Madeira: A Floating Garden in the Atlantic Ocean
The archipelago of Madeira is located 520 km (280 mi) from the African coast and 1,000 km (540 nautical miles) from the European continent. This is approximately a one-and-a-half-hour flight from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Here on this island paradise lives just over 270,000 residents. Considered the floating garden of the Atlantic, the beauty of Madeira is truly exceptional. The island of Madeira is wet in the northwest but dry in the southeast part of the island. In the 16th century, the Portuguese started building levadas or aqueducts to carry water to the south’s agricultural regions. Madeira is very mountainous, and building the levadas was difficult, and often sentenced criminals or slaves were used. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 miles (40 km) of tunnels, some of which are still accessible. Today the levadas not only supply water to the southern parts of the island but provide hydroelectric power. There are over 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas, and they provide a chain of walking paths. Some provide comfortable and relaxing walks through the countryside, but others are narrow, with crumbling ledges, where a slip could result in severe injury or death. Two of the most popular levadas to hike are the Levada do Caldeirão Verde and the Levada do Caldeirão do Inferno, which should not be attempted by hikers prone to vertigo or without torches and helmets. The Levada do Caniçal is a much easier walk, running 7.1 miles (11.4 km) from Maroços to the Caniçal Tunnel. It is known as the Mimosa Levada because mimosa trees are found all along the route. Besides the city of Funchal, tourist destinations include Ribeira Brava, Curral das Freiras, Porto Moniz, Santana, the Laurisilva forest, the UNESCO Natural Center of Madeira Island, and of course the beaches. A passenger gondola lift (Funchal Cable Car) transports people from the lower section of the city to the suburb of Monte and another that runs between the Monte Palace and the Botanical Gardens. Maderia is an island filled with exciting and relaxing things to do. The luxury and boutique hotels scattered throughout the island caters to guests from all over the world. A popular destination in the winter months amongst Britons looking to escape the dreary British weather flock here for the abundance of sunshine and excellent accommodations. This is considered the island of eternal spring. The flora and fauna here are absolutely breathtaking. The warm African winds that blow through this Atlantic paradise only adds to its unique charm. The island is considered extremely safe with serious crime rates almost non-existent. The region although relatively isolated still receives its fair amount of tourism. The island has become increasingly popular in recent decades due to the fact that the International soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was born and lives on the island of Madeira. It was here that Cristiano Ronaldo left for Lisbon as a young teenager to pursue his dreams to become the world’s top soccer player. A land of history and culture. A friendly island that has great restaurants, hotels, and beaches. A haven with surfers in the summer months when the waters here are at their warmest. Whether you’re visiting for a short holiday or just for the day on a cruise, you should make a point of trying the local fruits and vegetables. The produce and wide variety of exotic and tropical fruits grown here are quite impressive and very tasty.