Famous for its friendly people, natural beauty and mild climate, Madeira is a perfect year-round destination, just three and a half hours from London. The wonderful local flora means it's often referred to as the Atlantic's 'Floating Garden', with great forests carpeting cragged peaks and spilling down to wild coastlines and more than 600 miles of walking trails – many following the island's levadas or aqueducts – provide ample opportunity to enjoy the greenery. What's more, while there aren't any beaches per se, there are plenty of lidos and bathing platforms offering direct sea access to help you make the most of the island's sunny disposition.
Meanwhile, the capital Funchal boasts open-air markets, botanical gardens, palaces and cathedrals. Yet, to only see the city is to miss the spirit of the island at large. Hence, we've recommended this eight-day self-drive, staying at a combination of smaller hotels around the island. It can easily be combined with a stay in Funchal if you wish, perhaps at the elegant Reid's Palace hotel.
Days 1-2: Quinta do Furão
Depart for Funchal, collect your hire car and drive across the island to Quinta do Furão, a charming hotel on the clifftop near Santana. All rooms come with sea views and the hotel boasts a number of traditional quirky elements, including two wine presses, while Jacuzzi, pool and sauna soaks offer more contemporary relaxation. You'll also have time to explore; colourful thatched houses form pretty villages and sweeping vineyards dot green hills. It's all marked by levada aqueducts. Dating back to the 16th century, they make for spectacular walks among the region's bright verdure.
Stay: Quinta do Furão (Superior)
Days 3-5: Quinta Splendida
Make your way to the far east of the island and Quinta Splendida, where rooms and suites are set in beautiful botanical gardens that host over 1,000 species of plants. It all spills down onto the shimmering Atlantic – a view best taken in from the freshwater pool or the sun terraces of the 19th-century manor house. Relax further with superlative dining and a range of excellent spa treatments. Despite its secluded, green-fringed position, you'll also be within touching distance of Funchal. Here, 300-year-old manors remember the life of Madeiran aristocracy, art collections beautify bishop's palaces and narrow streets weave through historic fishermen's cottages and merchants' houses. Closer to base, the indulgent seafood restaurants of coastal Caniçal are just 100m away.
Stay: Quinta Splendida (Superior)
Days 6-7: Quinta do Estreito
Head west past Funchal to the beautifully restored Quinta do Estreito. Set on a hillside, its olive groves, sun terrace and French gardens enjoy stunning views across tumbling vineyards and down to the coast. You'll end your holiday with yet more spa relaxation, fine dining indulgence and the chance to experience Madeiran life in Estreito de Câmara de Lobos – the hotel's charming village host. Once again, the historic levadas will lead you on winding walks into the surrounding greenery as the island's southern sun shines on. You also might want to play a round of golf or take to the waters with everything from sunset cruises to snorkelling and kayaking making the most of Madeira's pretty coastline.
Stay: Quinta do Estreito (Deluxe)
Day 8: Departure
Drop your car back at Funchal's airport to make your flight home.
Validity: All year round
Low season based on December departures
High Season based on October departures
*other UK departures available – please enquire for details
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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