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Cruising Article – 2011-04-22

Experience the beauty of Madeira, Portugal

European Cruise Destinations

One of the joys of travel is discovering some off-the-beaten path locales, and the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal certainly fits that category.

The first thing you'll notice when landing in Madeira is the island's extreme natural beauty. Perhaps best of all, there are numerous vantage points that overlook the entire island. Take a cable car up to the village of Monte or scale Cabo Girao, one of the largest ocean cliffs in the world.

Under sea level, Madeira is actually a volcanic mass, and the island itself is simply the peak of that mountain. That means that the island's terrain is quite rocky and hilly - perfect for a toboggan ride. The ride, essentially a wicker basket on wheels, is perfectly safe, as local guides will be right beside you to ensure that everything stays on track.

There's also plenty to do in the port of Funchal. Visit Mercado dos Lavradores, an open-air market that sells just about everything. Or head to the beautiful Botanical Garden to see more than 2,000 species of plant.

Of course, no trip to the island would be complete without stopping at one of Funchal's famous wine lodges. You'll have a chance to sample a variety of delicious wines produced right on the island, and even sample a few local treats.