Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean some seven hundred kilometres west of the African coast, Maderia is a magnificent emerald island, stretching approximately 57 kilometres in length by 26 kilometres wide, its shores lapped by the warm waters of the Gulf stream. Discovered in 1419 by Zarco, Madeira became an important resting place on the long trip to the new world. From these humble beginnings, the holiday trade was formed and this spectacular island, which used to be the favourite place of the rich and famous, is now the preferred choice of all sorts of visitors, from nature lovers and sightseers, to sports enthusiasts of all ages. From golf to mountain biking to paragliding and big game fishing, Madeira has something for everyone. No matter where you go on the island you are rewarded by fabulous scenery, tiny villages and friendly people.
With a population of over 100,000, Funchal is not only the capital, but also the 'heart' of Madeira and home to many of the islanders. This makes it a busy, chic, cosmopolitan and fun city, full of shops, shopping centres, bars, cafés and a great variety of restaurants and entertainment; a vibrant, metropolitan town where historic splendour and breathtaking natural beauty combine with a thoroughly modern atmosphere. It also boasts a colourful covered market, numerous stately old buildings, including an imposing cathedral and a lovely theatre. The city has grown over the years, ascending higher and higher up the mountainsides, resulting in a beautiful display of sparkling white buildings by day and a myriad of glittering lights at night.
Famous for its beautiful sea and mountain views and the replica statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
With its whitewashed, red roof-tiled houses all gathered around the lovely old church in the village square, Caniço is famous for its traditional atmosphere and its laid back way of life. The area is excellent for hiking. The sea around Caniço de Baixo is part of a marine reserve, so great for swimming and snorkelling.
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Camara de Lobos
Câmara de Lobos was a favourite place for Sir Winston Churchill, who spent many hours painting the colourful fishing boats anchored in the harbour. The town is famous for its poncha (also know as firewater) and in Estreito de Camara de Lobos up above, for serving the best espetadas on the island.
Ribeira Brava, literally "wild river", is one of the island's oldest towns, established as a centre of sugar production in the fifteenth century. The town is at sea level, fringed by a short seafront esplanade lined with colourful cafés and bars.
Ponta do Sol
Ponta do Sol (point of the sun) is a real sun trap of a resort with a relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. The palm lined promenade fringes the pebbly beach and traditional whitewashed, red-roofed buildings nestle at the foot of craggy mountains, overlooking the sea.
Calheta is famous for having more hours of sunshine than anywhere else on the island. Once only accessible by sea or via a tortuous inland route, today's visitors can travel the thirteen kilometres from Ribeira Brava by a more direct coastal, road which clings to the mountainside as it passes through waterfalls, rock tunnels and lush vegetation. A new marina has recently been completed in the town and there is a delightful golden sand beach.
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São Vicente forms a natural crossroads between the coast, the steep climb up the pass at Encumeada, and the route to the south of the island. This is a pretty village which cries out to be painted thanks to its scattering of white houses, deep green shutters, doors and balconies, all surrounded by verdant terracing.