Visit This European Island For The Ultimate Winter Holiday Getaway

Each year, as the holiday season approaches, a tiny sub-tropical island in the North Atlantic Ocean transforms into a land of pure enchantment with magical light displays, Christmas markets, and one of the best New Year's Eve celebrations in Europe.

Madeira is part of an archipelago that includes the islands of Porto Santo, Esertas, and Selvangens and is home to just over 250,000 people. Even though it's an autonomous region of Portugal, it's situated closer to the North African coast and is located just 544 miles west of Morocco. It's known for its beautiful coastline, rugged mountains, amazing hiking adventures, and world-famous wine.

A beautiful destination year-round, the 459-square-mile island has a pleasant climate regardless of the season. During the winter months, it makes for a warm escape from the cold or rainy weather on the European mainland, with plenty of sunny days and average temperatures in the mid-60s. If you're looking for a warm weather destination this winter but don't want to miss out on experiencing the holiday spirit of the season, consider booking a trip to Madeira.

Sparkling lights and holiday markets all month long

The magic of the holiday season on Madeira kicks off on the first day of December when the impressive holiday lights are turned on in the capital city of Funchal and across the smaller villages on the island. Well over 1 million lights are used to create the one-of-a-kind holiday display. The lights are switched on at around 6 p.m. and the whole city takes to the streets to celebrate. Each area has a unique theme, so you can wander through the winding cobblestone streets for hours to experience the twinkling beauty. Funchal's lights are the most impressive but take advantage of driving around the island to see the displays in the smaller villages scattered around Madeira.

In addition to the gorgeous lights hung across every street, the pier is lit up with a massive LED tunnel that uses immersive technology to make you feel as though you are passing through water, as well as a towering 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. The lights remain up throughout the holiday season until January 8.

Families traveling with kids will love visiting the Christmas village, located in the municipal square of Funchal. There are miniature buildings, train rides, and delightful interactive experiences celebrating the season's magic. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy nightly live performances and boozy beverages at the Christmas market. Sample fine Madeira wine, rum, and the ever-popular Poncha – an extremely strong drink made from cane sugar, honey, and citrus. The market is open from noon until midnight from December 1 through January 7.

Madeira's iconic New Year's Eve celebration

During the holidays, the party never stops in Madeira, and the fun social atmosphere culminates in an unforgettable New Year's Eve celebration. The festivities begin a couple days early, on December 30, with plenty of "New Year's Eve Eve" parties around the island. Whether you celebrate at a small restaurant with family and friends or a glamorous black-tie party, you will surely be overcome with holiday cheer.

On the 31, the entire island awaits one of the most incredible fireworks displays in the world, which takes place at midnight on New Year's Eve. You'll see cruise ships begin to congregate just off the coast because, year after year, the display leaves visitors awe-struck.

The fireworks are inspired by hundreds of years of tradition. In the 17th century, bonfires were lit around the island to celebrate. Later, the new year was marked by a rocket launch organized by the British living in Madeira. The tradition continued to grow, and now the fireworks display lasts more than 8 minutes and attracts tourists from around the world. After New Year's, the festivities continue well into the first week of January, resulting in an unforgettable holiday getaway on this stunning Atlantic island.