It’s a tough call to name Madeira’s most famous export. On the one hand, there’s the sweet dessert wine that goes down a treat – especially when it’s splashed into a trifle. On the other, there’s the fancy footwork of footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid’s headline-grabbing midfielder was born in the capital, Funchal.
Wine and football aside, though, there’s no question what brings people to this good-looking Portuguese isle. Its gardens. The whole island is so packed with plants and tropical flowers it’s been dubbed the Floating Garden. For the best, try Funchal on the south coast. It’s home to the Madeira Botanical Gardens – an 80,000-square-metre patch showcasing something green from every continent.
Câmara de Lobos and Santa Cruz
But this place isn't just for towel-in-hand types. The pretty landscape of Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village that's a ten-minute drive west of Funchal, prompted Winston Churchill to put paintbrush to canvas. And Santa Cruz, in the east, is a big hit with families, thanks to its pebbled beach and bustling pavement cafés.
Families and arty types aside, Madeira’s rapidly becoming the destination of choice for the trendy twenty-something crowd. For one thing, the island is forging a reputation as one of Europe’s top spa destinations, so it’s girlie getaways a go-go. And, while it won’t wipe Ibiza off the nightlife map any time soon, there’s an up-and-coming club scene to boot.