Sorbet writer Lindsey packs her trusty Sorbet hammam towels and travels to the island of trees, Madeira, exploring the bountiful things this lush land has to offer. 

The archipelago islands of Madeira lay in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa. This Portuguese territory is famous for its sweet Madeiran wine and cake exports, but there's a lot more to this tiny island than that.
View of Funchal from Cabo Girao, Madeira
With its breathtaking scenery, heart-stopping heights, and fragrant flowers, you can also witness some of the most beautiful sunsets on its endless deep blue horizon.  I headed to the island with my Sorbet towels in early May to see what else there was to discover.

1. Funchal

Jacaranda trees in Funchal, Madeira

 The old town of the capital is strikingly beautiful with its old colonial architecture and elaborate mosaic pavements.  What struck me most was the soft purples of the fragrant jacaranda trees that lined the streets, scattering the floor with lilac petals. 

Jacaranda petals, Funchal
First port of call should undoubtedly be one of the many wineries based in the city, Blandys being the oldest.  Take a tour of a wine lodge where you can learn about the winemaking processes, and enjoy a sample or two!
Blandy's Wine Lodge

2. Botanical Gardens Galore

Monte Palace Tropical Garden Madeira
Madeira boasts some of the most extravagant tropical gardens in the world.  Take the cable car from Funchal up the steep incline to Monte, for both the Monte Palace gardens and vast Jardim Botânico, which boast amazing views back over the city. 
Jardim Botanico, Madeira
It got a little chilly up here in the mountains, exploring the shady trees and lush greenery, so I fashioned a shrug from one of my hammam towels using this simple tying technique:
How to tie a Sorbet towel into a shrug
Not only did it keep the chill at bay, it was also great for keeping the baking sun off your shoulders!
How to tie a Sorbet hammam towel into a shrug
For a perfect picnic spot, grab a couple of Sorbet towels and head just a little further out from the Jardim Botânico to the Palheiro gardens, well worth a visit for its beautifully arranged gardens and sense of absolute tranquility.
Palheiro Gardens, Funchal
It had a distinctively English Country Garden feel with its rows of neat roses, clipped hedges, rippling stream and pretty tea house.
Monte toboggans
Picture ℅ Madeira-Web
By the way, if you’re looking for a route down from Monte that’s more exhilarating than the cable car, look no further than the famous Monte toboggans.  Allow gents in boater hats to steer you on a thrilling ride through the mountain roads on these unique wicker chairs on wheels.

3. Levadas

 Madeira is a real hiker’s dream, offering loads of adventurous places to sightsee and get back to nature.  A popular pastime is to walk along the levadas, or man-made irrigation channels, found all over the island. 
View over Sao Vicente, Madeira
Setting out enthusiastically to take on the Levada das 25 Fontes e Risco (a very popular route that boasts a swimming lake, tunnels and waterfalls), we took a steep drive to one of the highest points on the island near Rabaçal, only to be met by some rather dense cloud..!
A cloudy day in Madeira
I was so glad I packed a couple of Sorbet towels in the car, which I pulled round tight in the cold and wet atmosphere.
The take home advice is to check the weather before leaving!  On clearer days, details of other trails can be found here at WalkMe Madeira where they give good details on some spectacular routes.

4. Get driving!

Driving around the island is an adventure in itself, where you get to witness some of the most breathtaking and surprising scenery from one side of the island to another.   Climb mountainous inclines and sweep back down them all at once, taking in secret miradouros (viewpoints) along the way.
Encumeda Mountain Peak, Madeira
It’s thrilling to drive the pockmarked, mountainside roads for the vivid scenery, picturesque villages, surprise waterfalls and sea views. 
Nasturtiums in Madeira
Around every corner you are treated to a mesmerising contrast of tropical greens against fiery orange nasturtium and bird of paradise flowers, set off by the deep blue sky and ocean.
Miradouro, Madeira
Stop at Ponta do Sol, a very pretty seaside resort town, with some decent bars and restaurants to boot.  We enjoyed wandering through the old town, with its original 1930s cinema and bell tower.  
Ponta do Sol, Madeira
As the name suggests, it got quite hot in this little part of the island, but luckily my hammam towel was on hand to wrap over my shoulders.
Sorbet towels in Ponta do Sol, Madeira
In pure contrast, the far eastern point of the island at Ponta do Furado boasts a huge grassland meadow, surrounded by craggy coast. 
Ponta do Furado, Madeira
The hikers were out in force again, as it was possible to cross to the furthest tip of the island, Ilhéu da Cevada, for spectacular views out to the Ilhas Desertas. 
Views over Ilhas Desertas, Madeira
We picked a nice spot to lay our Sorbet towels down, crack open a beer and admire the view as the sun was setting.
Ponta do Furado, Madeira 

5. Lava Pools

Up in the north-west of the island lies Porto Moniz, famous for its natural lava pools.  It’s possible to swim there, exploring the nooks and crannies of these mighty rock formations.  
Lava pools at Porto Moniz, Madeira
The day we visited, the site was at the mercy of the Atlantic, so we could only stand back and admire the drama of the crashing waves against the stillness of the pools.  However, on a good day this would be high on my list of things to do!
Lava pools at Porto Moniz, Madeira
That concludes this must-see Madeira list.  Don't forget to bring back a bottle or two  of Madeiran wine, the perfect souvenir for the trip!
Bird of Paradise, Madeira