Madiera and Porto Santo


With its moderate climate, the Portuguese island of Madeira, off the coast of North-West Africa, has been a popular winter destination since the mid-19th century. A long list of celebrity guests, including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Gregory Peck, have escaped to the famous Reid’s Palace, a bastion of old-world charm, elegant sophistication and afternoon tea on the terrace. Today the island is also home to designer retreat Choupana Hills where hip execs go to de-stress in the spa. In the capital Funchal, there are colonial restaurants, gardens, a market and a 16th-century cathedral to discover, while further afield the island boasts beautiful lush scenery, hilltop villages and canal-side walks.


Porto Santo, Madeira’s neighbour in the Atlantic, is in effect Europe’s only desert island. Four hours from London and only 12km by 7km wide, this outpost of Portugal is, however, far more African than European. It has a volcanic moonscape with no vegetation apart from palm trees and vineyards, few buildings and a long golden beach lapped by a turquoise sea. It is one of the least-developed beach resorts in Europe with only 19 taxis and one main tourist attraction. But it does offer a handful of charming hotels, a good selection of restaurants and a mild climate.