Mountain trails abound – and more than 600 miles of pathways line the lavadas, the island’s stone watercourses that wind through the countryside. The best thing about them – aside from the close-up look at village life – is that some lavadas are almost level (the water flows very slowly), so hiking beside them is a breeze.
It’s possible to drive completely around the island in a day (and you may suspect that some of the local drivers are hell-bent on doing it in 45 minutes), but if you can linger along the way, you see a Madeira that will long linger in memory. Drive from Funchal and the southern coast up a breathtaking mountain route to the northwestern tip at Porto Moniz (swim in natural tidal pools in the volcanic rock shoreline), and then follow the dramatic north coast road: Some days your car will get splashed by both surf and waterfalls.
Madeira’s wines are at the heart of the island’s heritage. Discover your favorite (the dry sercial or verdelho, or the sweeter bual or malmsey) at the Old Blandy Wine Lodge in the center of Funchal, which has a tasting room devoted to vintage Madeiras. If the spirit moves you, continue your vinous education with a historical perspective on the island’s wine-growing culture at the Museum of the Madeira Wine Institute.