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A tour of Madeira (June 2012)

When in Madeira touring the island is a must! What made it so appealing to me is the ever changing scenery and the mountains covered in what is the largest surviving area of laurel forest (laurisilva). Madeira is also covered in levadas which are mini-canals designed to deliver water from the water-rich regions of the north to the drier regions in the south. They are also great to use as walking trails and to explore the island by foot.
Distances on Madeira might seem small, but don't be fooled as most of the roads are small, windy and pretty steep so allow for more time when doing excursions. What I really do recommend is to stop in any of the small villages for a meal, food is roughly half the price of what you will find in the main city Funchal and absolutely delicious! 

The village Monte is easily reached by cable car from Funchal and is famous for its botanical gardens. It is generally a very peaceful place however you can also have some fun by taking a toboggan ride 2km down the streets in an old wicker basket. I did not try it but definitely will next time I go back! 
Up to Monte in the cable car

Over the roofs of Funchal





The botanical gardens of Monte

Traditional basket toboggans

Tourists about to go on a ride


Flowers everywhere

Wild chamomile


Main square of Monte



Views over Funchal

Nossa Senhora do Monte






Toboggan in action





The following phots are a selection of some coastal areas in the south and north-east of Madeira as well as the impressive mountain ranges in island's interior.
Impressive coastline

One of many of Madeira's tunnels


Waterfalls

Waterfall in the middle of the road - free carwash!

Small villages in the mountains






Above the clouds






Careful while driving...

Laurel forest

Up in the highest peaks of Madeira













Traditional houses in the north of Madeira near Santana





Living on the edge
A great thing to do while in Madeira is to go dolphin and whale watching and a very good company who provides these kind of tours is Rota dos Cetaceos (http://www.rota-dos-cetaceos.pt/). They have their own little cinema and part of your tour is to get a little introduction on cetaceans (the guides are marine biologists so they actually know what they're talking about). For an extra fee you get to swim with wild dolphins (if you spot any - otherwise you get your money back) which was a truly amazing experience. The company is also very respectful towards wildlife, if they see that some of the dolphins or whales seem stressed they stay away from them not to stress them even more.






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