Not that anyone needs a reason to go to Portugal in February anymore - but one good reason is Carnaval, a four-day celebration beginning February 19, 2020. Parades and pageants have been part of Carnaval celebrations throughout Portugal for centuries. But in Funchal, the warm and sunny capital of Madeira, Carnaval festivities are a big deal.
The massive Carnaval street parade takes place on Saturday evening and captures the dreams of youth and the desires of seasoned merrymakers. A number of Carnaval troupes with thousands of participating members, flood the streets of Funchal with music and merriment. Look for dancing, floats, flowers and lots of food, drink and song.
Carnaval, or "Entrudo," is the time between Epiphany and Lent, and includes the three "fat days" leading up to Ash Wednesday(Sunday, Monday and Tuesday).
Funchal wakes up on Friday morning to the sound of brass bands and this is the party where everyone can be whoever they want to. On Saturday night Funchal makes way for the show and the audience can watch or take part in the Parade. The party begins in Avenida Sá Carneiro and goes all the way, always dancing, to the end of Avenida do Mar. And celebrations continue into the night.
On the day of the Carnaval itself (Shrove Tuesday), Funchal explodes in a great outpouring of merriment. In the afternoon, merrymakers participate in the peoples’ parade. Throughout this period, the streets of Funchal are decorated with lights and music.
During the same period, the Romans celebrated the Saturnalia, — a celebration of regeneration and balance.
Saturnalia festivities include reconciliation with the dead. For this purpose, the figure of death was personified with white costumes and masks, and a doll and other symbols of the evil spirit were burnt, in an act of purification and liberation from malevolent influences. In many places in Portugal, the Carnaval festivities still end with the burial of the "Entrudo," a final act of freedom and breaking of the rules prior to a return to order.
The MadeiraIslands, an archipelago 750 miles southwest of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean, has a nearly perfect climate—warm all winter and never too hot in summer. Ancient volcanic cliffs that rise dramatically from the sea dominate Madeira’s fascinating landscape, with beautiful flora and fauna that inspire comparisons of Madeira with Hawaii.
The south coast is sunny, and home to estates growing bananas, sugar cane, and grapes. Quaint fishing towns rise off the coast, where small hotels and villas welcome guests. The east coast is home to the historic towns of Caniçal, Machico and Santa Cruz. The wild Ponta de São Lourenço Nature Reserve snakes out into the ocean with great hiking and impressive views. The north coast is rugged and rocky, featuring small towns and great surf. Santana is known for its straw roofed homes and lots of hiking trails to the islands peaks. Quaint São Vicente has a series of lava caves. Inland, the massive peaks of Pico Ruivo and Arieiro make for wild valleys and cliffs, with lots of grazing sheep and sweeping views. To the west lies the massive flat mountain plain of Paul da Serra, which looks like the surface of Mars, and the deep crater valley of Curral das Freiras. The sunny west coast runs from the tidal pools of Porto Moniz to the cliffs on the point at Cabo Girão.