of Portuguese culture and pride. Explore centuries-old churches and homes, which have endured pirate raids, German U-boat attacks, and earthquakes.
From Funchal, head west to Cabo Girão, one of the world’s mightiest cliffs. You’ll find colossal views just a fifteen-minute drive east of Funchal too. At Garajau, watch divers far below enjoying the undersea gardens of the marine reserve.
Madeira’s ring road strings together coastal towns and beaches, each one a little different from the last. If you’re looking for the island’s sunniest spot, head to Ponta do Sol. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, head to the old sugar town of Arco da Calheta and enjoy a honey cake. And if the rumbling sound of breakers is your idea of relaxation, spend a night or two at Paul do Mar.
Madeira’s northern coastline offers plenty of drama and adventure too. Feel the power of the Atlantic in the natural swimming pools of Porto Moniz. If you’re keen on hiking the levadas into the mist-covered interior, the town of Seixal makes an ideal base.
Less than an hour’s drive from Funchal is Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third highest peak.
From here, experienced hikers can follow knife-edged trails to even higher peaks, the same peaks that guided Portuguese mariners to Madeira six centuries ago.