Madeira Island and the nearby Porto Santo and Desertas Islands make up a group beautiful Portuguese gems with mild, Mediterranean climates all year round. Warmer than their Azorean cousins, they also see significantly less rainfall, which is a big perk during the fall and winter. Many people visit Madeira during the summer months’ prime vacation time, but why not push your trip back a month or two and skip the crowds? The difference in lines and wait times can be significant during the off-season.
Madeira is a great destination to get on some trails and get in a good hike or trek through nature. While September’s temperatures can remain as hot as August’s, October and November receive a little reprieve from the heat, making it ideal for working up a sweat. The island is covered in mountain trails, but among the most memorable pathways are along the levadas, or man-made canal/irrigation systems.
Madeira Island is a paradise for foodies, especially those who love fruits and seafood. Among the plethora of options available during the fall are the island’s ‘small bananas’ (which are believed to be sweeter than their larger counterparts), guava, chestnuts (mostly preferred roasted), and the traditional black scabbardfish (a staple in Madeirense cuisine). The most famous market on the main island is the Mercado dos Lavradores in Funchal, which will pleasantly assault most, if not all, of the senses.
Winter is said to be the best time to go surfing in Portugal, but autumn is still a great season to catch some waves, especially on Madeira’s western and southwestern sides. Waves can also be caught on Porto Santo, but the wide expanse of beautiful beach (which is rare in Madeira) may replace thoughts of surfing with lazier ideas of lounging.
Visitors who plan properly may sneak more than a peek at Madeira’s wine harvest, when grapes are picked, sent to wineries, and turned into deliciously sweet Madeira wine. The season usually begins at the end of summer, but can last through October and, in some locations, to November. Getting up close and personal with this cultural treat is unique in itself, but may also make you appreciate the dessert wine even more.