Resting on the African shelf of the Atlantic Ocean and just 450 miles from the coast of Morocco lies the volcanic archipelago of Madeira. It’s hard to believe that Madeira and the chain of islands that share the same name were accidentally discovered by Portuguese explorers towards the end of the 15th century. Since being settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century, Madeira and its neighbor, Porto Santo, have become popular vacation spots frequented by travelers from around the world. Thanks to the agreeable weather conditions that allow natural beauty to thrive on their shores, flights to Madeira are packed year-round with travelers looking to escape the cold winter months. Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, is a cultural haven with ample opportunity for cultural exploration if roughing it in nature isn’t quite your style. Whether you choose to enjoy a glass of Madeira in a crowded tavern downtown while listening to some fado on the jukebox, mosey along the paths of the ancient stone waterways that once nourished the vineyards and orchards of the island, or ogle the imported tiles and antique Portuguese silverware on display at the Frederico de Freitas Museum, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes on this quaint island that embraces its fascinating past.
Even though the climate affecting its mainland counterpart, Portugal, experiences hot, stifling summers and cold, wet winters, Madeira’s seasons are mild. Thanks to its location, sea breezes that keep the island cool in the hotter months and temperate throughout the slight chills brought on by January and February.
Best Time to Fly to Madeira
Peak Season: Madeira knows how to celebrate in style, and for this reason, the holiday season is one that drives tourists in droves to book Madeira flights. Visitors hailing from every corner of the globe come to Madeira for its renowned New Years fireworks display, so if you hope to join the throng of tourists flocking to Funchal for December 31st, be sure to make your Madeira flights and hotel reservations months in advance. With its natural beauty and consistently sunny weather, Madeira makes for an ideal summer vacation spot and therefore the peak time to visit – and when cheap flights to Madeira are hard to come by – extends from May through the end of October.
Off-peak Season: The summertime may be the most popular time to visit Madeira, but because of the island’s consistently agreeable weather, the off season is really determined by the festivals and events happening in Madeira during the summer and winter months. Early spring and late fall are quieter times of year to visit, so if you’re looking to explore Madeira without bumping into tourists at all the hot spots, try taking advantage of off-season cheap flights to Madeira for a quieter change of pace.
Getting around Madeira
When your flight arrives in Madeira, do yourself a favor and grab a bus schedule. Buses are the main way to get around, and all the routes go through Funchal. The bus system in Madeira is affordable and reliable, but take note that some of the routes are scheduled infrequently. Make sure you know what time your bus leaves, as it might be the only one departing from Funchal that day. Ferries to the island of Porto Santo leave regularly, six days a week, from the Port of Funchal.
Madeira Travel Information
- Hop a cheap flight to Madeira for a “light-hearted” holiday season; Madeira knows how to celebrate in style. The Island is bathed in beautiful lights and decorations throughout the month of December and into the New Year, which make for breathtaking nighttime strolls. The fireworks display that takes place in Madeira at the dawning of the New Year is one of the most impressive in the world, and Funchal’s skyline in its entirety is lit up for ten minutes.
- Madeira hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, so those booking flights to Madeira need not worry about finding a celebration during their visit. The Walking Festival of Madeira takes place right after the New Years festivities, with special routes mapped out for levada walks that take place along the old waterways of the island. Two weeks after Easter, the entire city of Funchal is in full bloom and transformed into a brilliant display of color and creation for the Flower Festival. In June, the Atlantic Festival of Madeira is not to be missed for its presentations of classical and traditional music in Madeira’s favorite venues. The sounds of the Atlantic Festival accompany the International Fireworks Competition perfectly, with its mesmerizing pyrotechnic displays choreographed to the music of the festival’s performances.
- The production of Madeira wine is an important contributor to the island’s economy, and a trip to a vineyard to sample the local bottled specialty is a must on any Madeira itinerary. If your trip to Madeira happens to coincide with the first week of September, check out the Madeira Wine Festival in Funchal. The festival opens up the ins and outs of all things Madeira for visitors and professionals alike, with activities scheduled that make each event in the wine-making process, like grape stomping, an entertaining affair for the whole family. Purchase some wine to bring back and savor at home. Many bottlers will ship cases for you so you don’t have to worry about finding room in your luggage before your Madeira flight home.
- If the lack of beaches leaves you disappointed in the summer sun, hop on a ferry and cross over to Porto Santo, which offers up the sandy shore missing from Madeira. Porto Santo is a two-hour ferry ride from Madeira, and the 6 miles of pristine beach make the trip well worth it.