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Island getaways are your best bet for getting those chill european summer vibes you desperately crave, but there are so many beautiful offshore retreats to choose from that you may have a hard time narrowing down your options.
You may also feel that flying to the Mediterranean is a logical decision. After all, it’s Europe’s number one sunny getaway and the only place where the waters are nice and warm enough for swimming… right?
Well, you might want to reconsider after reading what follows.
Rather than join the hordes of Instagrammers swarming the narrow streets of Santorini and Capri, why not head somewhere unknown? equally beautiful pacific island which not only receives fewer guests from the United States, but also hosts non-stop flights From United States?
The jewel of the Pacific of Portugal
Madeira is both an archipelago and an autonomous community located off the West African mainland, although it is not a sovereign state.
Believe it or not, it is part of Portugal, having been settled by Portuguese colonizers in the 15th century and remaining Portuguese, and to a greater extent, a European outpost on the African continent in the centuries that followed.
With a population of more 250,000 inhabitantsmost of whom live on the main island of Madeira (although small settlements can be found in Porto Santo), the archipelago lies 250 miles north of Spain’s Canary Islands and 320 miles west of the Moroccan coast.
although it is not so popular with American tourists like modern Lisbon or Porto, it has non-stop transatlantic flights.
Madeira is easy to get to and just a short drive away, but why is it worth visiting to begin with?
What makes Madeira so unique?
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TO tourist destination throughout the yearIt is famous for its prehistoric laurel forest, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the quiet Pacific beaches that have not yet been marred by the overdevelopment that has plagued much of the Mediterranean in recent years, winemaking and ‘slow’ life.
Unlike mainland Portugal, especially cities like Lisbon, the capital, and the northern port of Porto, you are unlikely to find towering skyscrapers, a lot of traffic, or mass tourism in Madeira.
A lovely little capital
funchalthe small capital, home to nearly half the archipelago’s population, was founded in 1424and has all the attributes one would expect from a Portuguese settlement dating from the early 15th century.
Its historic district is famous for its pedestrian atmosphere Grid bounded by whitewashed civic buildings, the traditional cobbled streets of Europe, incredibly well-preserved late-medieval monuments such as the largely intact Funchal Cathedral, and charming bakeries where of wood variations of Portugal’s most famous export, butter pieit can be appreciated.
Madeira is full of contrasts
The true charm of Funchal lies, however, in its contrasts.
Just a few meters from the picturesque old town, walking along the promenade lined with marine gardens, you will find Lido, a lively tourist area where all the luxurious tourist accommodation and five-star properties are centered.
Named for the Lido Complex, a bathing pool that offers a panoramic view of the Atlantic, it’s the preferred Madeira base of operations for wellness seekers, and believe it or not, hotel rates aren’t as expensive as you might think. .
Affordable hotels… or luxury all-inclusive
Nights at the Hotel Alto Lido, a three-star listing in booking.com, will cost only 154 US dollars this August if you book in advance, while the cheaper Hotel Estrelicia will set you back just US$95 a night for a double room with breakfast included.
Of course, you can live it up at an all-inclusive resort for up to US$533 a night — check out the beach. VidaMar Resort – or even take a chance and rent an ultra-luxurious 3-bedroom vacation home, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic boardwalk, for US$2,667 per night.
Whether you are looking for more comfort or just a cozy place to sleep at night and explore during the day, Madeira is perfect for all budgets.
It is always hotter in Madeira
wood is a destination throughout the yearBecause it sits on top of the African tectonic plate, closer to the tropics, rather than sharing the geographic features of Europe, the climate is much more temperate than the southern Mediterranean, which can experience cold winters and unbearably hot summers.
Temperatures rarely drop below 15 degrees during winter, making it a popular winter getaway for continental Europeans, while you should expect pleasant 30s temperatures in summer, warm enough to sit in the sun without eating your frozen hurry before it melts, or sweat profusely.
Outside of Funchal, Madeira is renowned for its natural beauty, offering guests miles and miles of golden sand, bathed in the blue of the Atlantic, scenic coastal walks, walking spots and otherworldly sea grottoes.
As the island is not that big, at only 801 km², it is much smaller than Tenerife in Spain, it can be widely explored. for a single week and at a slower pace, though you should probably rent a car if getting to those lesser-known beaches and majestic inland waterfalls is on your bucket list.
It is also possible to visit other islands of the archipelago during your stay, since the regular ferry service connects Madeira (the main island) with Porto Santos, where another 5,000 Madeirans live, as well as the impressive, uninhabited desert islands (Portuguese for deserted islands), inhabited by seals and other wildlife.
Naturally, being surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is just as famous for its seafood. It can best be enjoyed in a traditional Funchal restaurant, as well as during the city’s annual Seafood Festival, which usually takes place in late spring.
Direct flights from JFK
Azores Airlines, the main airline in the Portuguese autonomous communities of Madeira and Azores, transports passengers from New York (JFK) to Madeira Airport, serving the city of Funchal (FNC) all yearwithout unnecessary long layovers in mainland Portugal.
Flights to Madeira can be as cheap as US$446.20 one-way, departing once a week every Monday, departing JFK at 8:55 p.m. and landing in Funchal at 9:00 a.m. the next day.
Returning to New York, flights depart Funchal every Tuesday at 4:00 PM and arrive at JFK at 6:50 PM local time on the same calendar date, for a total flight duration of 7:50 AM.
Madeira is truly a hidden gem of the North Atlantic, and it’s only a matter of time until it reaches new heights of popularity with American travelers.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com