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Overview

Madeira's dramatic volcanic silhouette rises out of the Atlantic only 310 miles off the coast of Africa, and exactly twice as far from continental Europe. So covered is the island in trees, it's often referred to as the "floating garden in the Atlantic." Flowers bloom everywhere — don't miss the daily flower market in front of Funchal's bustling market building, or the many parks and gardens that dot the island. Many of these are in the grounds of stately homes, called quintas.

High in the mountains, a laurel forest known as Laurissilva is one of the few remaining of those that once covered the high-elevations of Europe, ...

Madeira's dramatic volcanic silhouette rises out of the Atlantic only 310 miles off the coast of Africa, and exactly twice as far from continental Europe. So covered is the island in trees, it's often referred to as the "floating garden in the Atlantic." Flowers bloom everywhere — don't miss the daily flower market in front of Funchal's bustling market building, or the many parks and gardens that dot the island. Many of these are in the grounds of stately homes, called quintas.

High in the mountains, a laurel forest known as Laurissilva is one of the few remaining of those that once covered the high-elevations of Europe, and it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore this, and the 3000-foot Encumeada Pass on foot, traversing the latter along the famed levadas — watercourses built on the mountainsides by early settlers to irrigate their land. Because of its temperate climate, Madeira is popular with Europeans as a winter escape, and is known for its beaches, surfing and water sports. But its rich cultural life and extensive natural areas (2/3 of the island is protected as a nature reserve), make it far more than just another island in the sun.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago that lies 400 kilometres (250 mi) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the north Atlantic Ocean and an outermost region of the European Union.
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The climate is temperate all year long, although winter is the most popular season for European visitors, so likely to be more crowded.