If you’re hoping to soak-up local Madeiran culture during your stay on the island, one of the best regions to head for is central Madeira.
It’s the most populous region on the island (outside of Funchal) and the bustling coastal towns like Camara da Lobos and Ribeira Brava are great places to get a feel for the day-to-day life of the island.
This is Funchal’s commuter belt, and like the rest of the island it’s not easy terrain. The steep lombas (volcanic ridges) and fajas (flat coastal plains) create an incredibly undulating coastal landscape. Out of necessity, homes are built on terraces cut into the steep-sided lombas – these very traditional-style houses seem to defy gravity: testament to the tried-and-tested building techniques that began with the very first settlers and spread across central Madeira almost 600 years ago.
It’s easy to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the town by heading inland to the Curral das Freiras; the secluded valley where the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara took refuge from pirates in the 16th Century. A little further west at Jardim da Serra, spring sees the hillsides transformed into white by the cherry tree blossoms, shortly followed by the Festa da Cherja: the colourful week-long Cherry Festival which celebrates the June harvest.
Our south coast guided levada walks are a nice option if you're looking for moderate-to-easy hikes , or you might prefer the freedom of a hire car and the time to explore at your leisure.
If you're happiest in a quiet, rural setting then the Hotel Quinta da Serra is the perfect choice - a 19th Century country residence set in 115 hectares of vines, fruit trees and organic agriculture. If you prefer a more modern hotel, the Eira do Serrado Hotel’s dramatic mountain-top location (1000m above the Curral das Freiras) is unique on the island.