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When you think of bucket-list island destinations, you probably don’t think of Madeira first, yet the archipelago was named Europe’s Best Island Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2013 and 2014.

Although Madeira is a small island, it packs a lot of punch with plenty of things to do: hiking, surfing, whale watching, exploring charming European towns or simply hanging by the pool drinking Madeira wine.

I knew I needed to visit this Portuguese island when the Boston Globe said it resembled “the exotic landscape of Hawaii” and the “lush green of Ireland.” Now I’m back to tell you why you should add this beautiful island to your bucket list.

 

The weather

Madeira has a mild climate, making it a true year-round destination. I went in November and enjoyed temperatures in the low 70s.

Pico do Arieiro

Believe me, you’re going to want to hike this peak for the spectacular views. Fortunately, it can be reached by car.

pico


Porto Moniz Lava Pools

I mean, look at it. If I had my own travel awards, I’d name this Best. Pool. Ever. It was incredible to swim here, surrounded by fish with the ocean waves crashing in. By the way, these are public pools complete with bathrooms and lockers for storing personal items. There’s a small fee (between 1-2 Euros) to enter.

lava pool


The Drinks

Madeira is known for two drinks: Madeira wine (I recommend Blandy’s Wine Lodge for tastings) and Poncha, a traditional drink with distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice.


Funchal

The capital city is charming, with its architecture, cafes, colorful market and mosaic sidewalks.

Funchal


Levadas

Madeira has a system of old irrigation channels, known as levadas, which run all over the island. They make for some excellent (and very popular) walking paths. There are more than a dozen to choose from, but I would recommend Ribeiro Frio, Rabacal and the 25 Fountains or Nun’s Valley. You can join a tour group to walk with a guide, or explore them by yourself.