Why Madeira is Europe’s new ultimate wellness destination

7 August 2019 - Marie Claire

It may be more commonly associated with luxury cruise stop offs, but thanks to its incredible scenery, local seafood and warm blue waters, Madeira is the new summer choice for a wellness weekend.

Why go:

Recently named Europe’s leading island destination 2019 (by the World Travel Awards), Madeira is just a three and a half hour direct flight from London via British Airways. With a subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil you will feel as though you have landed in a far-flung corner of the equator. While the capital of Funchal is buzzy and cosmopolitan, the surrounding mountains offer a peaceful respite for travellers who want to be secluded and re-connect with nature – and themselves. Coveting the ultimate escape from hectic London? Think of Madeira as your sun-drenched stress-relief ball.

The vibe:

We landed early and hopped off the plane to be met by the salty sea breeze and warm afternoon rays. Driving along the roads that hugged the hillside, we weaved in-between the terracotta-tiled houses and headed into the heart of Funchal, ready for a weekend of health and relaxation. My plan? To be barefoot as much as possible: Madeira offers an abundance of activities for the micro adventurer with trail running, canyoning, rock climbing, scuba diving and surfing all on your doorstep. However once you have released those endorphins, brushed away brain fog and breathed in lungfuls of fresh air, you can also relax on the sprawling sandy beaches. The whole island is wrapped up with a local culture that boasts warmth, merriment and the need to feed you with as many pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) as possible.

Stay at: The Vine Hotel 

Our first night was spent at the chic and modern ‘Vine Hotel ’ in central Funchal. The design is inspired by a full-bodied red wine and conveyed through the furniture, which is all twisted vines and deep purple palettes. With 57 rooms and 22 suites, the hotel is a peaceful hidden escape from the buzz of the city; rooms are spacious and sleek with long white beds and ambient-lit bathrooms. Just a floor away is the spa and fitness centre with an added heated whirlpool for you to relax in after a long day exploring by foot. The Terra Lounge restaurant sits on an open terrace where you can eat under sprawling vine leaves as fresh platters of fruits and eggs, made any way you like, are served leisurely to sleepy morning guests. Come dusk, Uva Restaurant and Wine Bar offers up late lunch and dinner on the rooftop. The lift draws open on the top floor and you are suddenly amongst the city skyline. Sit beside the infinity pool and watch the sun set, throwing an orange glow over the bay, while sampling local Portuguese dishes.

Quintinha de São João

Quintinha de São João Hotel is another central, yet more traditional Madeiran hotel full of charm. The clean white exterior is interrupted by green painted shutters. Meanwhile, inside, light pinewood and golden lampshades give the ambience of an old Madeira residence. The 42 rooms are set in lush green gardens with secret outdoor nooks where you can sit idyllically on the patios to read a book. Suites are spacious with balconies overlooking the city and expansive beds set aside billowing white curtains. Make sure to wake up in time for the buffet breakfast where fresh pastries and breads are piled high amongst cold meats, cheeses and pots of steamy coffee. After a long day of exploring the city (the hotel can pack a picnic for you) I indulged in a full body massage at the Spa Do Quintinha. My tight calves from uphill walking melted underneath the warm Darphin oil that was swept over my whole body for one glorious hour, before I cooled off in the outdoor saltwater pool. To finish off your night perfectly, I recommend a nightcap in the Vasco Da Game Bar, dimly lit and accompanied by the playing of a soft piano, preparing you gently for the land of nod.

You Really Must

Try yoga in the Laurissilva Forest

After waking up early, we drove for an hour up the steep mountains passing through village after village before plateauing above the clouds. The dramatic cliffs dropped down past little Lego-sized houses to meet the sea and I felt as if I could reach up and touch the sky above me as we weaved through fields of wild yellow flowers to the Laurissilva Forest. The air was cooler up here as we huddled together in the woods, soon to be met by Emilie Mangoni (international yoga teacher). We followed Emilie to a clearing where yoga mats were set up in a scenic spot amongst the trees. All we could hear was bird song and, as my feet sank into the warm grass and we worked through the sun salutations, an overwhelming sense of peace washed over me. Emilie completed our session with a sound bath, softly singing in Portuguese as she created melodies using small drums and rain sticks, sending us all into a gentle doze. If you want to reconnect and float away from all your worries, do the hour-long drive and explore the Laurissilva Forest, it is worth every calming second. Namaste.

Source: Marie Claire

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