Madeira, also known as the island of eternal spring, has long been a secret whispered among well-heeled travelers and those seeking a rare, off-kilter escape to the usual haunts of mainland Europe. Under the banner of Portugal, this stunning smidge of an island sits beneath a canopy of flowers just off the coast of Northern Africa. Madeira is gently warmed by the Atlantic sun, so expect pleasant temperatures and fresh air around the calendar. In addition to the very best of the natural world, the tiny volcanic island also boasts a rich cultural heritage that ranges from its reputation for fortified wines to fascinating 16th-century landmarks. Whipped by fresh swells, doused in soft sunlight and bursting to the seams with color, the secret of Madeira is finally getting out.
Where to Stay
The Grand Dame of Madeira’s bright capital is the Belmond Reid Palace, built back in the 19th century as an enchanting summer hideaway for famed aristocrats. Set among verdant gardens on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the clifftop hotel is the ultimate spot to stretch out in the sun and relax. It’s easy to imagine European royalty sipping fine wines and laughing into the late hours beneath the Murano chandeliered dining room, which remains untouched to this day.
The history of the hotel and the island are effortlessly woven into the fabric of the property, something that can be seen through the various artifacts and decoration throughout. The charmingly old-fashioned suites are dressed in local lace, boast doors that lead to fairytale terraces and serve cakes on silver trays in the languid air of the late afternoon. For the cherry on top, there’s also a spa that offers exquisite treatments using Natura Bissé and Aromatherapy Associates products, where you can relax and unwind.
Where to Dine
The Ristorante Villa Cipriani oozes Italian grace along the wild coastline of the Atlantic. Perfect for romantic nibbling, casual moonlit dinners and long conversations perfectly punctuated with local wine, the alfresco terrace is one of Madeira’s most magical dining spots. Think checked red and white tablecloths, panoramic hilltop views and a well-executed menu that perfectly balances fresh local meats, seafood, herbs and seasoning in delicious Italian dishes. In addition to the fabulous food and scenery, the friendly and well-informed staff is put the finishing touches on what’s sure to be an unforgettable meal dining to the warm ocean breezes and gentle sounds of the waves.
What to Do
During any trip to Madeira, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in Funchal. The island’s capital city is a marvelous mosaic of old winding lanes, gorgeous wide boulevards and pretty squares, with no shortage of interesting museums, vibrant markets and glitzy shopping. The Zona Velha is certainly worth a visit. The town’s picturesque Old Zone consists of merchant’s houses and 19th-century fishermen’s cottages that have been transformed into the island’s most buzzing bars and restaurants. For the most striking views in town, opt for the cable car that glides above Funchal.
Hikers rejoice, as in Madeira you will have certainly met your match. The hills beckon with endless trails that cut through flowering gardens and staggering peaks. Around Funchal, you can meander the mini canals, known as Levadas, that date all the way back to the 16th century. If you don’t feel like donning your hiking boots, then taking a jeep safari is another fine way of exploring the countryside without getting your feet dirty.
What to Pack
Swimming with dolphins, boat excursions or simply lounging by the pool – Madeira is full of exquisite outdoor experiences. Whether or not you actually go into the water, this Marysia Palm Springs Swimsuit is a sleek and luxe one-piece that will have heads turning with ease. Renowned for its classic shape, scooped neckline and plunging back, the swimsuit will have you feeling stylish, while the quick-drying stretch fabric means you will also be comfortable at all times. As with everything in Madeira, glamor speaks volumes, so embellish with these Sansoeurs 18-Karat Gold Diamond Earrings.