The Beautiful Madeira Archipelago
The best island destination in Europe is actually in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a Portuguese archipelago called Madeira, and it is far away from pretty much everything: 540 nautical miles from the European continent and 280 nmi from the African coast.
This is a magical place, with spectacular views of rocks and massive hills that emerge suddenly from the water. The islands receive visitors all year round, being an excellent vacation destination with perpetual spring-like weather and temperatures of 61 °F in the winter to 72°F during summer. Every year brings approximately 1 million tourists to Madeira.
One really nice attraction here is the collection of natural lava pools, some of which have been separated from the ocean to offer a safer and more serene bathing environment. You must check out the baths at Porto Moniz, whose waters seem to blend with the Atlantic. There are also plenty of gorgeous beaches in the archipelago, the most popular of which being located on the Porto Santo Island.
Always having an ideal warm temperature, the water invites people to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, or windsurf. The more adventurous types will also appreciate the excellent paragliding conditions of Madeira. If you are more of a land-based activities kind of person, then hiking is probably more suited for you. The island is crossed by numerous stone irrigation channels called levadas, which make up an interesting system of hiking trails, some of which even pass under waterfalls.
The largest city to visit here is called Funchal. It welcomes it guests from the coast, as most people reach it by boat. Its beautiful old architecture is definitely worth your time and attention, but so are the lively markets filled with people and colorful produce. If you are looking for something truly spectacular, then you should spend New Year’s Eve in the city. Here you’ll see the world’s largest firework show at the beginning of a new year, as attested by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Another excellent time to visit the island is during Lent, when one of Europe’s biggest street festivals takes place, known as the Madeira Carnival. On the Friday before the Lent people really let themselves go in a burst of music, color and fun. But don’t let us tell you when to visit the beautiful archipelago – remember that there is not a wrong time to go to Madeira!