I have to say that Madeira is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. It’s kind of raw and unspoiled in the interior and the coastal areas feel quite refined and not particularly bothered by the “here-we-go” mob.
We flew over on British Airways from Gatwick on one of the May Bank Holidays, having set off from home at what we thought was a nice early time, which would allow plenty of opportunity to use the BA Exec Club lounge to grab free drinks and lunch, however as the M25 is the M25 we ended up arriving at Gatwick so late that we pretty much had to run straight through and get on the plane.
At the other end, Madeira’s airport is small, easy to deal with, uncluttered and rather spectacular. Basically, Madeira doesn’t have enough flat land anywhere to build a runway big enough for modern commercial jets. The original runway was built by cutting a chunk out of the side of a headland to make enough for a short runway and some terminal buildings. To make the runway longer, they had to start building a raised concrete platform which spans towards the next headland, with rather dramatic effect.
The area beneath the big concrete pillars provides handy extra space for car parking and similar airport-related services.
Back at the plot, we’d rented a car (a VW Golf, I think) from the airport and had booked a hotel in Funchal for our week, but otherwise had pretty much no plans other than to explore.
So in no particular order :
We spent an amount of time just meandering around in Funchal.
One day we drove into the mountains looking for some levadas.
Another day we went up on the gondola to Monte for a look around and a dramatic wooden toboggan ride back down.
We went up to the Botanical Gardens one afternoon.
We had one (very long) day walking from Pico do Arieiro past Pico Ruivo and on to Achada do Teixeira and back. This took us all day, and we were a bit kippered when we finally got back to the car. The walk was spectacular though and the path was a bit hairy in places.
We had another day where we walked out as far as possible along the peninsula on the far north-eastern corner of the island.
And finally we had a day where we drove around the northern coatsline, where the scenary is very dramatic and they had som trouble fitting in a proper road.