Madeira, like most of Portugal, comes to life with Carnival the week before Lent to celebrate the coming of Spring and to have the last fun fling before the traditional somber period of Lent. The parties and parades of Madeira Carnival last for more than a week and conclude the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with a parade of costumed locales. Later the same evening, we attended a huge Carnival Gala at Pestana Casino Resort to feast and enjoy the best in Samba music and four dance troupes. The costumes were absolutely dazzling, featuring enormous dresses and scantily, but sparkly clad female dancers. The male dancers we also decked out, but with a lot more coverage. Due to a mix up with our tickets, the hotel soothed our frustration by sitting us at the edge of the dance floor. Although it was a loud location, I was so front and centre that the lead dancer selected me for a quick spin on the dance floor – so quick that there is no photographic evidence. The energy built as one dance troupe was followed by another; each with an riveting act featuring more elaborate feathered and sequined costume.
We recommend attending the parade on the first Saturday of Carnival or show at the end. If you visit at another time of year you may find that your visit coincides with one of the many other festivals. The New Years Eve fireworks and Flower Festival in May are both renowned. There is a full listing of festivals and celebrations here.
I feel a little under-dressed!
Here are two brief videos from the Madeira Carnival Gala showing the dancing and music.