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By admin - Posted on 08 February 2009

Islands to be Discovered
Yes, paradise does exist. True balance between body and mind, between Man and Nature, can be found only an hour and a half away from Mainland Portugal, and only a few hours from Central and Northern Europe.

So pack your bags, leave your winter clothes at home, and embark on an unforgettable journey to the Madeira Islands. Feel the touch and aroma of a subtropical climate and the exotic feel of this archipelago, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean yet at Europe’s doorstep. Africa is only 500 kilometres away, while Mainland Portugal is 1,000 kilometres distant.

Come and discover the true diversity of the Madeira Islands, the long strip of golden sands of the Island of Porto Santo, and the richness of the fauna and flora in the Nature Reserves of Desertas and Selvagens Islands.

On Madeira, the irregularly cut mountains with lush vegetation scrape across the sky, while the bays, the beaches and the cliffs meet the crystalline sea of the deepest blue. This harmonious contrast brings Nature together with the cosmopolitan throb of the capital of Madeira, where exquisite quality and a festive spirit rule the roost. The internationally acclaimed display of tourist and cultural events includes such events as Carnival, the Flower Festival, the Atlantic Festival, the Columbus Festival, the Madeira Wine Festival, the Christmas festivities and the highlight of the year which is the grandiose firework display on New Year’s Eve, at night. In the field of sports, the outstanding roster of events includes the Madeira Wine Rally, the Classic Car Rally and the Madeira Golf Open, which are part of the European calendars of the respective sports.

The culture, the costumes and the traditions of Madeira residents come to life as you turn each corner: in the historical and contemporary museums, in the typical Agriculturists Market (Mercado dos Lavradores), or in the wine and embroidery industries. On the Madeira Archipelago, past and present walk hand in hand.

Hotels: Charm and Tradition
A blend of class, good taste, quality and good service – this is the real image imprinted on the hotel trade on Madeira. There is a plentiful and variable supply of board and lodgings, and the visitor can choose the most modern hotels in town, or prefer the antique “Quintas da Madeira” or even Rural Tourism.

In the city of Funchal one can find the most modern and contemporary hotels of the region, most of which have quality certifications. The rooms are luxurious and the sea and hill view are simply out of this world, while the theme restaurants take us to the world of flavours, and the swimming pools, solariums and health clubs make us relax. Even though some hotels may come up with a comfortable yet minimalist style of decoration, they all combine sophistication and a feeling of well-being.

For more romantic souls, the choice could include the “Quintas da Madeira”, where, for centuries, several families from European aristocracy found refuge in this true paradise on Earth. These are small palaces of classical Madeira style architecture, surrounded by old trees, small streams that wind their way through the gardens, within a lordly environment through which several famous names have passed, including Sir Winston Churchill, the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Charles of Habsburg, and Princess Sissi, among others. The “Quintas da Madeira”, all in prime locations, have their own hidden secrets, snippets of life in times gone by. This dream is now within everyone’s reach. In these true stately homes, luxury, sophistication and tradition team up with new amenities, such as health clubs, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and panoramic restaurants offering magnificent views over sea and mountains.

If you prefer a somewhat more relaxed environment, closer to Nature, then Rural Tourism is just what you need. Here there are small cosy hotel units from where one can set out on a trail of adventure and discovery, revealing new landscapes and feelings through walking trails, levadas (waterways) and other pedestrian routes. At the end of the day, you can propose a toast with real Madeira Wine because Nature is still there, around you.

Marinas: An entrance point for sailors
The coastline of Madeira and Porto Santo is highly appealing to sailors, who find on the Madeira Islands sheltered ports and marinas of the highest quality.

On the South Coast of Madeira, where the sea is calmer, we have the Marina of Funchal, the oldest in the Region, while there is also the modern and welcoming Calheta Marina and also the Quinta do Lorde Marina on the Eastern tip of Madeira. On Porto Santo, lovers of seafaring pursuits are also made very welcome, thanks to the good conditions offered by the local marina.

Laurissilva: A Natural Heritage of the World
The city of Funchal straddles the mountains and borders on the Nature Reserve that takes up some two thirds of the island, and where one can find one of the most important icons of the real beauty of the Island: “Laurissilva”, the forest native to Madeira that can be traced back to the Tertiary Period, and which has been considered as World Natural Heritage by UNESCO.

This natural heritage gains a further splash of colour thanks to the vast array of exotic plants that have made Madeira one of the places in the world with the greatest phytodiversity index, which means that the Island has a high degree of plant diversity per square metre, with some native species and others that have been imported over the years.

Adventure: A Walk through Nature
This forest is magic yet not forbidden. Come and become part of this forest and discover Nature in the purest of states. Just don some comfortable shoes and become adventurous, exploring the “Levadas” of Madeira that meander through the lush forests, or the trails that could hoist you up to an altitude of 1,862 metres above sea level!

The “Levadas”, waterways that started to be built in the 16th Century, are now one of the most important tourist attractions of the Region. They slice through the mountains, taking water from North to South, with the aim of irrigating agricultural land in the more inaccessible locations.

Words cannot describe the sheer beauty of these exploration routes. For this reason, there is nothing quite like getting yourself involved and starting to plod along one of the several existing routes. The best known of these are the one that leads from Rabaçal towards the 25 Fountains, that going from Queimadas to Caldeirão Verde, that from Areeiro Peak to Ruivo Peak and, last but not least, the one from Ribeiro Frio to Portela. There is also an excursion specially prepared for people with mobility impairment, with less difficulty but equally wondrous scenery, which is the path from Pedras Peak to the Queimadas.

Beaches: The Awakening of the Senses
The archipelago hugs the sea, and so there is nothing quite like having a dip, feeling the sun and diving in clean waters. You may choose from dozens of beaches of rocky formation, made of rolling basalt fragments, or one of the modern seaside complexes that are scattered throughout Madeira. If you decide on a beach, you may choose between Formosa Beach, Calheta Beach, Reis Magos Beach, Jardim do Mar Beach, Madalena do Mar Beach, or the Beach at Porto Santo, on the neighbouring island.

The seaside complexes of the Lido, of the Poças do Governador, of the Naval Club, of the Cavacas Dock, of Barreirinha or the Natural Pools at Porto Moniz meld the freshness of the sea into the swimming pools, solariums, restaurants, bars, seaside resorts and the easy availability of parking.

Sea: The Vibrancy of the Undersea World
On the Madeira Islands, Mother Nature does not only get excited on the surface of the water, but also inside it. The volcanic origin of this archipelago has led to the appearance of interesting rock formations as well as plentiful and varied marine flora and fauna, which, together with the excellent temperature and the cleanness of the water, has made this destination into a real divers’ paradise.

Within this world of silence lie the Garajau Marine Nature Reserve and the Rocha do Navio Marine Nature Reserve. Just slip into your diving suit, put on your flippers, don your mask and then meet the mysteries of underwater life.

Set up in 1986, the Partial Reserve of Garajau, on the South Coast of the Island, is the ideal location for snorkelling and bottle diving. Here, among a host of other coastal species, one can see fish such as the Dusky Grouper (Epinephelus marginatus), the Moray Eel (Muraena helena) and interesting colonies of garden eels (Taenioconger longissimus).

Like the case of Garajau, also in the case of Rocha do Navio diving is allowed but hunting and fishing are forbidden. This nature reserve, located within the municipality of Santana, is well known for being the habitat of the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus), also known as seal.

A Health Club right in the Atlantic Ocean
On the Madeira Islands, everything invites you to relax. An unrivalled presence of Nature, full of pure air, as if a balsam, and an ocean with warm and crystalline waters really appeal to the senses.

Make the most of the extracts of algae and plants, of the fresh scent of the flowers, the 100% pure air, together with the temperate climate, and top up your energy. Discover the fertility of the soil and the copious sea fauna, in healthy and tasty meals, and enjoy the close contact with Nature, getting away from the routine and from the hustle and bustle of large cities.

Feed your body, mind and spirit in this natural Health Club, the Archipelago of Madeira, where mankind re-establishes contact with the ancestral origins of Nature.

If, however, the plenitude of Nature is not enough, then just drape yourself in a gown, put on some sandals and then dive into the sumptuous world of the Health Clubs offered by the hotel units, and take advantage of innovative treatments for relaxation and beauty, such as balneotherapy, hydrotherapy, and massage.

Visit the Island of Porto Santo and see for yourself a gold-tinted paradise. For nine kilometres, a carpet of fine and soft sand unfolds, with therapeutic properties that really soothe the body and the mind. It is in this environment of perfect harmony between Nature and Mankind that the popular saying “healthy mind, healthy body” really makes sense, because it is here that we feel inner peace and calm.

Porto Santo: Paradise on Earth
Now is the time to get to know one of the greatest contrasts of the Archipelago. Just catch the plane or board a cruise liner, take a short hop of 40 kilometres, and come to visit the island of Porto Santo, which travellers have dubbed “Paradise on Earth”.

Take a stroll along the expanse of golden sands, dive into the warm turquoise waters, and enjoy the calm provided by an almost unspoilt island. Do not forget diving, golf, horseback riding, paths, jeep safari rides, tennis, trips on horse-drawn carriages, and the unmissable visit to the house where navigator Christopher Columbus once lived.

However, the great secret of the “Golden Isle” was concealed for centuries, and only now have scientific discoveries unveiled the fact that popular folk knowledge had already known: the therapeutic properties of the local sands, which came about through the scattering of a coral reef some 30 thousand years ago, this reef being situated on one of the platforms of the island. These are fine sands with unique features, which have chemical elements that are extremely beneficial to health like what happens with sea water and water from springs. All this richness is to be used to help well-being through the Thalassotherapy Centre and shall be boosted in the two new Geomedicine Centres, one of which will become operational this year.

Sports: At Sea, On Earth and In the Sky
The mild climate that is a feature of Madeira and Porto Santo enables all kinds of sporting pursuits to be practised all year round. There is a wide choice, from nautical sports, through the more traditional sporting activities, to the more radical forms of sport.

For those who love the sea, whose temperature ranges between 19º and 24ºC, this location brings all the conditions that are required for the practice of snorkelling, diving, sailing, windsurfing, surfing and sport fishing throughout the year. There is nothing comparable to embarking on a leisurely trip along the coast, aboard a vessel, a sailboat or a catamaran, from all of which one can observe dolphins, whales and seals that cross the seas of the Madeira Islands.

Those seeking more adrenaline can find suitable activities in the sky, on the ground and in the water. Fly over the island using an ultralight or a delta wing, discover the interior of Madeira by canyoning (going down canyons), climb the highest peaks, enter an off-road vehicle and let Nature get you involved, and enjoy the feeling of freedom provided by kitesurfing – or, if you prefer, feel the adrenaline pumping as you drive a jet-ski.

Those seeking calmer activities must not do without a round of golf at one of the golf links on Madeira and Porto Santo, both of which offer incomparable conditions for pursuing this sporting activity, these resulting from the excellent weather as well as the quality of the golf courses. Trekking and walks are other perfect alternatives to get to know closer the natural features of the Archipelago.

Culture and Leisure: From the Start of Time to the Future
Madeira also stands for culture and leisure. Be prepared to embark on a fascinating journey through the history of the Archipelago, starting with the very formation of the island, in special theme spaces such as the “Madeira Story Centre” and the “Caves of São Vicente – Vulcanology Centre”. Then, move on to artistic expressions of a more urban genre, that can be appreciated at the “Casa das Mudas”, which is, in itself, an icon of contemporary architecture. When curiosity increases with regard to everything that surrounds us, then there is nothing quite like visiting the Porto Moniz Life Science Centre (Centro de Ciência Viva), the Madeira Aquarium, the Madeira Magic (aimed more at children) and the Santana Theme Park.

The provision of cultural offerings also includes a handful of museums, among which the following can be highlighted: the Sacred Art Museum (Museu de Arte Sacra), the Quinta das Cruzes Museum, the Frederico de Freitas Museum House, and also the cultural and civic space known as “Universe of Memories” by João Carlos Abreu. The value of the assets is internationally recognised, as are the cases of the Sé Cathedral, the Colégio Church, the Corpo Santo Chapel, and other monuments scattered throughout the Island.

Desertas and Selvagens Islands: Nature’s Fascination in Balance
The Archipelago also includes small uninhabited islands that are a short boat trip away: the Desertas Islands (about 8 hours away) and the Selvagens Islands (about 12 hours). The former group of islands has been, since 1992, a Biogenetic Reserve, a title bestowed by the Council of Europe for the presence of unique maritime mammals. The last stronghold of the rarest seal in the world, the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus), stands some 22 miles Southeast of Funchal. In this reservation, several restrictions are now in place to protect wildlife, such as the prohibition of underwater fishing and also navigation in the Southern area. To visit, or arrive at, the Desertas Islands, it is necessary to get previous authorisation from Madeira National Park.

The Selvagens Islands, considered a “bird sanctuary” for the high number of water bird species that nest there, lie some 180 miles from Madeira.

Comprising two groups of small islands, namely the Large Selvagem and the Small Selvagem, it has had the Nature Reserve statutes since 1971, which has made this subarchipelago one of the oldest Portuguese reserves.

Copyright: Direcção Regional Turismo Madeira




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