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- 18 Sep 2019, 3 nights
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With its rugged volcanic scenery and lush forests, the Portuguese island of Madeira is heaven for nature lovers. Its mountains are crisscrossed with hiking trails, the powerful Atlantic waves are ideal for surfing and the rugged coastline is perfect for coasteering (that's climbing up cliffs before jumping in the water and swimming to the next one). The warm subtropical climate means you can explore the great outdoors at any time of year, or just chat outside the bustling bars in downtown Funchal, the island's capital.
Hostels in Madeira make the most of the island's dramatic scenery and rich history. Stay on a 16th-century street in the city centre, a mountainside home with breathtaking views of the ocean, or in a 19th-century manor house set among lush botanical gardens. There are Madeira hostels with swimming pools so you can go for a dip without leaving your hostel, while others have panoramic bars where you can watch the sun set over the mountains. As well as standard rooms, some of Madeira's hostels also offer self-contained studios and cottages.
Funchal is where most of the action is. Bars serving the local drink poncha (punch) line the pedestrianised streets behind the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer's Market). You can take a cable car from here to the charming small town of Monte. Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village with a pretty harbour full of colourful boats, is also well worth a visit.
Test your nerves at Cabo Girão, a sea cliff with a glass viewing platform 580m above the roaring ocean below. If that's not enough adrenaline, try taking a toboggan ride in a wicker basket from Monte to Livramento. The natural volcanic pools at Porto Moniz in the north of the island are perfect for cooling off in – they fill with water from the Atlantic, and are calm and wave-free. While on the island, adventurous eaters can sample the local speciality, fried scabbardfish with banana.
Madeira International Airport Cristiano Ronaldo is the island's only airport. It has one of the most dramatic landings in the world as the runway is built out over the Atlantic. You can take a bus or shuttle from the airport to Funchal and Praia Formosa (Formosa Beach). There are lots of other public buses on Madeira connecting the island's towns, or you could simply hire a taxi for a full day of exploring.