Madeira; The beautiful pearl of the sea
Noreen Lane, Travel Counsellor
I recently visited the island of Madeira with a group of travel agents. Madeira is an island located in the mid-Atlantic and is about 1000km south west of Portugal and 600km west of the coast of Morocco. This area is known as the "pearl of the Atlantic" and comprises of two islands Madeira and Porto Santo, Madeira being the larger of the two.
The weather is described by the locals as being the most perfect climate in the world. It's never too hot with temperatures between 17 and 24 degrees. It can reach 33 when the 'leste' is when the east wind from the Sahara flows for a few days each year. When I was there it was between 20 and 22 which was nice.
I flew with SATA airlines direct to Funchal which was a 3.5 hour direct flight from Dublin. I found the flight to be very comfortable with complimentary hot meals, in-flight refreshments and entertainment. SATA provide convenient daytime return flights from Dublin. They also allow you to check in one free 20kg bag and for any golf enthusiasts, one pre-booked golf bag. The transfer from the airport to Funchal takes 30 minutes. There are many three, four and five star hotels in the Lido tourist area of Madeira with most of the four and five star situated on the cliffside overlooking the promenade or ocean and the three star hotels or apartments are just 300 to 400 metres from the promenade.
On our journey around Funchal we visited the Market Place. Here you can find some fresh produce such as fruit, flowers, fish and local Madeira wine and it is also where the locals do a lot of their daily shopping. There are two major shopping centres; The Dolce Vita in Funchal and the Forum shopping centre which is in the Lido area.
The majority of beaches in Madeira are black sand and pebble. Praia Formosa is the largest free public beach on Madeira Island. It consists of four mix sandy and pebble beaches, all offering excellent water quality and great facilities such as parking, sport activities, changing rooms, lifeguard surveillance and a children's play area. Also along the seaside is the starting point of a long promenade linking to Lido beach. The island of Porto Santo is the best place for golden sandy beaches.
Contrary to popular believe, Madeira is not an island just for older people. It caters for all ages, couples, families, groups and solo travellers with activities for all ages. The city comes to life at night time with its bars open until 7am. Water sports such as sailing, faishing and whale watching are very popular. Levada walks are some of the best opportunities to get in tune with the nature and lush green landscape.
The Santa Cruz Aqua Park and the Madeira Theme Park in Santana are very popular with families. Golf is available on two spectacular courses both wtih lovely views and excellent conditions. Monte Toboggan Ride which is a ride down from Monte to Funchal on a wooden sledge down narrow winding streets which is steered and pushed by two men. It takes 10 minutes and is adventurous yet safe.
Madeira has a great natural beauty with tropical gardens and spectacular panoramic views. It's green mountains, steep valleys, cliffs, blue sea and hospitality melt together to create an island of sublime peace. Whether you're a first timer or a returning visitor, this unique island will leave you speechless with its stunning natural beauty and culture.
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