facebook Could Madeira be your Retirement Paradise? - Escape Artist

Could Madeira be your Retirement Paradise?

Wait – I know what you’re thinking. Where the heck is Madeira?

The reason why you don’t know where Madeira is, and have probably never even heard of it before, is because this Portuguese island is a true hidden gem. Referred to as the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Madeira is located off the coast of Northern Africa, in the North Atlantic Ocean.

I’ll be honest with you – I had never heard of Madeira either until I read the Flatio Digital Nomad Report 2023 for my digital nomad articles last year (you can check those out here and here). Upon reading the report, I noticed that Madeira was listed as #7 of the destinations digital nomads favor most, and #3 of the destinations digital nomads are most excited to visit next. I was surprised to have never heard of this place that seemed to be garnering so much buzz.

Upon doing some research, I found that Madeira was popular with retirees as well. Think the island life isn’t for you? You might change your mind after reading about Madeira!

All About Madeira

Autonomous region of Portugal

Similarly to the Azores, Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal. It was granted autonomy by Portugal on July 1, 1976, a date that is celebrated annually as Madeira Day.

Location and size

Madeira island is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 400 km north of the Canary Islands, 520 km west of Morocco, and 1,000 km southwest of Portugal’s capital of Lisbon.

This island is a pretty decent size, coming in at 57 km long and 22 km wide, for a total of around 741 km2. Definitely more than enough room for exploring, which you will definitely want to do when you learn about the geography of this place!


If you are a fan of hiking, Madeira is the perfect fit for you. The island is actually the top of a deep oceanic volcano that rises about 6 km from the ocean floor! But don’t worry, it’s never had any recorded activity since its discovery.

Given its rocky origins, Madeira is full of hills and has a mountain range that extends down the center of the island with its highest peak, Pico Ruivo, reaching 1,862 m (6,109 ft).

Along with the rocky terrain, Madeira features incredible cliffs, deep valleys, and plateaus. Its Laurissilva Forest, featuring many unique species of plants and animals, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the largest surviving laurissilva forest in the world, with the only other forests of this type being found in the Azores and Canary Islands. Seriously – look up photos of this forest. It is almost an other-wordly type of beauty.

And, of course, there are beaches! While many of Madeira’s beaches are pebbled due to the natural rocky landscape, there are many sand beaches as well. And apparently the pebbled beaches are much more comfortable to walk on than you might think!

Experience the Insider community that takes your international lifestyle to the next level. Download your FREE guide

"18 Steps to Implementing Your Plan B" instantly!


Madeira features a glorious sub-tropical climate, meaning the temperature rarely drops below 15 degrees Celsius and is mild all year round. If you are looking for those beautiful springlike temperatures, you are going to love Madeira’s climate. Similarly to the Azores, it is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe”.

Plus, it gets around 3,300 hours of sunshine per year – that’s 70% more than in Northern Europe and probably a lot more than wherever you are living right now!


Madeira has a population of around 253,000 people. The vast majority – around 96% – are Catholic and the official language is Portuguese, although English is also widely spoken.

The capital city of Funchal has around 112,000 people and is where many retirees and digital nomads start their journey in Madeira due to its blend of modern conveniences and old-world charm.

Fun fact: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world-famous soccer player, is from Funchal. If you are a soccer fan, you will be in good company in Madeira. They even named their international airport after him!

Cost of living

You may be thinking that a European island = $$$$$$$. And that certainly can be the case if you are hanging out in tourist traps and eating out all the time. But both digital nomads and retirees alike rave about the affordable cost of living on Madeira.

Keep in mind, it is still an island, so you’ve got limited space to work with. And that means that your rent is going to be a little more expensive and take up a bigger portion of your budget. But that being said, even in the capital of Funchal, you will still have a cost of living that is lower than 95% of other major European cities.

The average cost of living in Funchal, including rent, is €1,198 for a single person and €2,689 for a family of 4. Not too shabby and probably less than your expenses in Canada and the United States, given our out-of-control inflation and extremely high housing costs.


Crime in Madeira is extremely low. According to Numbeo, Funchal has a crime index of 19.41. People report feeling very safe while walking alone in both the day and night.

Contrast this with Toronto, which has a crime index of 43.04, Chicago, which has a crime index of 66.39, or London, which has a crime index of 54.62.

These crime index numbers show that you are not sacrificing your safety in order to obtain a lower cost of living in Madeira. In fact, the high levels of safety in Madeira will contribute, along with everything I’ve mentioned above, to a much-improved quality of life. Imagine how great it would feel to leave all the social disorder and tent cities behind, and pay less for the pleasure?


There are plenty of healthcare facilities located around Madeira so, no matter where you are staying on the island, you will have good access to healthcare.

Just make sure you are equipped with travel health insurance before you go to make sure you will be covered in all medical circumstances.

Visa options

Canadians and Americans can only stay in Portugal for 90-days visa-free, so if you are looking to spend more time in Madeira, you are going to need a visa. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Golden Visa – Requires investment of €250,000 – €500,000 via donation to the arts or research activities, investment in venture capital/private equity funds, or company creation
  • D7 Visa– For retirees or those with passive income
  • D2 Visa– For entrepreneurs and small business owners
  • D8 Visa– For digital nomads and remote workers

Portugal’s variety of visa options is one of the things that makes it so attractive to digital nomads and retirees alike. They pretty much have every situation covered so you should have no issue finding one that suits your needs!

Could Madeira be your retirement paradise?

If you were like me and never heard of Madeira before, I hope this article has piqued your interest. Between the natural beauty, fantastic climate, and overall quality of life, this island is generating buzz for all the right reasons. There are tons of YouTube videos on it so I would definitely recommend checking some of those out to get a better feel for the pros and cons of living there as a retiree or digital nomad.

It just goes to show that there are so many places around the world, many that you haven’t even heard of, that hold great promise for helping you to make the most of your retirement. Perhaps Madeira will be that place for you!

If you are a freedom-minded individual, you are going to want to subscribe to Escape Artist Insiders magazine. Bringing you the latest and greatest in offshore information with a libertarian perspective, this magazine will inspire you to start your own offshore journey and build the life you want for yourself and your family. Start your Plan B journey off on the right foot and subscribe today!

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

LisaLisa is an aspiring expat from Canada who is working to put together her Plan B with a young family in tow. She is excited to pair her lifelong love of writing with her passion for offshore strategies and outside-the box investments in her weekly articles for Escape Artist readers. Follow this “rebel with a cause” as she walks the path less traveled and shares her experiences along the way.
EA Store

Like Our Articles?

Then make sure to check out our Bookstore... we have titles packed full of premium offshore intel. Instant Download - Print off for your private library before the government demands we take these down!