Volcanic Madeira richly deserves its nickname the "Garden Isle". Enjoying a mild climate, the island is covered with terraced fields, vineyards, banana plantations and tropical gardens that flower all year round. It also boasts a surprisingly varied landscape in which sheer cliffs sit side by side with clouded peaks. Proud of its unspoilt natural environment and, in particular, its exceptional laurel forests, the remains of the island's virgin woodland, Madeira has designated two thirds of its surface area a natural park.
The island can be explored in a couple of days and makes a great destination for a walking holiday. While the most experienced hikers scale Mount Ruivo to admire the incomparable views from its summit, the less intrepid can enjoy the 1 400km of paths that run alongside the levadasor irrigation channels that criss-cross the island.
In the evenings, you can sample the authentic, flavoursome fare served in the many restaurants of Funchal, the capital, or try a glass of poncha as you gaze out to sea and dream of the days when Madeira was the first port of call for explorers heading to the New World.