Madeira Magic (20.06.12)

The island of Madeira, in the Atlantic off the Moroccan coast, really does live up to its elaborate nickname ‘Atlantic Flowering Garden’.

Having just returned from moderating at the Association of Independent Tour Operators’ (AITO) overseas conference in Madeira, I am still buzzing from the awe-inspiringly beautiful trek between the island’s two highest peaks, Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro.

Accompanied by José Aragao & Filipe Silva from the Portuguese National Tourist Office and Kate Kenward (Chief Executive of AITO) I enjoyed one of the most dramatic ‘short treks’ in the world. The well-maintained alpine path twists and winds between the high peaks, offering breath taking scenery, awesome above the cloud views and an explosion of floral colour at almost every turn.

Twenty million years ago the island rose up through volcanic activity which produced the Madeira archipelago. Included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, Madeira enjoys much hype for the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the islands’ landscapes and the famous Madeira wine – all of which, to my mind, is well deserved.

An impressive new road & tunnel system connects the 270,000 inhabitants, who are mainly based in the mountain-hugging coastal city of  Funchal, to an array of dramatic sheer cliff coastal areas and the beautiful interior dominated by the Parque Natural da Madeira.

Extensive primeval laurel forests, 143 endemic plant species, an extensive flora range and unique network of levadas (irrigation channels dating back to 15th century) combine to create stunning treks for walkers, who also benefit from the attractive all year round mild climate.

Click here to see the ‘Roof of Maderia’ film link – which I put together from the high level Pico Ruivo & Pico do Arieiro trek. The walk follows a very well marked path with steps cut into the rock and can be easily completed in 5 hours.