Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Chilling out in Madeira

It is hard not to feel relaxed when surrounded by sunshine, the bluest of waters, soaring rugged mountains, lush green valleys and an array of brightly-coloured flowers. And that is why Madeira is so special.

The island, which has a year round mild climate, has been called “a floating spa”. Since the late 1800s, London’s great and good, including Winston Churchill, have been coming here to take advantage of its therapeutic benefits. 

You can certainly embark on a culinary journey here. The food is delicious and it is easy to eat healthily if you want to. There is plenty of fresh fish to tempt you. Scabbard (espada) and tuna are among the specialities. Exotic fruits, grown locally are in abundance and there is also a good choice of vegetables. You will also find  plenty of good wines to wash it down with.


It is hardly surprising that Madeira is fast gaining a reputation for being one of Europe’s leading spa destinations. Although the island itself is like walking into one giant health resort, there has been a plethora of new hotels with state-of-the-art spas appearing on the scene. 

With so many treatments on offer, you will be spoilt for choice. At The Vine hotel, arguably the coolest address in Funchal, Madeira’s capital, you can indulge in a vinotherapy session at its spa. Well, wine is “the nectar of the gods”… 

The contemporary Meliã Madeira Mare, on the seafront, has a Malo Clinic which  should have any spa fan salivating. Great for thalassotherapy treatments, there is an Aqua area, with treats such as sauna, hamman and jacuzzi and different types of showers as well as a fitness club, hairdresser and beauty salon.

I had a “hot stone” massage, my favourite treatment. My therapist, Fernanda from Brazil was amazing. This has to be one of the best that I have had. 

Watching the waves crash

For something rather different, I headed to the Ayurveda Cure Center under the auspices of Birgit Moukom at the Hotel Alpino Atlântico. Honestly, I did not know what to expect. I have to admit not really being into Ayurveda. It is reputedly one of the world’s oldest medical systems which originated in India and is based on the concept of balance in bodily systems through diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies.
Shedding stress here is easy. First of all its location wins you over. The hotel is set on a small cliff overlooking the ocean.  After an introductory yoga session, I had a thorough consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor, Ram Mani Bhandari, who told me I was perfect.

Delighted with getting a clean bill of health and some dietary sheets to keep me on track, I had a wonderful Ayurvedic relaxing massage and facial with warm oils and fragrant herbs. Afterwards, I sampled some specially prepared dishes. If this is an example of the diet I should be following, I could be hooked.

Quintinha São João Hotel

One of my favourite spas on the island has to be the one at the Quintinha São João Hotel. This cosy spa stands out from the crowd as you get a sense of place. Surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens this is a really delightful environment in which to unwind. 

I was enticed by a hot stone massage. Different from the one I had at the Meliã, it was as enjoyable and relaxing. Dulce, my therapist was fantastic, so attentive. The hotel also has an inside and outdoor pool. The Quintinha São João Hotel combines the magic of old Madeira with the mod cons of the 21st century.

Later, I sat at Il Basilico, a super Italian-styled restaurant, lapping up the sun’s rays while watching the waves crash  against the shore, I felt totally refreshed and revitalised. You take your car in for a service, so why not your body? And where could be more perfect than Madeira?

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there 

TAP Portugal has a daily flight from London Heathrow to Madeira, prices start at £169 return including all taxes. For further information, visit or call 0845 601 0932. A pleasure to fly with.

Quintinha São João Hotel, Rua da Levada de São João, 4, Madeira, 9000-191 Funchal is on the outskirts of the city centre of Funchal (1.5km), in a lovely residential area. Rooms from €96 per night. For more info visit

To learn more about Madeira visit and