Madeira is a Portuguese island off the northwest coast of Africa. While the island is small, the landscape is dramatic and varied. The northwest is cloudy and windy; the south sunny and in between mountainous and lush. These different areas are all connected in a way by hundreds of levadas, irrigation canals that bring water down from the mountains. These levada paths have now become popular hiking trails. We spent the better part of the day hiking the Levada do Rei that cuts through the Laurisilva forest. Another morning we drove up to Pico do Arieiro, the third highest peak on the island at 1818 metres. We spent a total of four days driving the steep and winding roads around the island and weaving through the different towns and villages along the way.
Food in Madeira was really good and affordable. Local specialities include espeteda, a skewer of beef that is hung up at your table accompanied by different side dishes. We both agreed the best was at O Polar, a local restaurant in Camara de Lobos. There is also espada, a scabbard fish and tapas, which are limpets grilled in garlic butter. Dishes are often served alongside the local bread, bolo de cacao which is also used in a sandwich called prego.
There are so many good drinks in Madeira. Of course there’s Madeira wine so we visited Blandy’s for a tour and tasting. Locals also drink poncha, made out of sugar cane rum, honey and traditionally lemon juice although now there are other fruit flavours. Taberna da Poncho is one of the best poncho bars on the island and they make it fresh in front of you. Another cocktail called nikita has ice cream, beer and pineapple. Then there’s pe da cabra, which is an odd mix of stout, madeira wine, chocolate powder and lemon zest which is surprisingly very good. The best is served in a bar of the same name in Camara de Lobos. All the local bars serve a side of peanuts and petiscos along with the drinks.
Estalagem Ponta do Sol is located on a cliff overlooking the town of Ponta Do Sol below. The hotel has a very unique design and architecture given its location. It takes three separate elevators to get from the entrance at the bottom of the town to your room at the top of the cilff.