Simon’s Calder’s Madeiran highlights: Discover this stunning island’s must-dos

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Since his initial visit in the year 2000, The Independent’s esteemed travel expert, Simon Calder, has been captivated by the enchanting allure of Madeira. As he continues to explore this mesmerizing destination time and time again, he has discovered a plethora of experiences and attractions that beckon him back for more. However, among these myriad offerings, there are a select few that have taken hold of his heart, solidifying their status as his absolute favorites.

One of the standout experiences that never fails to leave Calder in awe is the exhilarating levada walks. Madeira’s unique network of levadas, or irrigation channels, crisscrosses the island’s verdant landscapes, offering an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in nature’s splendor. Whether venturing along the Levada do Furado trail, with its breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls and lush valleys, or meandering through the Levada das 25 Fontes route, complete with its mesmerizing turquoise lagoons and enchanting laurel forests, these walks are an absolute must for any visitor to Madeira.

Another attraction that consistently captures Calder’s imagination is the Mercado dos Lavradores, or Farmers’ Market, in the heart of Funchal. Bursting with vibrant colors, captivating scents, and an electric atmosphere, this market is a sensory delight. From the local fresh produce, such as succulent fruits and aromatic herbs, to the bustling fish market, where an abundance of seafood is displayed in all its glory, Calder finds himself irresistibly drawn to this vibrant hub of culture and gastronomy. For an even more immersive experience, he recommends visiting during the early morning hours when the market is bustling with locals and the day’s bounty is at its freshest.

For those seeking a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Calder urges a visit to Monte, a picturesque village nestled in the verdant hills above Funchal. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the island by exploring attractions such as the Monte Palace Tropical Garden or the timeless architecture of Nossa Senhora do Monte Church. However, the highlight for Calder is undoubtedly the exhilarating toboggan ride, a tradition that dates back to the early 19th century. Descending from Monte to Livramento at breakneck speeds aboard a wicker toboggan, guided by skilled carreiros in traditional straw hats, is an unforgettable experience that perfectly encapsulates the unique spirit of Madeira.

In conclusion, Madeira’s allure is undeniable, with countless attractions and experiences that continue to captivate visitors like Simon Calder. From the breathtaking levada walks that allow one to immerse themselves in nature’s beauty, to the vibrant Mercado dos Lavradores that tantalizes all the senses, and the historic village of Monte with its rich heritage and thrilling toboggan rides, there is something truly magical about this destination. As Calder continues to explore Madeira, he knows that these cherished experiences will forever hold a special place in his heart.

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