The Portuguese island of Madeira owes much of it’s beauty to it’s location, rising up from the Atlantic ocean off the African coast. Year round sunshine with a it’s share of rain has allowed all the vast array of flora brought by sailors to thrive and create this gorgeous garden island.

Madeira is all about the senses, the colours and the fragrance of the beautiful botanical gardens giving the whole island a feel of paradise.

Once seen as genteel Madeira, has reinvented itself as the must visit holiday destination and with good reason. The rocky coastline, clear blue seas, beaches and rock pools are perfect for exploring, yet Madeira has another side – the capital of Funchal may be historic but it is also lively and vibrant with great nightlife.

For real luxury book into the Royal Savoy in Funchal, this 5 star ocean front hotel is all about the location. The hotel is set in acres of beautiful gardens with seawater pools, fountains and huge exotic plants. Enjoy a cocktail in the piano bar to complete the sense of genteel yet decadent charm.

This hotel feels extravagant and you will never forget your stay.

For a much quieter charm head to Canico De Baixo, a pretty secluded village with amazing coastal access to the Atlantic. The Royal Orchid Hotel capitalises on this access and offers some of the best views of this vast ocean on the island. With great health club facilities the hotel has all the amenities that you would expect. Funchal is just 20 minutes away if you do decide to travel further afield.

Not all travellers have the budget for luxury hotels and for lower cost hotels the Residencial Parque in central Funchal is highly recommended. Clean and comfortable, the close proximity to shops and the harbour make this a great base for your Madeira holiday.

Madeira prides itself on it’s local produce – tuna, swordfish and the local speciality fish ‘scabbard’ are all readily available as is an abundance of fruit and vegetables. The dishes have a distinctly Portuguese influence but tastes of North Africa, France and Spain are not uncommon.

One of the best restaurants serving traditional food is Le Jardin in the old town area of Funchal. Priding themselves on their use of local produce the waiter will bring the fresh fish to the table for your approval before it is prepared in the kitchen. With it’s outdoor dining area the atmosphere in this restaurant is undeniable.

For a view with your meal head up into the hills above Funchal to the Xopena restaurant. They serve quite excellent food but even if they didn’t it would be worth the journey simply for the views.

Madeira is known for it’s amazing hiking, the terrain ranges from gentle strolls to quite extreme treks. The best known walks are along the 2500km levada irrigation system which stretches from north to south, these pleasant walks take in the scenery with its amazing colours and scents. More experienced walkers often head to the central mountainous regions or the waterfalls and cliffs of Western Madeira.

Spend the day exploring Funchal with it’s beautiful old buildings and cobbled streets. Visit Avenida Arriaga 28 to sample the heavy Madeira wines that the island is famed for. Traditional crafts are a big part of life here and many places encourage you to watch demonstrations of tapestry and lace work. However the must do experience in Funchal is to take a cable car up to Monte in the hills, the gardens and the views should not be missed.

Madeira isn’t just about relaxation though, head to one of the many rocky beaches to participate in some of the sports that the island offers. Diving, surfing, kayaking and even ocean fishing are all readily available in the beautiful waters of the Atlantic.

As a subtropical island Madeira has year round sun, rain is not uncommon as without it the greenery of this lush island would not survive. The south of the island enjoys warmer weather than the north and in the cooler months the mountainous region can be rather chilly for walkers.

The celebrations at new year are quite amazing, however Madeira is an island of many festivals, from flowers to wine so no matter when you travel there is likely to be some form of celebration taking place.