• 2024.06.20
  • The Funchal Flower Festival

Carpets of flowers are set up around the city

Madeira is a chain of Portuguese islands renowned for its natural beauty.

This volcanic archipelago is made up of the populated Madeira Island, the uninhabited Desertas, Porto Santo (known for its emerald waters and ochre-sand beaches), and the Savage Islands. Funchas in Madeira Island is the capital. It’s located about three and a half hours by plane from Lisbon, quite close to the Canary Islands and Morocco.

The area has a subtropical climate, with an average annual temperature around 20ºC. It is covered in madeira trees, the island’s namesake, and you can also see banana trees along with colorful flowers and fruit growing around the island. One of the highlights of the area’s stunning natural environment is a laurel forest called the Laurisilva of Madeira, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some of you may more immediately recognize Madeira as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo, one of Portugal’s most famous soccer players. It’s actually this fact that instantly made the islands famous worldwide.

Amazingly, they even decided to rename the local airport, once the Santa Catarina International Airport, as the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport. (Though, since it’s located in Funchal, many people both then and now still call it the Funchal airport.)

The Funchal airport is tiny, but because it’s flooded with tourists from all over Europe, it offers direct flights to most of Europe’s major cities. Europeans flock to the warm shores of this resort island which still lacks some of the rampant commercialization of places like Ibiza or Nice. Of course, there are still places where you won’t see anyone but foreign tourists, but the old buildings and streets are still preserved in their original forms, and there’s little of the “plastic” feel that some resort areas have. The lush greenery only adds to the unpretentious vibe, and you start to feel like you’ve lived there a long time after staying only a few days. I love just relaxing with a cold beer and getting lost in the island’s nostalgic feel.

Madeira is sometimes called the Island of Flowers, and hosts a big event called the Festa da Flor (Flower Festival) each year to celebrate the blooming season. The festival starts in early May and lasts for about a month, during which the streets of Funchal are covered in the sights and smells of tropical flowers. The festival features a variety of activities and entertainment, among them flower parades, gardening workshops, flower arrangement exhibitions, and all kinds of singing and dancing.

I went to Madeira for the Cortejo da Festa da Flor (Flower Parade), which is the highlight of the island’s most renowned festival.

It’s incredibly packed during this famous event, to the point that you’d think the weight of Funchal is starting to tilt the island. Somehow you find your way through the sea of people towards the stands, get your straw hat, and find a seat (you realize later how precious the straw hat is). Soon come the carts festooned with native flowers and the processions of ladies and girls decked out in rainbow-colored blossoms, adding passion and enthusiasm to the heat of the day.

I heard that this year’s parade had 1,800 participants from fourteen groups, and every group had their own unique costumes and dance performances to match their individual theme. I got to see carts decorated with thousands of flowers and the participants dancing in their elegant dresses around them, filling the air with the scent of blossoms. The adorable faces of the girls, all of them looking like little fairies, glowed with the pride of princesses.

The whole thing was gorgeous, like seeing a living work of art. It was a busy holiday and unfortunately we didn’t really get to fully enjoy our visit, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced those moments of magic.

The Muro de Esperaça (Wishing Wall), a popular ritual that showcases the children’s hope for peace


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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