300 miles of the African coast lies Portugal's Madeira Island. Its north coast is prehistorically gorgeous, and it's my go-to place for long weekend getaways to digital detox, hike and surf. It's well worth a quick side trip the next time you're in Europe.
The north side of the island is anchored by Sao Vicente, a valley that puts the "gorge" in "gorgeous". You can stay with my friends Andreia and Ruben in their lovingly restored Surf Lodge, my favorite B&B on this wonderfully remote island. (Tell them I sent you.)
Madeira seems to have it all in one compact package. Miles of challenging hiking trails, surf beaches for all levels, great people and loads of great places to eat. (Pro tip: The north coast restaurants all seem be owned by Venezuelan immigrants, who absolutely know how to grill stuff.)
Of course, it wouldn't be fair of me to only talk about the rugged north coast of Madeira. The south island's rich history is on full display in Funchal's historic Old Town. Its maze of cobbled streets and elegant squares will charm your socks off.
Is Madeira for you? Well, if you're a hiker or a surfer than the answer is almost certainly YES. The trails, in particular, are unlike anything you've seen before. People have been digging ancient irrigation canals (called Levadas) since shortly before Columbus sailed. This network evolved into a remarkable network of magical hiking trails, frequently meandering along sleepy waterways. It's an exquisite blend of nature and history.
Wrap up your day hike by indulging in a little wine tasting at the renowned Blandy's Wine Lodge, where Madeira wine has matured since the 19th century, epitomizing the island's vinicultural legacy.