When you think of Portugal, you might imagine cozy cafes, cobblestone streets, and history at every turn. But don’t forget about Madeira, the Portuguese island that’s well-worth the quick plane ride to get there.
Madeira is actually four islands off the northwest coast of Portugal that’s close to Africa. There you’ll find volcanic landscapes, green fields, looming cliffs, rock-covered beaches, and a tropical climate.
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is known for its wine production. The volcanic landscape offers a unique environment to grow grapes, yielding dry varieties that are just as delicious as its sweet dessert wine. (Fun fact: Madeira wine was poured during the toast at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and at George Washington’s inauguration, as well, according to Catavino.com.)
If this hasn’t sold you on this tropical destination hidden off the coast of Portugal, just wait. Take some time to check out these photos and you’ll be convinced.
1. Madeira neighborhood nestled between mountains
The islands of Madeira were claimed by Portuguese sailors in 1419.
2. Madeira’s cliff-lined coast
Madeira is a quick 90-minute flight from Lisbon.
3. Seaside view
More than a million people visit Madeira every year.
4. Prime whale and dolphin watching
Madeira is known for the dolphins and whales that commonly pop up from their migrations to visit tourists.
5. Year-round water sports
The water surrounding Madeira stays relatively warm all year round (around 64 degrees Fahrenheit at its coldest) making it a great spot for water sports.
6. Sunset on Madeira
There is no bad spot to view a sunset or sunrise on the islands.
7. Golden Hour at Madeira
The Madeira Islands are often called The Golden Islands because of its beaches — and the stunning light at the beginning and end of each day.
8. Clouds over Madeira
This area is also known for its waves, which have been enticing surfers for decades.
9. The hills of Madeira
There’s a cable car in the capital city of Funchal that will give you the best views of the island — and you can toboggan back down.
10. Sunrise at Madeira
Madeira is well known for its many resorts, all of which are designed to best show off the natural landscape that surrounds them.
11. The best vantage point
The best views of the sunrise can be found after a hike up the mountain top of Pico do Arieiro.
12. Green fields of Madeira
The best way to take in the views is with a glass of locally made wine, or the local liquor, Poncha — an alcohol derived from sugar cane juice, lemon juice, lemon rind, honey, and sugar.
13. Rocky seaside cliffs
While Madeira has its fair share of beaches, its coast is also lined in rocky cliffsides, perfect for an adventurous climber or those looking for a particularly scenic ocean view.
14. Madeira road trip
If road trips are your cup of tea, head to Madeira. The winding coastal roads provide all of the ambiance for a perfect “windows down” vacation.
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