View of Cabo Girao cliff and Camara de Lobos town, Madeira, Portugal

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The Portuguese island of Madeira, along with the neighbouring Porto Santo in the North Atlantic, are popular with walkers and nature lovers because of their subtropical climate and plants, Europe's highest sea cliffs and the inland mountain ridges and peaks.

Why go?

Madeira is an archipelago just north of Tenerife and is a popular tourist destination due to its reputation as a modern-day paradise...

The islands benefit from a comprehensive network of roads, which makes hiring a car the ideal way to see all that Madeira has to offer. Visitors can arrange for car hire pick-up at Funchal Airport (FNC) or at locations across the island. You can even take your car by ferry to Porto Santo. Madeira car hire companies will work with you to meet your needs.

Madeira is popular with tourists seeking a unique way to spend the New Year and the annual celebrations have been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest fireworks display in the world.

Other notable festivals include the Festival of Wine, Embroidery & Handicrafts in November, Funchal Music Fest in August, Machico Food Festival Week at the end of July and the Festival of the Popular Saints in June.

Car hire in Madeira really enables visitors to explore this unique haven and make the most of their visit. The island offers much to see and do all year round.

Where to explore?

The islands have miles of coastal roads to explore and also roads crossing the islands to take you to the remote coves and hill tops...

Here, you'll find views across the clear blue ocean to the neighbouring Savage Islands. With several protected reserves, the islands are brimming with unusual flora and fauna.

Walkers can drive to the Laurissilva forest and embark on one of the many hiking and nature trails, while those who enjoy the water can visit the nearby Garajau National Marine Park for scuba diving and water sports.

The island is a carpet of colour all year round and has several parks and gardens displaying subtropical plants, which are highlighted during the annual Springtime Flower Festival held in May.

Take a day to explore the historic capital, Funchal, where you can try Madeira wines and see the old hotels that have survived from the 15th and 16th centuries when the island played an important role in the booming sugar trade.

The Funchal Lido promenade offers the opportunity to relax by the sea, swim in one of the pool complexes, use the sports facilities and dine in one of the many restaurants that offer clear views of the breath-taking sunsets.

Drive south from Funchal to the parish of Canico for the opportunity to swim with mantas and tropical fish, visit the large shopping centre or tour a local onion plantation. You can drive east along the coast to Machico and its popular beach resort.

Almost all of the beaches in Madeira are pebbled, but in Machico they have imported sand and created a man-made beach on the east side of the bay. Those who enjoy sandy beaches can also drive to Porto Santo, which boasts a 9km stretch of golden sand that's said to alleviate rheumatic pain.