Best time to go to Madeira

Madeira is at its finest between April and October, when the coastline is positively teeming with up to 20 species of whales and dolphins.
Madeira boasts a pleasantly mild Mediterranean climate year round, so the best time to go is whenever you’re free. Despite its lush greenery, the island doesn’t see enormous amounts of rain, but neither does it get uncomfortably hot. Due to the mountainous terrain you will encounter varied microclimates, with the most notable distinction being that between the windy and damp northeast, and the more arid and sheltered south. The annual Carnival and the Flower Festival, both take place in spring and are the highlights of the Madeira events calendar, while walking holidays operate year round, but are particularly lovely in spring and summer with lush vegetation and warm sun.

Madeira Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
10
15
112
FEB
10
15
93
MAR
10
16
75
APR
11
16
49
MAY
12
18
30
JUN
14
20
18
JUL
16
22
9
AUG
17
23
12
SEP
16
23
38
OCT
15
21
82
NOV
13
18
110
DEC
11
16
108

A month by month guide

If you’re looking for winter sun you won’t have much trouble finding it in Madeira. In December, January and February daytime temperatures can be 20°C in the lower parts of the island below what’s called the ‘banana line’, where it’s best for cultivating, er, bananas. Yet take a look at the mountaintops from Funchal and you may well see snow glittering in the sunlight. The island’s famous Carnival celebrations begin on the Friday before Lent and run to Shrove Tuesday, so if you plan to travel on these dates you’ll want to book early. The best time to go to Madeira may well be the spring. During March, April and May and especially towards the end of the season you’re looking at shorts and T-shirt weather, though there is the risk of heavy rain now and again. The foliage you will pass while walking is especially vivid in spring. You’ll also see plenty of colour in Funchal during the Flower Festival, an immensely popular event in May when the streets are full of parades and floats dressed with aromatic blooms. Summer is the best time for whale watching. Daytime temperatures are typically around 24°C but between June and August the leste, a dry, hot wind blowing west from the Sahara, can raise them as high as 33°C. Early mornings in June and July often see the island blanketed with cloud, which gradually dissipates over the day. The autumn months of September, October and November tend to be a lot quieter on Madeira, but it’s still pleasantly sunny and the sea is warm enough for comfortable swimming. Rainfall is beginning to pick up, but temperatures are stable. You can expect it to be around a balmy 22°C, perfect for walking as there is plenty of shade around.

Things to do in Madeira

Things to do in Madeira…

Madeira is an exceptional destination for walking holidays. A network of levadas – irrigation channels – spiders across the island, carved into the mountainside to carry water to the arid south. Today they still serve their original function, but they also serve as walking and mountain biking routes, passing through some of Madeira’s most beguiling scenery. Walking in Madeira requires a decent level of fitness – this is mountain country after all – and as some of the levadas go through tunnels, carrying a torch is advisable, too. Island hopping. Madeira is the largest island of a tiny Atlantic archipelago, and some itineraries take the short ferry trip northeast to Porto Santo. The vegetation here is sparser, but there is a stunning 9km stretch of golden sand to stroll along barefoot, as well as the option for guided hiking or a jeep tour. To the south of Funchal meanwhile lie the Desertas Islands, uninhabited by humans but home to a colony of monk seals and many species of bird. You can sail out there in a traditional wooden gulet, a very elegant way to travel. Madeira is renowned for its whale and dolphin watching, with over 20 species to be found in the sea between April and October. Small boat trips depart from Funchal harbour, or you can have fun bouncing through the waves in a RIB boat, sometimes accompanied by a marine biologist. There are few more life-affirming experiences than snorkelling with the dolphins.

Things not  to do in Madeira …

Madeira may be a Portuguese territory, but don’t expect the same climate. Some visitors anticipate non-stop sunshine and can be caught out by downpours, which have the potential to make some walks challenging. In the winter and spring the temperature is pleasant and there are far fewer people around, but there is a greater likelihood of full-on rainy days. Better to pack waterproofs and not need them, than need them and not have them. Go in with no walking experience. A mountainous ridge runs through the centre of Madeira, and some of the more demanding trails can be pretty steep and narrow. While you certainly don’t need to be in training for months beforehand to walk here, you will want to be in reasonably good shape, and to have a good pair of walking boots or shoes broken in. Poles can be helpful on descents, too. If you prefer, there is always the option of a tailormade, self guided walking holiday in Madeira where routes can be adjusted according to your requirements. Leave the kids at home. From sea kayaking to snorkelling with dolphins, cable cars to canyoning, Madeira is an adventure playground for children aged eight and up. One day they might be paddling in natural rock pools and exploring lava caves, the next mountain biking through the forest or swimming under a waterfall. If your kids aren’t clamouring to go back again the next year we’d be very surprised.

Our top Madeira Holiday

Madeira walking holiday

Madeira walking holiday

Small group walking tour of madeira

From £925 to £1195 8 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2019: 26 Jan, 9 Feb, 16 Feb, 24 Mar, 30 Mar, 13 Apr, 21 May, 9 Jun, 29 Jun, 3 Aug, 7 Sep, 28 Sep, 12 Oct, 2 Nov
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Madeira or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Madeira travel advice

Andrew Appleyard from our supplier Exodus has personally led a small group holiday to Madeira:

When to go

“Speaking for myself I think late April or May is the best time of year to take a Madeira holiday, for the flowers which are stunning, and the agapanthus which are used to hold the soil on the slopes.”

Bring a torch

“If you’re planning a walking holiday on Madeira than a good level of fitness is required, but there are various walks of different moderation and also self-guided walks, so it’s really a matter of planning. The levadas run for over over 1,000km across the island, with many going through tunnels so we always recommend taking a torch with you! There are also some stunning waterfalls that you walk under and the birdlife, both inland and on the coast, is a real highlight.”

Madeira tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Madeira holidays travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
Following the narrow steep stone paths over the highest mountains we really were up in the clouds.
– Jo Sheppard
“We walked in April. We experienced strong winds and wet conditions in the north. But enjoyed every minute. Recommend the dolphin and whale watching on the free day. Some strenuous sections but the levadas are largely gentle slopes following the contours.” – Andy Hill on a walking holiday in Madeira

“Following the narrow steep stone paths over the highest mountains we really were up in the clouds. Be prepared for some vertical drops to the side. There is a lot of time in the afternoons to relax or explore further by yourselves. It is the first time we have been on a walking holiday and certainly would go again and recommend to others. Especially single travellers as travelling with a group always gives opportunity to meet others.” – Jo Sheppard on a Madeira walking holiday

“Each day's hike showed a different landscape – lots of variety. It is classed as a moderate walking holiday but there are some aspects of it which are challenging so a good level of fitness is required.” – Anne-Marie Hesmondhalgh on a Madeira walking holiday
Come prepared for bad weather and then you will be able to enjoy it more if the weather is good!
- Gabrielle Lorenz
“We went in February and did not pack over-trousers and regretted it. It is cold in the mountains and any cloud coming over the Island has to climb 1,800m, so will deposit a full load of rain on you. We walked on one day in heavy rain from start to finish and were soaked through. Our assumption that we would be warm as we were on a subtropical island was wrong. Come prepared for bad weather and then you will be able to enjoy it more if the weather is good! Our tour leader did very well to choose walks that we could do in inclement weather conditions, he was attentive and ensured the experience was fun and memorable.” – Gabrielle Lorenz on a Madeira walking holiday

“Take waterproofs and good pair of boots. Book later if you want to be sure of better weather, but early season meant we saw NO ONE on the walks, except occasionally near the beginning or end. Walks were VERY well planned, giving great variety and insight into geography/geology of island.” – Mary Davies on a Madeira walking holiday
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Allie_Caulfield] [Intro: Lopez Robin] [Things to do: Gunnar Grimnes] [Andrew Appleyard Quote: Mark Skarratts] [Jo Sheppard Quote: cat_collector] [Gabrielle Lorenz Quote: Justas Samalius]
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