With it's rugged volcanic peaks, exotic flowers, a network of levadas or level walking paths and a wild virgin forest dating back millions of years, it's no wonder that visitors to Madeira, a small archipelago far out in the Atlantic, describe it as a tiny piece of paradise. Here are 10 of my favorite activities:
1. Take the cable car that sweeps above Funchal's ravine-like valley to the
3. The scenic road that twists and turns to the summit of Pico do Areeiro runs through a volcanic land covered in rare flora and provides unparalleled views of valleys laced with streams. It's also a jumping off point for short walks to see the central mountain range rising from a thick cloud cover.
4. Madeira is most noted for its levadas, a network of almost 1,000 miles of irrigation channels that are bordered by a level but often precipitous walking path. Nonetheless, though the reputation of the island's levadas often turn away acrophobic visitors, there are plenty of lovely levada walks coursing through
7. Once you've checked out the cozy A-frame thatched cottages in the
9. Whether it's the English-style and tropical gardens, 18-hole par 72 golf course (Perched at 500 feet above sea level, the clubhouse provides panoramic views of the Bay of Funchal), or Casa Velha Do Palheiro, a five-star country house, you’ll find plenty to do at the Palheiro Estate that dates back to the 1800s. This former hunting lodge provides guests with the use of the private yacht. Plus you won’t want to miss a meal at their restaurant, considered one of the island’s best with some select Portuguese wines available. When I was there, they served: pigeon and foie gras with gingered sweet potato puree; blue lobster and avocado with mango in a rice paper wrap. You can have high tea with scones in the afternoon or stop by the teahouse for homemade pastries.