When to Go
The island's lower elevations are blessed by constant soft, warm breezes, and subtropical vegetation that perfumes the air year-round. Every day seems like spring. Historically Madeira has been a winter resort, but that—like much on the island—is changing. Christmas week, when every tree in Funchal is decorated with lights and the main boulevard becomes an open-air folk museum, is still the most popular time to visit, along with New Year's Eve, when cruise ships from everywhere pull into the harbor for an incomparable fireworks display from the hills surrounding Funchal. Book far in advance if you're coming at this time. Summer can also be crowded, especially during August, when the Portuguese take vacations. Festivals—celebrating flowers in April, the island's patron saint in August, and wine in September—are popular, too.