The two islands of Madeira and Porto Santo, which belong to Portugal, have a very mild climate, to the point that they can be considered as the islands of eternal spring.
The north-east trade winds, which prevail throughout the year, bring a bit of cloudiness, humidity, and rainfall on the north-facing slopes. On the other hand, in the cold half of the year, the islands can be affected by Atlantic depressions.
Daytime temperatures hover around 19/20 degrees Celsius (66/68 °F) from December to April, and exceed 20 °C (68 °F) between May and November, reaching 26 °C (79 °F) in August and September. The minimum temperatures hover around 13/15 °C (55/59 °F) from December to May and around 17/19 °C (63/66 °F) from June to October.
Here are the average temperatures of Funchal, the capital, located on the island of Madeira.
The temperature of the sea in Madeira is not very high; however, it’s around 18 °C (64 °F) in winter and spring, when it is very cool if not cold, it’s still 20 °C (68 °F) in June, while it reaches 23 °C (73 °F) in August and September, when it becomes warm enough to swim in.
Rainfall is concentrated in the period from October to mid-April, when it’s quite frequent, while in summer it almost never rains. The island of Porto Santo is more arid than that of Madeira, and its landscape is green only in the northern inland area, where the altitude reaches 500 meters (1,600 feet). In the city of Porto Santo, annual rainfall does not reach 400 millimetres (16 inches), while in Funchal, which, as mentioned, is located on the island of Madeira, it is around 640 mm (25 in).
Here is the average precipitation in Funchal.
The amount of sunshine on the two islands is acceptable in winter, when there is an alternation between sunny periods and bad weather periods, while it’s good (but not great) in the summer months. In June, a blanket of clouds, called capacete (“helmet”) often forms, which covers the island of Madeira in the early morning but thins out during the warmest hours. However, even in midsummer, cloud banks can form on the Atlantic Ocean and affect the islands, even if it does not rain. Here are the average sunshine hours per day in Funchal.
The island of Madeira is larger and occupied by higher mountains, whose highest point is Pico Ruivo, 1,862 meters (6,109 feet) high. Therefore, in this island, there’s a greater variety of microclimates: because of the above-mentioned trade winds, the northern side is rainier and windier than the southern one, where the landscape is more arid. The city of Funchal, on the southern slope, is quite sheltered from the wind. On the other hand, the interior, which is hilly and mountainous, can be covered by a layer of fog or low clouds. Of course, temperatures decrease with altitude. In the mountains, especially above 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), snowfall and frost can occur in winter.
In the period from June to September, Madeira can be affected by the Leste, a hot, dry wind blowing from the Sahara, which can raise the temperature above 30 °C (86 °F) and bring a fine red powder. This wind is rarer in Porto Santo.
Given that they have a very mild climate, you can visit Madeira and Porto Santo all year round, but from mid-October to mid-April, there may be rains and thunderstorms, especially on the island of Madeira, while the coolest period is from December to April. So, the best time is the summer, from July to September, since it is the warmest, the sunniest and the most recommended for swimming and sunbathing. However, flower and nature lovers will prefer the spring.
What to Pack
In winter: bring spring/autumn clothes, a sweater, a jacket, a raincoat or umbrella. To climb Pico Ruivo, a down jacket, a hat, gloves, hiking shoes.
In summer: bring light clothing, but also a scarf for the wind, a sweatshirt or sweater, a light jacket for the evening. To climb Pico Ruivo, sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking shoes, a sweatshirt and a jacket for the evening.