The Madeira archipelago, which belongs to Portugal, lies far off Morocco in the Atlantic. The main island of Madeira and Lisbon are 970 kilometers apart as the crow flies. The main island and the northeastern island of Porto Santo are inhabited. With 741 square kilometers, Madeira is the largest and most famous of the islands. According to the 2011 census, around 268.000 people lived on the islands. The island metropolis of Funchal had 112.000 inhabitants at the time.
Funchal - Monte district
The entire archipelago is of volcanic origin. In the center of Madeira, jagged rocks rise up. The highest point is the 1.862 meter high Pico Ruivo. In the west of the rock massif, the extensive Paúl da Serra plateau extends between 1.400 and 1.500 meters above sea level.
Madeira - mountain landscape near Encumeada
Madeira's coastline is usually rocky and steep. A spectacular elevation on the south coast is the 580 meter high Cabo Girão to the west of Funchal. The surrounding sea reaches depths of up to 4.000 meters. The black scabbard fish, valued as a delicacy, live there. Because of the rugged coastline, there are no long sandy beaches. Visitors can find it on the neighboring island of Porto Santo, 60 kilometers away.
Madeira - coastline at Seixal
Madeira's history in a nutshell
Greek and Roman historians report that Phoenician navigators discovered the Madeira archipelago in the 6th century BC. Later the islands were apparently forgotten. In 1419, the Portuguese navigator João Gonçalves Zarco came across the archipelago again. The main island was settled from 1420 onwards. Madeira has had the political status of an autonomous region with its own government and parliament since July 1976.
From the point of view of northern Europeans, Madeira has a pleasant but changeable microclimate. Sun and precipitation alternate regularly. In the months of January and February, the average temperatures are a moderate 16 degrees Celsius. It is warmer in the months of August and September, when the thermometer shows an average of a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius.
It is thanks to the moderate climatic conditions that the island appears to visitors like a large, green and fertile garden. Scientists speak of nearly 800 different plant species that thrive on the island.
Madeira - a single garden
Madeira's laurel forests
Madeira's laurel forests are part of the remarkable island flora. The old forests cover 20 percent of the area (150 square kilometers). The unique laurel forests have been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1999. Bay trees thrive mainly in the north and south of the island.
Madeira - a tourist destination since the 19th century
The famous British “World Travel Awards” last named the destination “the best island travel destination in the world” in 2020, and tourism is the islands' most important industry. More than 1,3 million tourists visited Madeira and Porto Santo in 2017.
Funchal - Reids Hotel stands for luxury
In the middle of the 19th century, upper-class British enthusiasts were the first to discover Madeira as a travel destination. More guests came later on the passenger ships that stashed coal on the island for Atlantic crossings. Since Funchal Airport opened in 1964, the number of visitors has increased dramatically.
Madeira & Funchal for crusaders
Cruise ships call at the island's capital Funchal. In 2019, more than 300 cruise liners had registered a visit to Funchal. On peak days, four or five ships dock at Funchal's quays.
Funchal - cruise ships
There is hardly more than a 15-minute walk between the cruise terminal and the city center. The path is pleasant and varied. The city, which is manageable in the center, offers its guests a lively city center with beautiful old business buildings, gardens, churches and monasteries. We report on these and other attractions below Madeira landmarks.
Update March 2021