With fall just around the corner and temperatures beginning to cool down, you may be wondering which international destinations may be best to visit, especially if you’ve avoided the crowded summer season and have been saving your paid leave for the right moment.
If this applies to you, well, you’re in luck, as this lesser-known European island is not only the perfect fall destination, with its balmy subtropical weather, abundant nature, and unspoiled landscapes, but it is incredibly easy for Americans to reach.
We’re talking no layovers.
Still can’t figure out where? Forget Ibiza, Santorini, and other jam-packed Mediterranean hotspots of the like: Madeira is where it’s at.
Portugal’s Hidden Gem
Madeira is a small, autonomous archipelagic province of Portugal, located roughly 600 miles South of the Portuguese mainland. In case you were wondering, yes, it is closer to Africa than it is to Europe.
The main island is only 280 miles off the West Coast of the African continent, firmly planting it in the other continent, though it is a part of Portugal and, thus, inhabited by the Portuguese.
Unlike Southern Europe, however, the weather in Madeira does not adhere strictly to the concepts of summer and autumn, falling somewhere in between.
Much like the Canaries archipelago in Spain, which is its direct neighbor to the South, it is known as the Land of Eternal Spring.
Irrespective of season, Madeira is never too hot, nor too cold, enjoying long hours of sunshine most days and limited precipitation compared to the mainland, with Britain-based travel agency TUI reporting the average daily maximum in October is 75.2°F, and a minimum of 68°F in the evenings.
Other than the temperate climate, you may be wondering why exactly it makes for a relaxing fall getaway:
Madeira Is Just Perfect For Relaxing
Madeira may be renowned for its amazing History, dating back at least to the 15th century, when the Portuguese first made landfall and settled on these islands, but its greatest asset is indisputably the verdant, wild nature.
With two-thirds of the main island – eponymously called Madeira – being a protected nature reserve, there is an abundance of gorgeous mountainous landscapes, marine parks, unruffled sandy beaches, and hidden waterfalls for you to chase.
While the sea may not as warm for deep-water swimming – you must remember Madeira is in the middle of the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean – shallow-water beaches are still pleasant enough for an afternoon dip when the temperature rises a little.
As it is the capital and largest settlement in Madeira, Funchal is the best place to base yourself as you travel the main island, but some of the best swim-friendly beaches are located farther out.
These include Seixal, a long stretch of golden sand bounded by bright-blue waters, Ribeira Brava, where the ocean is turquoise-blue, and Calheta, perhaps the busiest and best-equipped beach in Madeira, with a caveat: it is a manmade beach, with sand imported from Morocco.
Still, it is nothing short of stunning.
Explore Madeira Beyond The Main Island
If you’re feeling like discovering more beautiful spots beyond Madeira Island, the neighboring Porto Santo, lying northeast, should be on your list.
A sunbathing heaven, the main settlement boasts 9 km of natural sandy beach.
This may be disputed by some scientists, but natives believe the sands in Porto Santo have therapeutic qualities, as they are known locally to alleviate painful symptoms of rheumatism.
The other two islands in the archipelago, Deserta and Selvagens, are not inhabited, yet they can still be visited as part of boat excursions.
Madeira should be your go-to destination if you’re a nature lover, and if being amidst the greenery helps soothe your soul, particularly after the previous three harrowing years we’ve had.
Needless to say, there are numerous wellness centers and relaxation retreats awaiting you, with The Telegraph describing Madeira as a ‘spa-focused‘ destination.
Madeira Is For All Budgets
If it’s an exclusive fall getaway you’re after, and you’ve got money in the bank, some of the top-rated five-star spa hotels include Hotel The Cliff Bay, with overnight rates starting at $423 this season, the rustic Quinta Jardins do Lago, priced lower at $393, and Porto Santa Maria Hotel, as cheap as $294.
Travelers on a budget are also welcome in Madeira:
If you’re simply looking for a place to crash for the night while you spend your days braving the nature and exploring centuries-old cobbled towns, the cozy Residencial Funchal, in the heart of the island’s capital of Funchal, will set you back by as little as $57 this fall.
You won’t have complimentary access to infinity pools overlooking the azure Atlantic, nor wellness treatments, but you will be in the heart of the action, and within walking distance of several of Funchal’s top landmarks, including the Old Town and the Farmer’s Market.
Other attractive deals include the Mimosa Studio Hotel, with rates starting at $114 on Booking.com, and Paraiso Apartamento Turistico, available for booking for only $97 per night on Expedia. Regardless of your preference, you will find great off-season deals.
Additionally, you should expect much smaller crowds in the fall, as the summer holidays will be over by then, and Madeira is still considerably less popular than other beach destinations in mainland Portugal, such as the Algarve.
Madeira Is Easy To Reach
Madeira may be a remote destination even for the Portuguese, but it is within easy reach of Americans, particularly those living on the East Coast.
Azores Airlines, the main airline operating in the autonomous Portuguese regions of the Atlantic, which include not only Madeira but also the Azores, offers nonstop flights from New York-JFK to Madeira year-round, as cheap as 250 bucks one-way, at a flight duration of only 7 hours.
You read that right.
This fall, it is cheaper to travel to this paradisaical Portuguese island than certain domestic destinations in the States.
The only requirement? Bringing a valid passport.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com