Madeira Island

Madeira Island is often referred to as the "Pearl of the Atlantic," and year after year, thousands of visitors come to this gem of a destination to get away from it all. While Madeira Island travel is popular year round, April through May and September through October are arguably the best times to visit. Interestingly enough, a relatively cool mist tends to move in over Madeira Island come August, so you might avoid an August visit if possible. Regardless of when you decide to enjoy your Madeira Island vacation, the flowers should be in bloom. Essentially one big botanical garden, Madeira Island brims with geraniums, bougainvilleas, hydrangeas, and a list of other flower species. The sweet smell of these fragrant plants mixes with the ocean air, lending to the island's paradise-like atmosphere. A joy to explore, Madeira Island awaits curious travelers, always ready to impress.

Madeira Island is the main island in the Madeira Archipelago. This autonomous grouping of islands, which have been part of Portugal for hundreds of years, were formed by a volcanic hot spot. The island of Madeira itself is effectively the peak of a large volcanic mass. As such, the island's soil is a rich volcanic soil that encourages an array of plants to thrive. In addition to flowers, Madeira Island is an excellent place to grow bananas, mangoes, apples, and avocados. Bananas are actually the island's chief export crop, and numerous flowers, such as orchids, also figure among the main exports. Madeira wine is heavily exported as well, thanks to its unique and renowned qualities. The island of Madeira wasn't always an ideal place to grow wine grapes and other things, however. When two Portuguese explorers discovered Madeira Island in 1419, virgin forests reigned supreme. This explains the island's name, which means wood. Fires were sent to the island shortly after its discovery.

Savoring the quality wines that are locally produced is one of the many joys of a Madeira Island vacation. The Madeira wine industry has been well established for centuries on end, and it has a special place in the history of the United States. Past presidents and other luminaries, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were reportedly fond of Madeira wine, and it is even believed to have been the wine of choice for the toasting of the Declaration of Independence. Aiding in the production of wine on Madeira Island, and agriculture in general, is an extensive system of levadas that carry water to the main growing regions. The first levadas, or aqueducts, were built in the sixteenth century, though more were added over time. While touring through the mountainous terrain of Madeira Island, you're bound to spot some levadas, most of which are about two feet wide and two feet deep.

Since the beaches on Madeira Island are essentially nonexistent, most visitors come to take in the island's beautiful countryside. The main city of Funchal makes for an ideal place to arrange a guided tour of the island's mountainous terrain, though you might start by touring the city itself. Exploring the lovely Praca do Municipio, or Municipal Square, is always something that is worth adding to your Madeira Island travel plans. For those who are staying at one of the Funchal hotels, some of the tour companies that specialize in full island visits offer hotel pickup, which is convenient if you don't wish to explore on your own by way of rental car. Taxis are also available for getting around, as are buses, and you can always go by foot if you please. Hiking is a popular thing to do on a Madeira Island vacation, especially around the island's tallest peak. Pico Ruivo, which rises to an altitude of 6,100 feet, lies at the center of the island. Often capped in snow, it is quite a sight to see.

When sightseeing during your Madeira Island vacation, you won't want to miss Cabo Girao, which is the island's most famous sea cliff. One of the tallest sea cliffs in Europe, Cabo Girao rises 1,930 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Many Madeira Island hikers start their hikes at the cliff's top. Madeira Island is one of only two islands in the Madeira Archipelago that is inhabited. The other one is Porto Santo, which unlike Madeira Island, is known for its beaches. If beach time is something that you have in mind for your Madeira Island travel itinerary, then a Porto Santo visit is recommended. According to some, the five-mile-long, white sand beach on Porto Santo is one of the best beaches in Portugal.

A Madeira Island vacation can see you enjoying a range of fun activities. In addition to hiking, visitors can go golfing, take to the high seas on a fishing excursion, try their hand at surfing, or go shopping for unique handicrafts. There are plenty of good Madeira Island hotels to choose from, and while the archipelago is 527 miles southwest of the Portuguese mainland, getting here is relatively easy. Most visitors fly over from Lisbon, and flights between Madeira Island and Porto Santo are available if you want to travel between the two main islands. You can also fly direct from London if you please. Arriving on a cruise ship is another way to get here, as Madeira Island is a popular stop on the European cruise scene. Just remember to plan your visit in advance if your Madeira Island travel plans involve taking part in the New Year's Eve celebrations. The island supports one of the largest fireworks shows in the world come New Year's Eve, and scores of tourists come to see it.

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