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Explore Madeira's elegant gardens with Adam Frost
The Portuguese island of Madeira lies off the coast of Northern Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean, a position that blesses it with a wonderfully warm climate, in which exotic species of plants from all around the world can thrive.
That makes the island a garden enthusiast's dream, and it has attracted green-fingered visitors for many years. A keen painter, Winston Churchill fell in love with its romantic scenery when he stayed in 1950. And no wonder - around every corner you'll find bursts of colour, with imported purple-blossomed jacaranda trees, orchids and bird of paradise plants sprouting up out of its volcanic soil.
On this exclusive eight-day holiday, readers will get an opportunity to visit Madeira's best gardens in spring including Quinta do Palheiro, the Quinta Jardins do Largo and the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, in the company of expert Adam Frost. You will also spend an evening in Adam's company as he gives an exclusive talk about his life and career presenting Gardeners' World before he opens himself up to a private question and answer session.
Your half-board base will be the four-star Enotel Quinta do Sol in Funchal, also known as 'Little Lisbon'. Nestled in a great natural amphitheatre, facing the blue Atlantic with a backdrop of dramatic mountains, the birthplace of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is the island's largest city. You will also get to sample the fortified wine Madeira is famous for and enjoy scenery ranging from breathtaking cliffs to lush forest.
Reasons to book
Garden visits with Adam Frost
Four-star Enotel Quinta do Sol
Monte Palace Tropical gardens
Afternoon tea at Belmond Reid's Palace
- Spend seven nights at the four-star Enotel Quinta do Sol in central Funchal
- Fill up on a delicious breakfast each day
- Sample the local cuisine during your half-board stay
- Hear insights and expertise from Adam Frost during a talk and Q&A
- Visit some of Madeira's best gardens, including Quinta do Palheiro, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the Jardin do Largo
- Tour the island's mountainous eastern coast
- Explore picturesque Funchal with a local guide
- Take afternoon tea at the exclusive Belmond Reid's Palace
- Taste world-famous Madeiran wines
- Fly direct from a selection of UK airports and transfer to your hotel
Day1Arrive in FunchalFunchal, Madeira, Portugal
Fly to Funchal and transfer to the centrally-located four-star Enotel Quinta do Sol, your hotel for seven nights.
Day2Monte Gardens, Quinta do Lago, Evening TalkMonte Palace Tropical Garden, Portugal
This morning, accompanied by Adam, you will visit Monte, up high in the hills on the outskirts of Funchal, where we will visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden. These oriental gardens are exquisite, complete with Asian-style bridges, arches and a pond filled with koi carp; they also house a historic tile collection gathered from Portuguese palaces, churches and private residences.
Later we return to Funchal by coach, or you may wish to take the cable car for a dramatic 15-minute descent to the capital. If you're feeling really adventurous, you could take the famous Monte toboggan ride. This involves descending the narrow streets in a cushioned wicker basket mounted on wooden runners, steered from the rear by skilled drivers - Ernest Hemingway described the experience as exhilarating. This afternoon, we visit Jardin do Lago, a luxurious, privately owned botanical garden. Accompanied by Adam, you will be able to take in the lush gardens and more than 500 different species of plants which are unique in variety and natural beauty.
This evening, before dinner, there will be a talk led by Adam. After this talk, there will be the opportunity to ask questions.
Day3Palheiro Gardens & afternoon tea at Reid’sQuinta do Palheiro gardens, PortugalAfternoon tea included
We visit the Palheiro Gardens, world famous for its variety of flora and its beautiful setting in the hills overlooking Funchal. Palheiro was laid out in the early 19th century by a French landscape architect for the Count of Carvalhal before being acquired in the early 20th century by the Blandy family, famous wine producers. Over the next decades, the gardens were populated with thousands of plants from around the world, from North American sequoia trees to South African Proteas, all flourishing in Madeira's rich soils and clement weather. This is a blissful place to explore at your leisure, taking in all the colours and fragrances, with a chance to linger when a particular specimen catches your eye.
This afternoon, we visit the famous Reid's Palace for afternoon tea with Adam. Situated in the cocktail bar of Reid's Palace, you will get to sample delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and homemade pastries, all accompanied by your choice from a selection of 24 teas or an indulgent glass of champagne.
Day4Funchal & Botanical GardensFunchal, Madeira, Portugal
After breakfast, a local guide takes us on a walking tour of the historic centre of Funchal, often called 'little Lisbon' as it overlooks a spectacular harbour and boasts grand 18th-century buildings with shaded courtyards. Narrow streets wind through its centre, broadening out onto lively squares and tree-lined walkways.
Inspiring sights include the Igreja do Colégio, a church with a plain exterior that belies its sumptuous Baroque interior, and the 15th-century Sé Cathedral, one of the few buildings dating from colonial times. It is the island's main religious building and features the original 16th-century altar, imposing arches and ornate gold-framed paintings; its ceiling, made from local wood, is one of Portugal's most beautiful. Devotees of modern architecture will love the Art Deco Mercado dos Lavradores or farmers' market, a hive of activity as shoppers fill their baskets with the island's sun-ripened produce. Look out for the patterned pavements, typically Portuguese and painstakingly pieced by hand, and for the colourful street art on the doors of buildings.
A treat is in store as we pause for a tasting of the island's best-known export - Madeira wine. The process of heating the wine originated by accident when 16th-century sailors discovered that wines picked up in Madeira tasted richer after the casks had been heated and cooled during passage through the Tropics. Today, the styles of this fortified wine range from dry to lusciously sweet. In between is medium Verdelho, the variety the British traditionally serve with the crumbly sponge cake named after the wine.
This afternoon, you will visit the Botanical Gardens and it's beautiful setting in the hills overlooking Funchal. You will be able to pass the afternoon walking through the spectacularly manicured gardens.
Day5Eastern MadeiraRibeiro Frio National Park, Portugal
Today we explore the eastern seaboard, passing diverse landscapes from craggy coastlines to ancient forests. Ponta do Rosto is Madeira's easternmost point, on a sliver of land jutting out into the Atlantic, and offers dazzling panoramas. On clear days the island of Porto Santo shimmers in the distance. Following the northern coast, we call at sleepy Porto da Cruz, named after a large cross displayed to identify it to passing sailors. Dominated by the sheer-sided Penha d'Aguia or Eagle Rock, this 16th-century parish is renowned for producing sugar cane spirit and a dry red wine made from the Americana grape.
We leave the village and track the coastline, where, incredibly, every patch of land is farmed to provide food for its isolated communities. There's further proof of Madeirans' capacity for self-sufficiency in Santana, a town notable for its A-frame thatched houses. Made from stone, wood and anything else to hand, they have brightly painted doors and windows and each sits on its own plot of land used to grow food. As you enjoy a stroll around these well-preserved 16th-century dwellings, you get a sense of what it was like to live here when villagers relied solely on their own toil for survival.
We head towards the mountainous interior and one of the highlights of the tour - the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio National Park. Around 90 per cent of the park is covered by ancient Laurisilva or laurel trees, and the area features many endemic flora and fauna, such as ferns and the trocaz pigeon. The region also plays a vital role in Madeira's ecosystem, as moisture captured by the trees feeds into a 1,355-mile network of channels that distribute water across the island for drinking, agriculture and hydroelectric power.
Ascending slopes cloaked in fragrant eucalyptus and swirling mists, we emerge at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira's third-highest mountain at 5,930 feet. Here, above the treeline and sometimes even higher than the clouds, the vistas are some of the most memorable you'll ever see. You may even spot the Valley of the Nuns way below. On clear days almost all of Madeira is visible, including its highest summit - the 6,100-foot Pico Ruivo.
Day6Day at leisureFunchal, Madeira, Portugal
Today you have a free day to enjoy Madeira at your own leisure.
Day7Curral das Freiras & Câmara dos LobosCurral das Freiras, Portugal
Our morning begins with a short drive north to Madeira's dramatic interior and the Curral das Freiras or Valley of the Nuns.
To appreciate the solitude of this place, we drive to Eira do Serrado, over 3,500 feet above sea level, part of a natural cauldron of jagged peaks and chasms, with time to soak up the glorious views down to the village of Curral das Freiras itself. Descending to the village, you can see why in 1566 the nuns of Funchal's Santa Clara convent relocated to this almost inaccessible valley to flee a pirate attack. Today it is also known for the sweet chestnuts cultivated on its terraced hillsides - you'll enjoy sampling these tasty treats. It even hosts an annual festival celebrating this versatile nut, which is used in products from cakes to soups to liqueurs.
After lunch, we head to Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village built around a bay with Europe's highest cliffs forming a breathtaking backdrop. Inspired by its location, the colourful boats and whitewashed buildings with distinctive terracotta roofs, Winston Churchill stayed here to paint the harbour during his visit to Madeira in 1950.
Câmara de Lobos is still a working port, with boats pulled up onto the beach after night fishing for the local black scabbard fish known as espada. It's a charming village to saunter, exploring the cobbled streets and visiting the simple Saint Anthony's Chapel, where fishermen's wives traditionally said prayers for the safe return of their menfolk. Or you can relax in a harbour café with a glass of poncha, an elixir of sugar cane spirit, honey and lemon juice enjoyed by the fishermen returning to land their catch in the morning - and said to cure the common cold!
Day8Return homeFunchal airport, Portugal
Enotel Quinta do Sol
Laid-back hotel set in lush gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
Enotel Quinta do Sol lies only a 15-minute walk from Funchal ferry terminal, 2 km from the 15th-century Cathedral of Funchal and 4 km from the lively Praia Formosa. Some rooms feature balconies with sea views and gorgeous seating areas. Breakfast is served in a bright restaurant and the hotel additionally features an outdoor pool area with sunloungers, a gym and a heated pool, plus a spa complex with sauna.