The Madeira archipelago is a group of islands that form an autonomous region of Portugal. It consists of two major inhabited islands, the Madeira Island and Porto Santo, and numerous little islets. With a population of around 250,000, the islands lie in the north Atlantic, some 350 miles off the coast of Morocco. Technically situated on the African plate, Madeira belongs to Europe in terms of politics, culture and ethnicity. The islands are famous for their “eternal spring weather” and grandiose natural landscapes and resources. In fact, the Portuguese word “madeira” means “wood”, alluding to the rainforest that once spread over the entire island. Portuguese sailors rediscovered Madeira in the first half of the fifteenth century and the islands were to become the first stop in the series of Portuguese discoveries that turned the kingdom into a vast empire.
Pearl of the Atlantic
Being volcanic islands, the Madeira archipelago abounds with greenery and wildlife. There are many autochthonous bird and plant species that are of particular interest to amateur and professional bird watchers and botanists. UNESCO has proclaimed Madeira as a World Natural Heritage Site. The Gulf Stream ensures a mild water temperature that never drops below 17 degrees Celsius. This makes Madeira a year-round haven for sunbathers and swimmers, as well as fans of other water sports. It is also famous for its deep sea fishing tours. Known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Madeira has become increasingly popular with tourists who seek mild weather and an unspoiled natural environment. Its breathtaking landscapes and mountainous terrain make it especially appealing to hikers. Rich local customs, folk traditions, excellent wine and cuisine, and colorful wooden houses make Madeira a truly unique European island.
The capital city of Madeira is Funchal, a modern city containing around half of the islands’ population. The city lies on a harbor and is completely surrounded by hills, giving it the look of an amphitheater. The first settlers chose the spot precisely due to this natural protection. The harbor welcomes most of the cruise ships that enter the archipelago and the international airport is also located just outside Funchal. The birthplace of the famous Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, Funchal is also Madeira’s main tourist resort with several world class hotels, restaurants, bars and numerous shops. Funchal takes unsuspecting tourists by surprise with its architectural treasures, since many of the city’s fifteenth and sixteenth century buildings have been preserved.
Porto Santo is the other inhabited island in the archipelago and lies around 50 kilometers northeast of Madeira. With a population of only 4,500 people, the island has a small airport that connects it to Funchal and occasionally to mainland Portugal. Its sandy beaches extend over nine kilometers, making it the island with the largest beach area in the archipelago and serving as its main tourist attraction. It was also the home of Christopher Columbus, whose house has been turned into a museum. Furthermore, Porto Santo boasts an eighteen-hole and a nine-hole golf course, several hotels and many restaurants and bars.
Madeira Beach Vacations
Madeira is a safe and friendly tourist oasis with dazzling nature and scenery. It combines everything you need in a holiday, from culture, shopping and wonderful cuisine to great sports facilities and beaches. Regardless of your age, Madeira is the perfect spot to relax, connect with nature and get away from the hassles of the real world! It is also a prime ecotourism destination.