Madeira is a sub tropical paradise. The tended garden attractions, the flower festival and the wild hillsides all evidence this. But, it is still in the northern hemisphere, so what are the winters like. Can it be considered an "all year round destination" holiday?
I believe it can but first you must understand the nature of the island in order to save being disappointed.
I often, flippantly describe the Madeiran winter as being like an English summer, inasmuch as you can get any weather condition.
You need to consider the geography of the island. It is a bit like huge humped-back creature breaching a wild ocean – it is steep in the middle, mountainous with steep gradients careering down to the sea. It is not smooth – the great breaching creature has deep ravines carved into its side and it is this incongruous shaped rock that gives cause to the many micro-climates found on the island. It is too simplistic to say "go up and its cooler, down is hotter, East is dryer and the North is wetter.
The far east of Madeira has the dramatic scenery of the Sao Laurenco Peninisula. It straggles and historically drips off the edge. On the ridges it is sandy and dry. Look at the plant growth and this just confirms it.
Giant Dragon Trees, once used for the collection of expensive purple dye, grow in abundance, leathery strappy leaves are a clue to their ability to survive in a dry climate. It is also considered to be warmer in the East. On a windy day in January however, the chill factor gives lie to the 18 or even 20 degrees showing on the thermometer.
In the north of the island, in the area of Arco Sao Jorge you will find the World Heritage site of the Madeira Biosphere. The surviving wall of the extinct caldera roars out of the ground behind the village and is dressed in virgin rain forest. The air around is moist on even the warmest of dry days. The clue to the micro climate here is just how green it is. The winter days are short in Arco Sao Jorge, the sun struggling to rise over the high mountain. It can also be warm here, even in the winter but then the sun dips out of site early giving a long twilight from mid afternoon.
Accommodation is available at Quinta D'Arco in the form of little cottages dotted around beautifully laid out tropical gardens.
Porto Moniz is famous for its natural rock pools but would you really want to take a dip in December? I do not think so. This north West coast has roaring seas in the winter. It is "the corner" of the island, with dramatic color contrasts of turquoise blue, black basalt and white sea spume. In the winter it can be windy and it is the wind that keeps the winter temperature down in this location.
What about Funchal in the winter? Our capital city. It has to be one of the best winter city breaks. It is often warm and balmy in Funchal even when there are clouds sitting on the mountain tops way above the city. If it should rain there is so much to do and see. Galleries and museums, Reids Hotel for classic English teas or the Farmers Market to view the massive range of fruits and vegetables grown here on Madeira. So colorful and dramatic, just like the island.
So if you come for winter, bringing a fleecie top, a waterproof jacket and your swimming costume oh and some sun tan lotion! It may well be a confusing winter climate but well worth the extra packing!