The Madeira Islands are located about 621 miles south-west of Portugal in the Atlantic, roughly 2000 miles north of the Equator, about a 90 minutes flight from Lisbon. Madeira itself and Porto Santo are the only ones inhabited, the Desertas and Selvagens islands are nature reserves and home to a few birds, plants and sea lions. Visiting these islands is allowed with permission from the appropriate authorities.
Since the beginning of the corona-coaster these beautiful islands have been what we are now calling a Safe Haven to visit. Safe, meaning their cases of COVID-19 are dropping and there is no sign of the Brazilian strain there. It is also worth mentioning that the crime rate is very low for violent and small crimes, violence against tourists is very, very (yes two verys) unusual and it is safe for anyone to wander around the evening at night!
The airport is open to travelers with a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours before traveling, or a vaccination certificate or proof or recovery within 90 days. The proof of recovery in the last 90 days must be from the visitor’s country of origin, health number, type and date of the test and explicit mention of the word “recovered”. The vaccination certificate must also be from the country of origin, including the date of doses taken and regard for the immunization period according to instructions for each vaccine. This documentation must be submitted in English before the trip is taken to madeirasafe.com.
If you don’t do any of this and you manage to arrive you can get a free test on arrival, I am sure they will be very polite, but, really, get the paperwork done!
As with most archipelagos of the world, the islands are of volcanic origin, and these have a six centuries worth of history and tradition.
Once you have jumped through all the paperwork hoops, you are free to enjoy the wonders of your destination. The climate is mild to warm year around, and the best time to go is between April and October, so starting around now. That’s when you can see up to 20 species of whales and dolphins off of the coasts. Festivals — they love festivals — include a famous flower one in May and a wine festival — well, this is of course where Madeira comes from! — is set this year for August 29th to September 12th. But there are also musical, the ominous sounding pyrotechnic, and various gastronomic events throughout the year. And Christmas is “A Festa”, because this is how the inhabitants live at that time of year, (henceforth added to my things and places to go before I die!)
The capital, Funchal, on Madeira, is a city with historical neighborhoods, churches and squares with their own architectural character, and the lush and beautiful gardens and beaches you expect to find in paradise. Madeira has a natural and extraordinary beauty with caves, cascades and waterfalls. Take a stroll through Laurissilva da Madeira, a World Heritage forest, wander from isolated villages and fajas, Portuguese for a flat strip of fertile land created from lava, and across flower gardens to mountains and sandy beaches.
Porto Santo has a beach 9 kilometers long — nearly six miles, to save you looking it up — with golden sandy dunes and crystal clear turquoise seas. And you can trek around the island to discover small, sheltered bays and several beautiful hills.