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A Complete Guide to Visiting Madeira in December: Weather & 6 Top Things To Do!

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Looking for an ideal warmer European getaway this winter, look no further than visiting Madeira in December! 

Imagine immersing yourself in a tropical winter wonderland, where the crisp chill of December is reimagined amid flourishing gardens and glistening coastlines. Escape the usual frigid winter routine and embark on a scenic adventure to Madeira, a diamond of the Atlantic that shines brightest in December. 

Having visited Madeira before, we can definitely vouch for the island’s incredible natural beauty and awesome array of things to see and do.

In this blog post, we’ll explore Madeira’s unique December weather, highlight must-do activities and guide you through crafting an unforgettable holiday in this subtropical paradise. Get ready to trade your heavy winter coats for light sweaters and your snow boots for hiking gear. Welcome to December in Madeira!

While December is considered to be the off-season for tourism in Madeira, it can still be a delightful time to visit. The weather is generally mild with average temperatures ranging between 17°C and 20°C (63°F to 68°F), although rain is more likely during this period. Additionally, visitors to Madeira in December can enjoy a range of holiday events and cultural activities, making it an excellent destination for those interested in exploring local traditions. However, those seeking sunny beach destinations may want to consider alternative locations as the sea temperature may be too cool and swimming in the ocean is not recommended.

Marco Santos | Travel-Boo | Portugal Travel Blogger

Madeira’s December Weather Overview

Beautiful view from a Funchal Viewpoint - Visiting Madeira in December
Madeira in December – Funchal Viewpoint © Image Courtesy of Balate Dorin from Getty Images by Canva

Are you planning a trip to Madeira in December? Fantastic choice! The beautiful Portuguese island that’s only a short 2 hour flight from Lisbon, offers a fairly temperate climate that is perfect for enjoying outdoor activities and exploring its stunning landscapes. Let’s take a closer look at what the weather has in store for you during this time of the year.

Madeira experiences generally good weather across the board in December, with pleasant temperatures ranging from a minimum of around 17°C (63°F) to a maximum of 20°C (68°F). 

However, as the month progresses, showers become more frequent, adding a touch of freshness to the air. Don’t let this discourage you though; it’s important to come prepared with waterproof clothing if you plan to explore the outdoors during these occasional rain showers.

Midday is when the weather truly shines in December. As temperatures rise, Madeira becomes an ideal destination for beach activities and water sports aficionados. If you’re not afraid to dab your toes in the cooler waters, then you may consider a quick swim, some snorkelling, or even trying out thrilling water activities like stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking. 

The water temperatures tend to range between 18 and 23°C throughout the year, although December is a tad bit colder. 

Imagine yourself basking under the warm sun on one of Madeira’s pristine beaches,a true paradise for those seeking relaxation and adventure!

When evening arrives, Madeira still maintains its pleasant weather with a warm atmosphere and clear skies. It’s the perfect setting for strolling along charming streets, savouring delicious local cuisine at quaint restaurants, or simply admiring breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.

However, intermittent rains may occur during late December, so it’s always recommended to carry an umbrella or light raincoat when venturing out at night. 

Average Temperatures and Rainfall

In December, the average temperature in Madeira ranges from 67°F to 68°F, providing a pleasant and comfortable climate for travellers. This mild weather is perfect for enjoying various outdoor activities, such as hiking, exploring botanical gardens, or simply enjoying leisurely walks along the coastline.

Picture yourself strolling through the enchanting Levada trails, surrounded by lush greenery and immersed in the natural beauty of Madeira. The moderate temperatures make it an ideal month to enjoy the island’s diverse landscapes at your own pace.

As for rainfall, Madeira experiences moderate amounts of precipitation during December. On average, there are around 2.5 inches of rainfall spread over approximately three days throughout the month. While occasional showers may occur, they typically don’t hinder outdoor plans significantly. Just be prepared with waterproof gear or adjust your activities accordingly if rain is expected.

Sea Conditions for Swimmers

Madeira is renowned for its breathtaking coastline and crystal-clear waters, making it an enticing destination for swimming and enjoying a range of water activities. However, if you’re planning to visit in December, it’s important to consider the sea conditions during this time of year.

While the average sea temperature in Madeira in December is around 20°C, which may sound appealing, it might be a bit too cool for most people to fully enjoy swimming. The mild climate on the island means that even during winter, temperatures don’t drop drastically, but they remain quite moderate compared to other beach destinations. 

It’s worth noting that individual preferences for water temperature can vary, so while some brave souls might still take a dip, others might find it too chilly for their liking.

If swimming isn’t a priority for you or if you prefer warmer waters, fear not! You’ll definitely not get bored easily as there are a myriad of top things to do in Madeira when visiting the island in December.

Top Things To Do In Madeira In December

Exploring Madeira Mountains in December

Hiking Trail on Pico Ruivo © Image Courtesy of Thomas Demarczuk from Getty Images Signature by Canva
Hiking Trail on Pico Ruivo © Image Courtesy of Thomas Demarczuk from Getty Images Signature by Canva

Beyond its stunning coastline, Madeira boasts enchanting mountain ranges that offer a different perspective of the island’s natural beauty. In December, these mountains undergo a transformation as winter sets in, creating a unique atmosphere for exploration and adventure.

As temperatures cool down, hiking in Madeira becomes an even more enjoyable and invigorating activity. The island is known for its network of well-maintained trails and levada walks that lead you through lush forests, picturesque villages, and stunning viewpoints. 

We particularly loved hiking the PR8 Vereda da Ponta de São Lourenço hike in Madeira, and also found the Levada Das 25 Fontes levada walk an incredible highlight during our stay too!

Lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and set out on a memorable journey to discover the hidden gems of Madeira’s mountains.

The cool weather in December provides favourable conditions for hiking, avoiding the heat of the summer months. However, it’s important to be prepared for possible rain showers as December falls within the rainy period in Madeira. So make sure to pack appropriate rain gear and to check the forecast beforehand.

Apart from hiking, other adventurous activities like canyoning and mountain biking can also be enjoyed in Madeira during December. These adrenaline-pumping experiences let you explore the island’s rugged terrain from new perspectives while immersing yourself in its natural wonders.

Whether you choose to embark on a challenging trek or engage in thrilling outdoor sports, exploring Madeira’s mountains in December promises a memorable and exhilarating experience.

If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry – there are still plenty of activities to enjoy during your winter visit to Madeira.

Shopping in Madeira

Madeira offers a plethora of shopping opportunities for those who enjoy indulging in retail therapy. Funchal, the capital city, is renowned for its vibrant markets and charming boutiques. Here, you can find an array of locally made handicrafts, embroidery, and traditional products such as Madeira wine or honey cake. These make perfect Portuguese souvenirs to remember your time on the island or to bring back as unique gifts for loved ones.

Stroll along Rua de Santa Maria – a picturesque street with colourful doors and vibrant street art. This charming area is home to numerous shops where you can find a variety of stylish clothing, accessories, and other gifts. Take your time to explore the hidden gems tucked away in the narrow alleys, each offering its own distinct charm.

Here you might come across intricate lacework created by talented artisans or stumble upon a store filled with locally produced chocolates and traditional liqueurs too.

If you’re seeking adventure beyond shopping, Madeira has something for everyone.

Other Outdoor Activities

Dolphin Watching © Image Courtesy of aldorado10 from Getty Images by Canva
Dolphin Watching © Image Courtesy of aldorado10 from Getty Images by Canva

Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled with the abundance of activities available. From hiking along breathtaking levadas (irrigation channels) we mentioned, to embarking on thrilling canyoning adventures, there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping experiences. 

Despite being wintertime, the island’s mild climate ensures pleasant temperatures for exploring its breathtaking landscapes. Grab your hiking boots and embark on trails that lead you through lush forests, dramatic cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. Marvel at the untouched beauty of places like Pico Ruivo or visit the enchanting Laurissilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Additionally, Madeira offers thrilling opportunities for activities such as canyoning, paragliding, and even whale and dolphin watching.

Experience the Festive Season:

Don’t miss the traditional Christmas markets that pop up around this time, where you can indulge in festive treats and purchase beautifully crafted holiday decorations.

In December, Madeira is characterized by festive end-of-year gatherings! Streets in Funchal are illuminated with eye-catching light displays, taking you on a vibrant journey of color and fantasy. 

Don’t overlook the massive holiday festivities, including one of the world’s largest fireworks displays, that’s also recognized by the Guinness World Records! It is worth noting that this New Year 

Explore the Laurisilva Forest: 

Laurisilva Forest © Image Courtesy of dennisvdw from Getty Images by Canva
Laurisilva Forest © Image Courtesy of dennisvdw from Getty Images by Canva

Madeira’s enchanting Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a paradise of greenery and breathtaking views thanks to the island’s unique terrain, which is best enjoyed in the cooler, yet mild December weather.

Discover Madeira’s Wine Culture:

Delve into and embrace the strong winemaking heritage of Madeira. Tour and sample the products of local vineyards and wineries. Here you will be educated on the distinctive fortified wine creation method that has been a lasting part of the island’s legacy for many years. It is an ideal way to casually pass an afternoon!

Whether you’re wandering through shops or embarking on outdoor adventures, Madeira in December promises an experience that combines relaxation, cultural immersion, stunning natural beauty, and adventure.

Now that we have explored the variety of activities to enjoy in December in Madeira, let’s take a closer look at the tourist trends and costs associated with visiting the island during this time.

Tourist Trends and Costs for December Visits

Madeira sees a significant influx of tourists, especially during the latter part of December, as this is a popular time for travellers to experience the island’s unique holiday festivities. The charming Christmas markets, enchanting decorations, and festive atmosphere create an allure that attracts visitors from around the world.

Imagine the vibrant streets filled with cheerful crowds, live music performances, and the aroma of traditional foods wafting through the air. It’s a magical time in Madeira that shouldn’t be missed.

Due to increased demand, it’s important to plan your trip well in advance to secure accommodations, flights, and car rental in Madeira

The cost of visiting Madeira in December can be higher compared to other months, even though winter is technically considered off-season. However, with careful planning and early booking, you may still find affordable options that suit your budget.

While prices for flights and accommodations may vary based on factors such as location and amenities, it’s worth noting that December falls within Madeira’s off-peak season. This can still result in lower rates compared to the bustling summer months, especially if travelling at the start of the month. 

When it comes to activities and dining, prices can range depending on your preferences. From affordable local eateries serving delicious traditional cuisine to high-end restaurants boasting exquisite gastronomic experiences – Madeira caters to all tastes and budgets. 

Engaging in outdoor adventures like hiking or exploring natural attractions generally incurs minimal expenses beyond transportation fees.

If you’re like me and you love spreadsheets and planning your travels, then consider setting a budget for each aspect of your trip while allowing room for spontaneous purchases or indulgences that may enhance your experience. Monitoring exchange rates and taking advantage of seasonal promotions or package deals can also help optimise your expenses.

Now that we have discussed the tourist trends and costs associated with visiting Madeira in December, let’s explore the benefits and tips for travelling during the off-season.

Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Portugal Travel Essentials:

Off-season Benefits and Tips

Madeira © Image Courtesy of TomekD76 from Getty Images Signature by Canva
Madeira © Image Courtesy of TomekD76 from Getty Images Signature by Canva

Visiting Madeira in December offers a unique experience for travellers seeking a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. While it may not be the peak tourist season, there are several benefits to exploring this charming island during the off-season. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and valuable tips for making the most of your trip.

Milder Weather

As already mentioned, one significant advantage of visiting Madeira in December is the milder weather. With average daily maximum temperatures of 20°C and average daily minimum temperatures of 17°C, the climate is pleasant and suitable for outdoor activities. While it’s always a good idea to bring along a jumper or jacket for the evenings, you’ll find that the weather is generally comfortable for exploring the island.

Picture yourself strolling along the beautiful levadas (irrigation channels) that crisscross Madeira’s picturesque landscapes. The cool breeze against your skin, coupled with the tranquil surroundings, makes for an ideal setting to immerse yourself in nature. The occasional clouds that might drift across the sky add a touch of drama and beauty to your walks, creating memorable moments along the way.

Less Crowded

Another benefit of visiting Madeira in December is that you can enjoy a more authentic cultural experience. With fewer tourists around (with the exception of Christmas and New Years), you’ll have opportunities to interact with locals on a deeper level. From savouring traditional Madeiran cuisine at local restaurants to attending local events and festivities, immersing yourself in the island’s vibrant culture becomes easier during this time.

When planning your itinerary, consider exploring Madeira’s rich history through its museums, such as the Madeira Story Centre and the Frederico de Freitas Museum. These attractions offer fascinating insights into the island’s past and provide a chance to learn about its unique heritage.

Off-season – Closures & Reduced Hours

It’s worth noting that December in Madeira is considered the offseason for tourism. As a result, some tourist accommodations, restaurants, or attractions may have reduced operating hours or even be closed. It’s a good idea to research and plan ahead to avoid any unexpected closures and ensure you make the most of your time on the island.

Fluctuating Weather Conditions

If you enjoy outdoor activities and want to explore the stunning landscapes and hike through Madeira’s renowned trails, be aware that weather conditions might be unpredictable in December. 

It’s essential to check weather updates and trail conditions before embarking on any hikes or outdoor adventures. Additionally, wearing appropriate footwear and dressing in layers will help you adapt to changing temperatures while enjoying outdoor pursuits.


Lastly, keep in mind that December is not considered the best beach destination in Madeira due to slightly cooler temperatures. While it’s still possible to swim in the sea with an average temperature of 20°C, most people may find it too cool for their liking. 

Instead, consider enjoying other water activities like boat trips that allow you to appreciate Madeira’s marine life and coastal beauty.

Exploring Madeira in December offers a different perspective on this enchanting island. The milder weather, fewer crowds, and authentic cultural experiences make it an enticing time to visit. Just remember to plan ahead, check weather conditions for outdoor activities, and embrace the unique off-season offerings that await you on this stunning Portuguese island.


In December, the Portuguese island of Madeira serves up a delightful array of sights, tastes, and customs! The stunning environment of the isle blends perfectly with the high spirits of the celebrations, promising an unforgettable experience and one which we would highly recommend. 

Consequently, if you are looking for an alternative to the normal freezing winters experienced in other parts of Europe, Madeira awaits you with open arms and joyful adventures!

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Visiting Madeira in December - A Complete Guide! A Guide to visiting Madeira, Portugal in December including weather & top things to do when visiting in December in Madeira!