Madeira is an island paradise for fans of Cristiano Ronaldo and hiking

7 August 2019 - The Sun

I TOUCH down at Cristiano Ronaldo airport just three and a half hours after leaving London for the Madeira Islands.

Now I could head to the Cristiano Ronaldo museum, take pictures with the two Cristiano Ronaldo statues and enjoy a Ronaldo cocktail before checking into the Cristiano Ronaldo hotel. Any guesses who Madeira’s favourite son is?

But while this is a haven for fans of the superstar footballer, the Portuguese paradise has so much more to offer.

The holiday resort was recently voted Best Island Destination In Europe in the World Travel Awards for an unprecedented sixth time and it is easy to see why.

There is perfect weather all year round (a comfortable rather than clammy 25C in summer, fresh rather than freezing 17C in winter). But Madeira is also simply beautiful.

With its colonial Portuguese ­architecture, narrow alleyways, leafy piazzas and miles of traditional mosaic pavements, it is a quaint visual masterpiece.

Vereda do Areeiro is a popular hiking trail

Vereda do Areeiro is a popular hiking trailCredit: Getty - Contributor

I am staying at the five-star Pestana Casino Park Hotel in the island’s capital Funchal.

It sits on top of a cliff overlooking docks at the south of the island and the CR7 museum. It is only a matter of minutes before I realise how big the gastronomy scene is here.

In Funchal’s Old Town, almost hidden down cobbled side streets, unassuming restaurants feel wonderfully homely.

But every one cherishes the local catch to serve up fine food.

At the end of a meal you will have a glass of the island’s most famous export, Madeira wine, brought to your table.

But it is not the locals’ most ­popular drink. That is Poncha (25 per cent ABV).

Aguardente de cana, which is distilled alcohol made from sugar-cane juice, is mixed with honey, lemon and orange juice.

You can visit the rum factories and Madeira wine factory. But one thing you need to know about Madeira is that it is a rugged, rough landscape with huge peaks and sharp troughs.

GO: MADEIRA

GETTING THERE: Flights from the UK to Madeira Funchal are from £28.99 one-way. See easyjet.com.

STAYING THERE: One night’s room only at the Pestana Casino Park is from £51.31pp based on two sharing see pestanacasinopark.com.

MORE INFO: See visitmadeira.pt and madeiraallyear.com.

After all, it is the peak of a 19,685ft volcano in the sea. Madeira is ideal for mountain-biking, trail-running, climbing or abseiling.

Sightseers will love the many viewpoints at different altitudes.

Our Green Devil Safari jeep takes us to the best view, 5,965ft up at the Pico do Arieiro. But be warned. It is an edge-of-your seat ride to get there and you don’t find many bollards or walls on these cliff-edge roads.

There are also two cable cars that help you conquer the rollercoaster landscape. I spend 15 minutes aboard the Botanical Garden cable car, which provides spectacular views over Madeira as you journey up to the Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, where more than 100,000 plant species thrive.

What goes up must come down, however, and I was wishing I had a hip flask of Poncha as I nervously spotted how we would get halfway back to Funchal — in a wicker basket on skis. They were used in the 19th century to transport wine but today these “Monte toboggans” are a tourist attraction. Straw-hatted “carreiros” push sleds of two people down ­polished Tarmac, reaching speeds of up to 30mph and using the rubber soles on their boots to brake. It is a hair-raising ten-minute ride.

On the way down we see why Madeira is a joy for walkers. Countless hiking routes exist in lush woodland, guided by the many levadas running parallel to the paths.

These channels are an irrigation system carved into the rock to supply water from the rain-rich mountains to the sun-scorched towns below.

Three days in Funchal is not enough to see everything. But before we head for the airport, we can fit in one of Madeira’s famous whale and dolphin-spotting trips.

Its location in the middle of the Atlantic makes the island a prime spot for this, and it is home to more than 20 species.

most read in travel

Our marine biologist guide is so confident we will spot some we are offered a second trip for free if we don’t.

But we do. There are lots of bottlenose dolphins gracefully gliding alongside the boat.

I should imagine at least one of them is called Ronaldo.

Source: The Sun

Translate

English Spanish Portuguese Chinese (Simplified) German French Russian

Follow us

Newsletter

Subscribe to the World Travel Awards newsletter to keep up to date with our latest news.

Our other awards

World Golf Awards World Ski Awards World Spa Awards