Madeira Islands climate
Summers are hot and dry throughout Portugal, particularly in the Algarve, which experiences very little rain. However refreshing sea breezes make for pleasant conditions. Winters are cold and wet, particularly in the northern and west coast regions. Spring and autumn are good times to visit with cheaper rates at hotels and less crowded beaches, restaurants and golf courses.
When to fly to Madeira Islands
Madeira’s highest season is the end of December to the beginning of January during the End of the Year Festival which is the New Year celebration. There is live music, food, dancing, parades, and fireworks at night. Advance bookings are a must.
The second peak season is April to May and August to September.
The shoulder season is February and March and September and October. The low seasons and the lowest rates are from January 3 to mid-February, mid-May through July, and November to December 26.
Getting around Madeira Islands
Madeira’s buses are reliable, inexpensive, and provide service around the island. Taxis can be hailed as they cruise the streets in major cities and tourist areas, and most restaurants and hotels will call a taxi for you. There are also taxi stands at the airport and larger cities. City fares are set by the government according to destination, and a list of the fares should be in the back seat of the taxi. Fares outside a city are based on kilometres. But, if the meter is not running, do not hesitate to bargain.
Boat charters are available for deep sea fishing, birding, and trips to Monte. Of course you will probably want to return to Funchal from Monte by toboggan. The toboggan, carro de cesto, is a wicker-sided sled and the ride takes about 20 minutes. Two drivers run alongside the toboggan to control it as it slips and slides across the cobblestones.
Driving can be a hair-raising experience. The local drivers know their narrow, winding roads well, and tend to drive fast.
Madeira Islands insider information
- The Sao Vicente Caves and the Volcano Centre are on Madeira’s north coast. There is a wonderful half-hour journey through the caves to the centre of the earth.
- Monte, once a separate resort, stands high on a hill above Funchal and boasts the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, as well as fabulous palaces and churches. Take a short cable-car ride (15 minutes) up to Monte and ride down on a traditional sledge. Alternatively, climb up along Madeira’s irrigation canals (levadas) and then take the sledge ride downhill.
- For religious tourists, a new pilgrimage. Karl I, the last emperor of Austria, died in exile on Madeira and is buried in Nossa Senhora do Monte, high above Funchal. He was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II and is on the way to sainthood.
- A visit to the fortified wine cellars such as São Franciscoor Saint Francis cellar museum and wine lodge in the centre of Funchal is a must. The Madeira Wine Festival takes place in September.
- In Funchal the Madeira Story Centre runs through the island’s 14 million years of history in a “fun and interactive manner”.
- The island of Porto Santo is 40km (25 miles) northeast of Madeira. Its most outstanding feature is its 9km (6 miles) of beach; it is also a spa and wellness centre.