Winter in Portugal: The Colorful Island Culture of Madeira

Explore the landscapes of Madeira, the “island of eternal springtime,” during the quieter winter months. Sea-faring tradition, exotic plants and sweet treats await on this lush island.
Rating (4.67)
Program No. 23492RJ
8 days
Starts at
Flights start at

At a Glance

When explorers first laid eyes on Madeira, they could hardly believe the haven of beauty that stood before them. Black lava pools curled at the feet of stoic volcanoes, lush subtropical forest gave way to plummeting cliffs, and bird-of-paradise flowers sat vigil over the island. Thanks to its position between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Madeira grew up as an important trading post, and today the island is as rich in tradition as it is lush in landscapes. Experience the best of this “island of eternal springtime” during the quieter winter months, while floral scents still fill Madeira's sea-washed air but the crowds have thinned. Uncover the history behind its vital artisan industries, explore its world-renowned vistas and variety of endemic plants, savor its eponymous wine, and more on this remote but lush island.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking 2-3 miles per day, uneven terrain, steps, cobble stones and steep slopes all around the island.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Explore the many gardens and forests of Madeira— also known as the floating garden of the Atlantic—including the renowned Botanical Gardens, featuring 2500 species of endemic plants of the island.
  • Learn about the island’s most important industries as you visit a local wine cellar, an embroidery factory and a sugar mill.
  • Soar to the tops of Funchal’s hills by cable car for breathtaking views before returning on an exhilarating toboggan ride.

General Notes

Give us a call to combine this learning adventure with select dates of "Winter in Portugal: Rich History & Culture from Cascais to Lisbon" (#22583) for even more learning in Southern Europe! We’ll even transfer you for free between locations.
Featured Expert
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Ana Cristina Silva
Ana Cristina Silva is a Portuguese group leader and certified by SNATTI, a union of Portuguese group leaders, managers and drivers. She has worked on Madeira Island for over 30 years guiding and leading groups. Her knowledge is constantly growing as years go by with her natural interest in subjects such as social life, history and botany. Fluent in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish, she loves sharing Madeira with visitors.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Ana Cristina Silva
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Portuguese: A Modern History
by Barry Hatton
Barry Hatton, veteran journalist and commentator on Portugal, shines a light on this enigmatic corner of Europe by blending historical analysis with entertaining personal anecdotes.
The Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa
When the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa died in 1935, he left behind a trunk full of unpublished writings. Culled from those unclassifiable papers, this book is a unique collection of short, aphoristic paragraphs comprising the "autobiography" of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa's many alternate selves (he called them "heteronyms"). Part intimate diary, part prose poetry, part descriptive narrative, this melancholic masterpiece is captivatingly translated by Richard Zenith.
Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empirer
by Roger Crowley
This epic narrative history by bestselling author Roger Crowley (City of Fortune, MED185) chronicles the rise of Portugal as the small nation forged a dominant share in the global spice trade. His cast of characters (the ambitious King Manuel I, marauding governors and intrepid seamen) built a trade monopoly with the ferocity of a holy crusade, forever shifting Europe's center of power from the Mediterranean to Western Europe.
Baltasar and Blimunda
by Jose Saramago
This tale of two unlikely lovers in Inquisition-era Portugal is arguably Saramago's masterwork: a philosophically charged, intellectually rigorous historical drama which is also a captivating read.
A Traveller's History of Portugal
by Ian Robertson
A lively, admirably concise survey from prehistory to the present, great for travelers to Portugal who would like an overview of the country's history and culture.
Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook
by Clara De MacEdo Vitorino
A handy pocket phrasebook for Portuguese basics, covering pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.
Eyewitness Guide Portugal
by Eyewitness Guides
A compact, visual travel guide to the country featuring hundreds of photographs and drawings, an excellent overview of the culture and history of Portugal and good information about where to go and what to do. With many excellent regional, local and neighborhood maps.
Journey to Portugal, In Pursuit of Portugal's History and Culture
by Jose Saramago
Jose Saramago's richly detailed account of his journey across Portugal in 1979. He combines his vivid impressions of the Portuguese landscape and people with a dose of history, fiction and meditations.
Top 10 Travel Guide: Madeira
by Eyewitness Guides
Compact guide to Madeira.

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