Romantic mini breaks: Madeira

Romantic mini breaks: Madeira

If you’re after a short honeymoon packed with activities, culture or even just simple relaxation, Madeira is pretty perfect

Madeira is not a large island (it's just 56km long and 20km wide), but there's plenty to see on this Portuguese landmass - especially if romance is on your agenda. A melting pot of old-world charm and 21st-century appeal, this volcanic isle is flung 1,600km off Africa's west coast, a mid-Atlantic treasure boasting verdant hillsides, fiery craters and UNESCO sites aplenty.

Discover the enigmatic Old Town

The cobbled streets of Zona Velha (the Old Town) in Funchal - Madeira's capital - are lined with ancient buildings and sites that are ripe for exploring. Check out the cathedral first, built in 1614 and famed for its impressive architecture, in particular the decorative ivory, gold and cedar ceiling.

Next try the heady sights, sounds and smells of Funchal Market. From here you can take the cable car above the terracotta rooftops to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and stroll the lush, sculpture-studded gardens. Expect a bizarre yet enchanting collection of flora and fauna, from Himalayan orchids to Scottish heather.

In the evening, try the romantic Restaurante do Forte (set in the 17th century Saint Tiago fortress) for its smoked cod and fillet of pork. Take a tour of Blandy's Wine Lodge and Museum too, home to the island's most famous export: Madeira wine.

Experience nature at its best

Boat trips run from the picturesque Funchal harbour: you'll spot common, bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins, watch for fin, pilot and sperm whales - to name a few - and swim in a beautiful bay. Mediterranean monk seals and loggerhead turtles are commonly spotted too, as are birds like the Madeiran storm-petrel and Cory's shearwater, for those looking to the skies rather than the sea.

Madeira's mountainous interior is the big attraction however, criss-crossed with the irrigation channels known as levadas. The UNESCO-listed paths that follow these levadas make great walking routes to step out along together.

Get behind the wheel or in the saddle

Hire a car, or take a guided tour, to explore the rest of the island. It may not be big, but it can take a surprisingly long time to get anywhere, thanks to the topography. So spend a day on the western side, a day on a central loop, and a day on an eastern circuit.

Take to the hills on the gentle steeds of Quinta do Riacho, run by a friendly English-speaking couple. You'll ride along hilltop trails without seeing another soul. Madeira is mild year-round, but June is a great month to go for fine weather and fewer tourists. 

Where to stay? Recharge your batteries in Reid's Hotel, where Winston Churchill stayed. The hotel's honeymoon package includes a moonlight dinner with a private butler in a secluded spot in its beautiful gardens. Even if you don't stay, do pop in for afternoon tea.

Getting there? Flight time is 3hrs 45mins. TAP Portugal flies from Gatwick direct from £147 return. Easyjet flies from Gatwick and Bristol.

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Image: iStock

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