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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Madeira Autonomous Region
Região Autónoma da Madeira
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Das ilhas, as mais belas e livres"  (Portuguese)
"Of all islands, the most beautiful and free"
AnthemA Portuguesa  (national)
Hino da Região Autónoma da Madeira  (local)
(and largest city)
32°39′N 16°55′W / 32.65°N 16.917°W / 32.65; -16.917
Official language(s) Portuguese
Ethnic groups  Portuguese
Government Autonomous region
 -  President Alberto João Jardim (PSDLogo PSD cor.PNG)
 -  Settled 1420 
 -  Autonomy 1 July 1976 
 -  Total 828 km2 (n/a)
320 sq mi 
 -  2006 estimate 245,806[1] 
 -  Density 295/km2 (n/a)
195/sq mi
Currency Euro (€)1 (EUR)
Time zone WET
 -  Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
Internet TLD .pt
Calling code +351 spec. +351 291
1 Prior to 2002: Portuguese escudo

Madeira (pronounced /məˈdɪərə/ mə-DEER or /məˈdɛərə/ mə-DAIR; Portuguese: [mɐˈdeiɾɐ] or [mɐˈdɐiɾɐ]) is a Portuguese archipelago that lies between 32°22.3′N 16°16.5′W / 32.3717°N 16.275°W / 32.3717; -16.275 and 33°7.8′N 17°16.65′W / 33.13°N 17.2775°W / 33.13; -17.2775 in the north Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the Autonomous regions of Portugal, with Madeira Island and Porto Santo Island being the only inhabited islands. Madeira is part of the EU as an outermost region of the European Union.[2]

Madeira was discovered by Portuguese sailors some time between 1418 and 1420. The archipelago is considered to be the first discovery of the exploratory period initiated by Henry the Navigator of Portugal. It is a popular year-round resort, noted for its Madeira wine, flowers, and embroidery artisans, as well as its New Year's Eve celebrations that feature a spectacular fireworks show, which is the largest in the world according to the Guinness World Records.[3] Its harbour – Funchal – is important due to its commercial and passenger traffic and for being a major stopover for cruisers en route from Europe to the Caribbean.



Pre-Portuguese times

Pliny mentions certain Purple Islands, the position of which with reference to the Fortunate Islands, or Canaries, may indicate Madeira islands. Plutarch (Sertorius, 75 AD) referring to the military commander Quintus Sertorius (d. 72 BC), relates that after his return to Cádiz, "he met seamen recently arrived from Atlantic islands, two in number, divided from one another only by a narrow channel and distant from the coast of Africa 10,000 furlongs. They are called Isles of the Blest." The estimated distance from Africa, and the closeness of the two islands, seem to indicate Madeira and Porto Santo.

There is a romantic tale about two lovers, Robert Machim and Anna d'Arfet in time of the King Edward III of England, who, fleeing from England to France in 1346, were driven off their course by a violent storm, and cast onto the coast of Madeira at the place subsequently named Machico, in memory of one of them. On the evidence of a portolan dated 1351, preserved at Florence, Italy, it would appear that Madeira had been discovered long before that date by Portuguese vessels under Genoese captains.

It is certain that the discovery of Madeira predates the Portuguese settlement, as it appears on maps as early as 1339.[4]

Portuguese discovery

In 1419 two captains of Prince Henry the NavigatorJoão Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira – were driven by a storm to an island they named Porto Santo. They gave this name (meaning Holy Harbour) in gratitude for their rescue from the shipwreck. The following year, an expedition was sent to populate the island, in which the two captains, together with captain Bartolomeu Perestrello, took possession of the islands on behalf of the Portuguese crown.

The islands started to be settled circa 1420 or 1425. In 23 September 1433, the name Ilha da Madeira (Madeira Island or "wood island") appears on a map, its first mention in a document.

The three captain-majors had led, in the first trip, their respective families, a small group of people of the minor nobility, people of modest conditions and some old prisoners of the kingdom. To gain the minimum conditions for the development of agriculture, they had to rough-hew a part of the dense forest of laurisilva and to construct a large number of canals (levadas), since in some parts of the island, there was excess water, while in other parts water was scarce. In the earliest times, fish constituted about half of the settlers' diet, together with vegetables and fruit. The first local agricultural activity with some success was the raising of wheat. Initially, the colonists produced wheat for their own sustenance, but later began to export wheat to Portugal.

The discoveries of Porto Santo and Madeira were first described by Gomes Eanes de Zurara in Chronica da Descoberta e Conquista da Guiné. (Eng. version by Edgar Prestage in 2 vols. issued by the Hakluyt Society, London, 1896-1899: The Chronicle of Discovery and Conquest of Guinea.) Arkan Simaan relates these discoveries in French in his novel based on Azurara's Chronicle: L’Écuyer d’Henri le Navigateur, published by Éditions l’Harmattan, Paris.

Portuguese Madeira

Santa Catarina Park, in the heart of Funchal.

However, in time grain production began to fall. To get past the ensuing crisis, Henry decided to order the planting of sugarcane – to produce the "sweet salt" rare in Europe and, therefore, considered a spice – introducing Sicilian beets as the first specialized plant and along with it the technology of its agriculture.

Expansion of sugar plantations in Madeira started in 1455, using advisers from Sicily and (largely) Genoese capital for the mills, and developed until the 17th century. The accessibility of Madeira attracted Genoese and Flemish traders keen to bypass Venetian monopolies. "By 1480 Antwerp had some seventy ships engaged in the Madeira sugar trade, with the refining and distribution concentrated in Antwerp. By the 1490s Madeira had overtaken Cyprus as a producer of sugar."[5] Sugarcane production became a leading factor in the island's economy, and increased the demand for labour. Slaves were used during portions of the island's history to cultivate sugar cane, and the proportion of imported slaves reached 10% of the total population of Madeira by the 16th century.[6]

After the 17th century, as sugar production shifted to Brazil, São Tomé and Príncipe and elsewhere, Madeira's most important product became its wine. Madeira wine was perhaps the most popular luxury beverage in the colonial Western Hemisphere during the 17th and 18th centuries.[citation needed] The British occupied Madeira as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, a friendly occupation starting in 1807 and concluding in 1814 when the island was returned to Portugal.[7]

When, after the death of King John VI of Portugal, his usurper son Miguel of Portugal seized power from the rightful heir, his niece Maria II, and proclaimed himself 'Absolute King', Madeira held out for the Queen under the governor José Travassos Valdez until Miguel sent an expeditionary force and the defence of the island was overwhelmed by crushing force. Valdez was forced to flee to England under the protection of the Royal Navy (September 1828).

In 1921, the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Charles I, was deported to Madeira after his second unsuccessful coup d'état in Hungary. He died there one year later and is buried in Monte.

On 1 July 1976, following the democratic revolution of 1974, Portugal granted political autonomy to Madeira. The region now has its own government and legislative assembly.

Geography and climate

View from Bica da Cana.
Map of the islands.
Two topographic features characterize the Madeiran landscape: steep mountains and deep ravines. Both landforms are evident in this image.

Funchal, the capital of Madeira Autonomous Region, is the chief city and on the south coast of Madeira, the main island in the archipelago. 32°37.75′N 16°55.3′W / 32.62917°N 16.9217°W / 32.62917; -16.9217. Other cities are: Vila Baleira (in Porto Santo Island), Câmara de Lobos, Machico, Santa Cruz, Santana and Caniço (Santa Cruz municipality), Madeira Island.

Madeira island is 520 km (323.11 mi) from the African coast and 1,000 km (621.37 mi) from the European continent, which is the equivalent of a 1 hour 30 minute flight from Lisbon.[8]

Madeira Island is the largest island of the group with an area of 741 km2 (286 sq mi), a length of 57 km (35 mi), a breadth of 22 km (14 mi) at its widest point, and a coastline of 150 km (93.21 mi). Its longer axis lies east and west, along which lies a mountain chain with a mean altitude of 4,000 feet (1,220 m), considered the backbone of the island from which many deep ravines radiate outward to the coast. Its most famous sea cliff, the Cabo Girão, is one of the highest in Europe. The highest point on the island is Pico Ruivo, at 1,862 metres (6,107 ft).[9]

In the south, there is very little left of the indigenous laurisilva subtropical rainforest which once covered the whole island (the original settlers set fire to the island to clear the land for farming) and gave it the name it now bears (Madeira means "wood" in Portuguese). However, in the north, the valleys contain native trees of fine growth. These laurisilva forests, notably the forests on the northern slopes of Madeira Island, are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

A long, narrow, and comparatively low rocky promontory forms the eastern extremity of the island, on which lies a tract of calcareous sand known as the Fossil Bed. It contains land shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration.


Madeira Island's geographical position and mountainous landscape result in a very pleasant climate which varies between the north side, south side, and smaller islands groups like Porto Santo and Savages. The mean annual temperature on the coastline can reach more than 20 °C (68 °F) in the south. With its mild humidity, the weather of the island is classified as oceanic subtropical and with its low rain level, desertic on the Savages. Influenced by the Gulf Stream, sea water temperature varies between 26 °C (79 °F) during the summer and 17 °C (63 °F) in the winter.

Climate data for Funchal, capital of Madeira
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 19.1
Average low °C (°F) 13.1
Precipitation cm (inches) 10.27
Avg. precipitation days 12 11 10 8 5 3 1 2 6 9 11 13 91
Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)[10].

Islands and main Islets

The 9 km (6 mi) beach of Porto Santo island.


A 3D image from the east of the Island.

Just like the mainland Portugal, Madeira is also further subdivided into 11 municipalities[11]:

Municipality Population
Area Main city/town Parishes
Funchal 1) 100,847 00000000000075.775.7 km2 (29.2 sq mi) Funchal 10
Câmara de Lobos 35,150 00000000000052.652.6 km2 (20.3 sq mi) Câmara de Lobos 5
Santa Cruz 2) 32,696 00000000000068.068.0 km2 (26.3 sq mi) Santa Cruz 5
Machico 21,321 00000000000067.667.6 km2 (26.1 sq mi) Machico 5
Ribeira Brava 12,523 00000000000064.964.9 km2 (25.1 sq mi) Ribeira Brava 4
Calheta 11,856 00000000000110.3110.3 km2 (42.6 sq mi) Calheta 8
Santana 8,491 00000000000093.193.1 km2 (35.9 sq mi) Santana 6
Ponta do Sol 8,189 00000000000046.846.8 km2 (18.1 sq mi) Ponta do Sol 3
São Vicente 6,063 00000000000080.880.8 km2 (31.2 sq mi) São Vicente 3
Porto Santo 3) 4,388 00000000000042.442.4 km2 (16.4 sq mi) Vila Baleira 1
Porto Moniz 2,762 00000000000082.682.6 km2 (31.9 sq mi) Porto Moniz 4
Total 244,286 00000000000768.0768.0 km2 (296.5 sq mi) Funchal 54
1) including Savage Islands (to the freguesia of )
2) including Desertas Islands (to the freguesia of Santa Cruz)
3) second largest island after Madeira island


Funchal harbour.

Funchal is a modern city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Funchal is located in a unique area; the natural geological features form an "amphitheatre" surrounding the city, which begins at the harbour (Porto de Funchal) and rises almost 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) high on gentle slopes. This provides a natural shelter that attracted the first settlers.

Madeira's capital for more than five centuries, Funchal, is said to have been named as such because of the abundance of fennel (funcho in Portuguese) growing there.

The harbour and climate combined with an excellent geographical position allowed Funchal to have a rapid population growth.

Probably the most central point is the Sé Cathedral. Built between 1493 and 1514 by Pêro Annes in Manueline style it represents one of Madeira's numerous treasures.

Geological origin and volcanism

Madeira Island
Madeira Island is located in Madeira
Madeira Island
Atlantic Ocean
Elevation 1,862 m (6,109 ft)
Coordinates 32°44′00″N 16°58′00″W / 32.7333333°N 16.9666667°W / 32.7333333; -16.9666667Coordinates: 32°44′00″N 16°58′00″W / 32.7333333°N 16.9666667°W / 32.7333333; -16.9666667
Type shield volcano
Age of rock over 5 million years
Last eruption 6,500 years ago[13]

Madeira Island is the top of a massive shield volcano that rises about 6 km (3.7 mi) from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, on an underwater mountain range called Tore, which stands on the African plate. The volcano formed atop an east-west rift in the oceanic crust. Formation of the bulk of the volcano began during the Miocene Epoch over 5 million years ago and continued into the Pleistocene until about 700,000 years ago.[13] This was followed by extensive erosion, producing two large amphitheaters open to south in the central part of the island.

Volcanic activity later resumed, producing scoria cones and lava flows atop the older eroded shield. The most recent volcanic eruptions were on the west-central part of the island only 6,500 years ago, creating more cinder cones and lava flows.[13]


Typical Madeiran flowers

Madeira has three endemic birds: Zino's Petrel, the Trocaz Pigeon and the Madeira Firecrest.

It is also of importance for other breeding seabirds, including the Madeiran Storm-petrel, North Atlantic Little Shearwater and Cory's Shearwater.

The Macaronesia region harbours an important floral diversity. In fact, the archipelago's forest composition and maturity are quite similar to the forests found in the Tertiary period that covered Southern Europe and Northern Africa millions of years ago.

The great biodiversity of Madeira is phytogeographically linked to the Mediterranean region, Africa, America and Australia, and interest in this phytogeography has been increasing in recent years due to the discovery of some epiphytic bryophyte species with non-adjacent distribution. Madeira also has many endemic species of fauna – mostly invertebrates which include the extremely rare Madeiran Large White but also some vertebrates such as the native bat, some lizards species, and some birds as already mentioned. The biggest tarantula of Europe is found on Desertas islands of Madeira and can be as wide as a normal man's hand. These islands have more than 250 species of land molluscs (snails and slugs), some with very unusual shell shape and colours. Most of them are endemic and vulnerable.


The island of Madeira is wet in the northwest but dry in the southeast. In the 16th century the Portuguese started building levadas or aqueducts to carry water to the agricultural regions on the south. The most recent were built in the 1940s. Madeira is very mountainous, and building the levadas was difficult and often sentenced criminals or slaves were used. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 miles (40 km) of tunnels, some of them are still accessible.

Today the levadas not only supply water to the southern parts of the island but provide hydro-electric power. There are over 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas and they provide a remarkable network of walking paths. Some provide easy and relaxing walks through beautiful countryside, but others are narrow, crumbling ledges where a slip could result in serious injury or death.

Two of the most popular levadas to hike are the Levada do Caldeirão Verde and the Levada do Caldeirão do Inferno which should not be attempted by hikers prone to vertigo or without torches and helmets. The Levada do Caniçal is a much easier walk, running 7.1 miles (11.4 km) from Maroços to the Caniçal Tunnel. It is known as the mimosa levada because mimosa trees are found all along the route.


The port of Funchal

The setting-up of the Free trade zone has led to the installation, under more favourable conditions, of infrastructure, production shops and essential services for small and medium-sized industrial enterprises. The Free Zone of Madeira, also called the Madeira International Business Centre, being a tax-privileged economic area, provides an incentive for companies, offering them financial and tax advantages via a whole range of activities exercised in the Industrial Free Zone, the Off-Shore Financial Centre, the International Shipping Register organisation, and the International Service Centre.

The services sector makes the largest contribution to the formation of the regional gross value added as opposed to the agricultural sector, for which the share has continuously declined in the regional economy.

Over the last few years, the regional economy has managed to open up and establish more internal and external competitiveness, so that its companies have become competitive internationally. The largest industries are by sector food, beverages (especially Madeira wine), and construction.


The natural beauty of Madeira draws many tourists to the island

Tourism is an important sector in the region's economy since it contributes 20%[citation needed] to the region's GDP, providing support throughout the year for commercial, transport and other activities and constituting a significant market for local products. The share in Gross Value Added of hotels and restaurants (9%) also highlights this phenomenon. The island of Porto Santo, with its 9 km (5.6 mi) long beach and its climate, is entirely devoted to tourism. Over the past decade it has recorded a substantial increase in its hotel accommodation capacity.

Development in Madeira is considered to have future potential since the necessary infrastructure has been established and adequate investment incentives have been introduced for expanding its hotel and catering structure in a controlled manner. Nature conservation is seen as important because it is a major draw for tourists to Madeira.

Visitors are mainly from the European Union, with German, British, Scandinavian and Portuguese tourists providing the main contingents. The average annual occupancy rate was 60.3% in 2008[14], reaching its maximum in March and April, when it exceeds 70%.

Transport and immigration

Ferry boat makes daily trips between Madeira and Porto Santo Islands

European Union citizens of the Schengen Treaty area can enter the islands freely, while those from other regions need identification.

The Islands have two airports, Funchal Airport on the Island of Madeira and the other in the island of Porto Santo. Flights to the islands are mostly made from Lisbon and Porto, but there are also direct flights from other major European cities and other countries, like Brazil, Venezuela, and South Africa.

Transport between the two main islands is by plane or ferries, the latter also carrying vehicles. Visiting the interior of the islands is now easy thanks to construction of the Vias Rápidas, major roads built during Portugal's economic boom. Modern roads reach all points of interest on the islands. The old, curving mountain roads are still an excellent way to tour the island. Funchal has an extensive public transportation system. Bus companies, including Horários do Funchal which has been operating for over a hundred years, have regularly scheduled routes to all points of interest on the island.

Society and culture


When the Portuguese discovered the island of Madeira in 1419, it was completely uninhabited by humans, with no aboriginal population at all. The island was settled by Portuguese people, especially farmers from the Minho region[15], meaning that Madeirans (Portuguese: Madeirenses), as they are called, are ethnic Portuguese, though they have developed their own distinct regional identity and cultural traits.

The region has a total population of just under 250,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom live on the main island of Madeira where the population density is 337/km²; meanwhile only around 4,500 live on the Porto Santo Island where the population density is 112/km².

Population genetics

Like in continental Portugal, the most frequent mtDNA haplogroup in Madeira is H (36.2%), followed by U (19.4% including 3.9% of North African Berber U6), T (7.7%), pre-HV clades (7.1%) and K (6.5%). Two haplogroups, H and U5 alone account for more than 50% of the individuals. The relatively high frequency of sub-Saharan L haplogroups (13%) in Madeira is also consistent with the historical records of slaves being introduced in both the south of Portugal and in Madeira.[16]

Concerning the males Y-Dna haplogroups, R1b (particularly R1b3) was found to be the most dominant Y chromosomal lineage in Madeira, covering about 53% of the Y chromosomal lineages. The high frequency of this haplogroup is typical in all West European populations, reflecting a cline and likely continuity of the Palaeolithic gene pool in Europe. Haplogroups I and G, also characteristic markers for many different West European populations, were found in Madeira at frequencies above 5%. Together with R1b, haplogroups J (12%) and E1b1b (14%) comprise about 80% of the Y-chromosomal gene pool of Madeira individuals. Haplogroups J and E1b1b consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The typical Berber haplogroup E1b1b (M81) was found like in continental Portugal at a frequency of 5-6%.[17]

Famous Madeirans

Cristiano Ronaldo was 'World Footballer of the Year' in 2008

The following people were either born or have lived part of their lives in Madeira:


Traditional pastries in Madeira usually contain local ingredients, one of the most common being mel de cana, literally “sugarcane honey” - molasses. The traditional cake of Madeira is called Bolo de mel, which translates as (Sugarcane) "Honey Cake" and according to custom is never cut with a knife but broken into pieces by hand. It is a rich and heavy cake. Black scabbardfish, espada, is often served with banana.

To promote Madeiran gastronomy worldwide, every November the Madeira Gourmet Festival is organized. The festival brings international chefs to the island, mixing their know-how with local young chefs and preparing new recipes using Madeiran traditional products, like Madeira wine, local fish and other products.


Madeira has two football teams in the Portuguese Liga, Portugal's top league, C.S. Marítimo of Funchal and Nacional. The Real Madrid and Portugal footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Madeira and played for Nacional before going to Sporting Lisbon.[19]

C.S. Marítimo has nurtured great players such as Pepe, now at Real Madrid, Tonel, now at Sporting, Danny, now at Zenit, Jorge Costa, retired (F.C. Porto), Tarik Sektioui, now at F.C. Porto, Nuno Valente, now at Everton, Makukula, now at Kayserispor, among others.

C.S. Marítimo is considered as the biggest club of Madeira.

C.S. Marítimo has also enjoyed various campaigns in the UEFA Cup having recorded famous results against teams such as Juventus, Leeds and Rangers. In 2003-04 Nacional achieved 4th place in the Portuguese League, their best classification ever.

In recent years, Madeira has had a considerable amount of success in professional basketball, with CAB Madeira having won numerous titles, especially their female team. CAB are often seen competing in European competitions such as the FIBA EuroCup, and former stars include Filipe da Silva and ex-Los Angeles Lakers player Ike Nwankwo.

In 2001 the World Surfing Championships were held in Madeira at Surfspots including Paul do Mar, Ponta Pequena and Jardim do Mar (see Surfing in Madeira).

Madeira Andebol SAD, the island's only professional handball team is one of the most successful in the country, while rally car racing (Rali Vinho da Madeira), fishing and golf are other popular sports played on the island.

Rugby union is also played on the island to a minor degree.[citation needed]

Postage stamps

Portugal has issued postage stamps for Madeira during several periods, beginning in 1868; see postage stamps and postal history of Madeira for more details.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Madeira “largest firework display in the world”
  4. ^ Fernández-Armesto, Felipe (2004). "Machim (supp. fl. 14th cent.)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17535. 
  5. ^ Ponting, Clive (2000) [2000]. World history: a new perspective. London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 482. ISBN 0-701-16834-X. 
  6. ^ Godinho, V. M. Os Descobrimentos e a Economia Mundial, Arcádia, 1965, Vol 1 and 2, Lisboa
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Weather Information for Funchal". 
  11. ^ Map of municipalities at
  12. ^ (Portuguese) Associação Nacional de Municípios Portugueses
  13. ^ a b c "Madeira". Global Volcanism Program, Smithsonian Institution. 
  14. ^ Statistics from DRE of Madeira tourism (2008)
  15. ^ Alberto Vieira, O Infante e a Madeira: dúvidas e certezas, Centro Estudos História Atlântico.
  16. ^ "The relatively high proportion of African lineage clusters L1–L3, U6, and M1 in Madeira (18.7%) and only 5.1% in the Açores agrees well with previous estimates of African admixture based on HLA and STR markers (Spínola et al. 2002; Fernandes et al. 2003)". Mitochondrial portraits of the Madeira and Açores archipelagos witness different genetic pools of its settlers, Brehm et al. 2003
  17. ^ Y-chromosome lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Açores record elements of Sephardim and Berber ancestry, Goncalves et al. 2005
  18. ^ Madeira (Insight Guides), ed. Ute York
  19. ^ Cristiano Ronaldo

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Portugal : Madeira
Madeira Faial
Madeira Faial

Madeira [1] is a tropical archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean and an autonomous region of Portugal. The archipelago is made up of two populated islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, and two groups of unpopulated islands called the Desertas and Selvagens Islands. It is part of the European Union ultraperifric area.

Known worldwide as the Islands of eternal Spring, Madeira or "Ilha Jardim"{Garden Island} has a mild climate throughout the entire year.

Madeira island is 310 miles from the African coast and 620 miles from the European continent, only 1h 30mn flight from mainland Portugal and about 3h from all the main countries in Europe.

  • Funchal — Island regional capital and largest city in Madeira, home to tourist resorts, gorgeous panoramas and local color.
  • Santa Cruz
  • Machico
  • Santana
  • Camara do Lobos
  • Porto Santo city:Vila Baleira
  • Ribeira Brava town


Madeira Islands are just a short trip from Europe (more or less 4 hours from UK), to a destination where you can combine holidays on the beach, in the mountains or in the city. Discovered early in the 15th century by the Portuguese navigators João Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo, Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal.

  • Madeira International Airport/Funchal(FNC) (IATA: FNC)(ICAO: LPMA) (formerly known as Santa Catarina Airport), about 30 minutes from Funchal,in Santa Cruz municipality. Tel: +351 291 52 07 00. The island of Porto Santo (PXO)is in Porto Santo/Vila Baleira. This airport is just a 15 minute flight from Madeira International Airport.

There is boat/ship service between the two islands. The following Airline companies fly regularly to Madeira International Airport: TAP Portugal, Portugália, SATA, British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Air France, easyJet, First Choice Airways, Thomson, LTU, Thomas Cook, Condor, Niki, SAS, Sterling, Transavia, My Travel, Binter Canarias and (from May 2010).

  • Cruise ships port here.
  • There is a weekly connection between Portomaio (Algarve) to Madeira offered by Naviera Armas [2].
  • There is a car ferry between Porto Santo and Madeira, two hours one way. Ferry Service Funchal-Porto Santo.[[3]
  • Buses Recommended to get a 7 days bus ticket, access to all Funchal City routes, 17.50 EUR (March 2007)

Beware - timetables are very confusing as they do not include clear route details.

There are three bus companies:

  • Horarios de Funchal [4] operates lines no 20/21 Funchal - Monte, line no 29 Funchal - Camacha, no 56 Funchal - Santana (via Ribeiro Frio), no 77 Funchal - Santo Antonio da Serra (via Camacha and Sitio Quarto Estradas), no 81 Funchal - Curral de Freiras and no 103 (Funchal - Arco de Sao Jorge (via Faial, Santana and Sao Horge).
  • Rodeste [5] operates lines no 3 Funchal - Estreito de Camara de Lobos, no 6 Funchal - Arco de Sao Jorge (via Ensumeada), no 7 Funchal - Ribeira Brava, no 80 Funchal - Porto Montiz (via Calheta and Prazeres), no 96 Funchal - Jadrim da Serra (Corticeirias), no 139 Funchal - Porto Moniz, no 142 Funchal - Ponta da Pago (via Prazeres) ans no 148 Funchal - Boa Morte.
  • S.A.M.[6] operates lines no 23 Funchal - Machico (Espressbus), no 53 Funchal - Faial (via Airport), no 113 Funchal - Canical (via Airport) and no 156 Funchal - Marocos (via Machico, changes bus ar Machico)
  • Taxis
  • Car rental Renting a car is a great way to see the island. All European rules of the road apply in Madeira. Roads outside of Funchal can be windy and steep and gas stations rare. Renting via the Internet is usually cheaper than walking-in.


English is as common as in mainland Portugal, although people will always appreciate it if you try and learn a few words of Portuguese. Note that the Protuguese spoken in Madeira tends to be heavily accented.

  • Levadas An impressive system of aqueducts built in the 1900s to bring water from the mountains to cropland.
  • Cabo Girão One of the world's highest ocean cliffs (590m/1,935 ft. above sea level), you'll easily realize the island's Edenlike quality.
  • Jardim Botânico Funchal Botanical garden.
  • São Vicente Caves, [7].Volcanic caves where you can visit lava tubes.
  • Jardim do Monte Palace Magnificent gardens of the former Monte Palace hotel.
  • Jardim Orquídea Orchid garden.
  • Madeira Story Centre, [8]. The best way to learn about Madeira's history and culture.
  • Fireworks on New Year's eve The biggest fireworks in the world (Guinness world record 2007). Best places to see the fireworks include the tip of the marina of Funchal, on the cruise ship, and Pico dos Barcelos (on the side where you can see the Funchal's marina).
  • Miradouro means viewpoint. Splendid view of the island can be seen from different viewpoints. Recommended viewpoints include: Pico dos Barcelos, Pico do Arieiro, Pico de Facho, Curral das Freiras, Monte. (For Pico do Arieiro, you can check its current view from live webcam [9] [10] before embarking your journey.)


Must go places to visit in Funchal Top places to visit in Funchal

  • Madeira Nature, [11]. The Nature of Madeira (Active and Eco-Tourism)
  • Hiking at Ponta de São Lourenço, the eastern part of Madeira is a Nature Reserve with wonderful panoramic views of the Atlantic and spectacular volcanic rock formations. Many unusual species of plants are found here and are best seen on foot, like the Ice Plant, Everlasting, Cardoon and many more. Down the cliff is a secluded beach called Prainha, the island’s only natural black sandy beach. Very popular with the locals, it’s great for swimming. The hiking trail can be walked comfortably with a pair of good hiking boots. Hiking duration could last several hours, prepare food and drink.
  • Vanguartour, [12].Travel Agency specialised in upmarket individual tours, VIP services, incentive programs and renting of luxury villas on Madeira Island
  • Santo da Serra Golf, [13].
  • Palheiro Golf, [14].
  • Porto Santo Golf, [15].
  • Scuba diving, [18]
  • Madeira Island tours, [19]
  • Madeira Ecotours, [20].
  • Nature Meetings, [21]. Hiking.
  • Surfing The Atlantic offers waves for moderate to experienced surfers.
  • Madeira Wind Birds, [22]. Bird watching.
  • InterTours, [23]. Sightseeing tours.
  • The University of Madeira [24] is one of the youngest Public Universities in Portugal.
  • Currently the Mathematics and Engineering Department [25] offers a joint *Professional Master Degree with the Carnegie Mellon University [26] in Human-Computer Interaction [27]. This top Professional Master program provides international students with opportunities to study in one of the best locations in the world, while having access to one of the world best Universities in Information and Communication technologies.


Madeira is presently one the best locations in the E.U. for companies with operations in the single market and worldwide. With reduced direct and indirect taxation, adequate infrastructures, competitive operational costs, safety and quality of life, Madeira is positioned to provide the investor with a unique package of benefits, offering a wide range of solutions to enhance the efficiency and performance of various forms of investment.

Moreover, Madeira's preferential tax regime has not only been approved by Portugal, but also by the European Union as a valid form of State Aid for regional development, providing Madeira's IBC with credibility and transparency. To find out more about Madeira's special status in the E.U., please consult State Aid nº 222-A-02; State Aid nº 222-B-02 and the Commission's Decision 2003/294/CE.

For more information visit the official website of the International Business Center of Madeira [28].

  • Il Basilico, Rua de Leichlingen, 7 , Pormenade, +351 291 708700, [29]. Italian Restaurant belonging to the Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts • À la carte lunch and dinner • served inside and on the terrace • special children's menu • reservation recommended Open every day from 12.30 to 15.00 and 19.30 to 22.00  edit
  • Il Gallo D'oro, The Cliff Bay Hotel Estrada Monumental, 147, +351 291 707 700, [30]. First Michelin Star Restaurant on the island of Madeira • Mediterranean gourmet cuisine • a jacket and tie required for gentlemen • reservation recommended Opening times: Everyday, from 08.00 to 10.30 and 19.00 to 22.00  edit
  • Adega da Quinta, Quinta do Estreito, Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, Tel: +351 291 910 530. Traditional restaurant where you can eat "espetada" in an old winery uphill from Câmara de Lobos
  • Coral Restaurante, Praca da Autonomia, Câmara de Lobos, Tel: +351 291 098 284. Fresh fish and shell fish.
  • Espada Preta, Caminho Trincheira, 9300-159 Câmara de Lobos, Tel: +351 291 948 439. Fresh fish and shell fish, also try their specialty "bread soup" (main course).
  • Restaurante O Tunel, near the tunnel of Caniçal. Seafood starters and espetada as main course. If you do the levada walk or drive around the area of Caniçal, Machico and Pico de Facho.


Madeira Wine is a fortified wine prized equally for drinking and cooking. There are four major types of Madeira: Malvasia (also known as Malmsey or Malvazia), Bual (or Boal), Verdelho, and Sercial, the latter two being drier.

  • Quinta das Colmeias, Caminho do Poiso, Casais Proximos, Santo Antonio da Serra (from Funchal / airport, drive past the golf course. Just before the round about, there is a turining to your left. Is the fourth gate on your right), +351291741515, [31]. Two Holiday homes. The Main house sleeps 8 and the Cottage sleeps 6. Both share a common swimming pool. A few minutes drive from Santo da Serra Golf Course and Horse Ridding Centre. (32° 43' 08,83,016° 48' 49,33) edit
  • Atrio - Madeira [32]: The Atrio is a small family run hotel located on the south side of Madeira island. Each room is individually styled. Address: Lombo dos Moinhos Acima, 9370-912 Estreito da Calheta - Madeira (+351) 291 820 400, email:, fax: (+351) 291 820 419.
  • Vila Galé Santa Cruz, Rua de São Fernando 9100-157 SANTA CRUZ - MADEIRA, (+351) 291 529 000, [33]. Since its launch in 2006, the Vila Galé Santa Cruz Hotel is your hotel of choice for a holiday in Madeira. Only 5 minutes away from Funchal International Airport, the Santa Cruz Hotel is a top-quality 4-star hotel where you only have the sea for a vista. Located only a few kilometers away from the tourism centre of Funchal  edit
  • Villa Koala, (), [34]. The Koala is a small hotel located on the south side of Madeira island.  edit
  • Pestana Hotels & Resorts - Caniço: Pestana Atalaia [35]
  • Estalagem do Mar, just outside within walking distance from São Vicente on the north coast. Rooms with private bathroom and tub and view to the Atlantic Ocean. Indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi and a sauna, lots of parking space. Double low-season at €50.
  • Crowne Plaza, [36]. Some English spoken here, wireless access in lobby. All rooms have ocean front views facing east. Several options for day trips and guided activities.
  • Quinta da Quebrada, [37]. Quinta da Quebrada is on the North Coast of Madeira, more precisely in Arco de São Jorge. The place has pleasant weather, with sun all year round. Very warm and dry in summer, gentle temperature and very few rainy days in winter. The unit has 7 Bungalows all with a very beautiful view over the Atlantic Ocean, TV and Telephone. Each one is made up of a double room, a private bath-room, and a kitchenette/living-room.
  • Quinta Da Casa Branca[38], An old Quinta converted into a boutique design hotel, set in the heart of Funchal, among colourful gardens.
  • The Cliff Bay The Cliff Bay Estrada Monumental, 147 +351 291 707 700 [39]. Luxurious 5 star hotel owned by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, it is the most awarded 5 star hotel in Madeira with prizes like the Neckermann PRIMO 2008; Trip Advisor 2009 Winners: Top 100 World Luxury Hotels; Style Holidays Gold Award 2005, etc.
  • Porto Santa Maria, Avenida do Mar e das Comunidades Madeirenses, 50, +351 291 206700, [40]. Porto Santo Maria, owned by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, lies at the water's edge in the very heart of Funchal's old centre.. A lovely 4 star hotel offering 146 rooms, restaurant, bars with terrace, direct access to the promenade, outdoor pool, indoor pool, SPA, gym, parking... all in the heart of the city.  edit
  • Hotel Porto Mare, Rua Simplício Passos Gouveia, 21, +351 291 703700, [41]. The 4 star Porto Mare hotel, owned by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, occupies the central wing of the Vila Porto Mare resort and benefits from the use of all its facilities. There are many different corners and atmospheres here ... something new to discover everyday.  edit
  • Suite Hotel Eden Mar, Rua do Gorgulho, 2, +351 291 709700, [42]. The 4 star Suite Hotel Eden Mar, owned by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, is the place to put yourself in tune with nature and enjoy your time in the exuberance of the surroundings. Feel yourself merging with the Atlantic Ocean and experience the lusciousness of the tropical gardens.  edit
  • The Residence, Rua de Leichlingen, 7, +351 291 708700, [43]. The 4 star The Residence, owned by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, is occupying the west wing of the Vila Porto Mare resort, The Residence enjoys the use of all its facilities and a real sense of community. Four restaurants, five bars, five pools, SPA,sports and children's facilities...  edit
  • Reid's Palace, [44]. Lovely old five-star where Winston Churchill used to stay!  edit
  • Savoy & Royal Savoy - [45] Reid's rival hotel complex, consists of the old Savoy hotel and new, contemporary Royal Savoy

Stay safe

Emergency Service telephone number is 112 Some police in Funchal have red armbands, this signifies that they speak another language other than Portuguese, mainly English and German. Crime figures for Madeira are very low.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MADEIRA, or THE Madeiras, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, which belong to Portugal, and consist of two inhabited islands named Madeira and Porto Santo and two groups of uninhabited rocks named the Desertas and Selvagens. Pop. (1900), 150,574; area, 314 sq. m. Funchal, the capital of the archipelago, is on the south coast of Madeira Island, in 3 2 ° 37' 45" N. and 16° 54' W. It is about 360 m. from the coast of Africa, 535 from Lisbon, 1215 from Plymouth, 240 from Teneriffe, and 480 from Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores.

Madeira (pop. 1900, 148,263), the largest island of the group, has a length of 30 m., an extreme breadth of 12 m., and a coastline of 80 or 90 m. Its longer axis lies east and west, in which direction it is traversed by a mountain chain, the backbone of the island, having a mean altitude of 400o ft., up to which many deep ravines penetrate from both coasts and render travel by land very difficult. Pico Ruivo, the highest summit, stands in the centre of the island, and has a height of 6056 ft., while some of the adjacent summits are very little lower. The depth and narrowness of the ravines, the loftiness of the rugged peaks, often covered with snow, that tower above them, the bold precipices of the coast, and the proximity of the sea, afford many scenes of picturesque beauty or striking grandeur. The greater part of the interior is uninhabited, though cultivated, for the towns, villages and scattered huts are usually built either at the mouths of ravines or upon the lower slopes that extend from the mountains to the coast. The ridges between the ravines usually terminate in lofty headlands, one of which, called Cabo Girao, has the height of 1920 ft., and much of the seaboard is bound by precipices of dark basalt. The north coast, having been more exposed to the erosion of the sea, is more precipitous than the south, and presents everywhere a wilder aspect. On the south there is left very little of the indigenous forest which once clothed the whole island and gave it the name it bears (from the Portuguese madeira, Lat. materia, wood), but on the north some of the valleys still contain native trees of fine growth. A long, narrow and comparatively low rocky promontory forms the eastern extremity of the island; and here is a tract of calcareous sand, known as the Fossil Bed, containing land shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration.

Porto Santo is about 25 m. N.E. of Madeira. Pop. (1900), 2311. It has a length of 63 m. and a width of 3 m. The capital is Porto Santo, called locally the villa or town. The island is very unproductive,. water being scarce and wood wholly absent. Around the little town there is a considerable tract of pretty level ground covered by calcareous sand containing fossil land-shells. At each end of the island are hills, of which Pico do Facho, the highest, reaches the altitude of 1663 ft. Barley, but little else, is grown here, the limited requirements of the inhabitants being supplied from Funchal.

The Desertas lie about II m. S.E. of Madeira, and consist of three islands, Ilheo Chao, Bugio and Deserta Grande, together with Sail Rock off the north end of Ilheo Chao. They present lofty precipices to the sea on all sides. Rabbits and goats abound on them. The archil weed grows on the rocks, and is gathered for exportation. The largest islet (Deserta Grande) is 62 m. long, and attains the height of 1610 ft. These rocks are conspicuous objects in the sea-views from Funchal.


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The Selvagens or Salvages are a group of three islands, 156 m. from Madeira, and between Madeira and tile Canary Islands. The largest island is the Great Piton, 3 m. long, and 1 m. broad. The inclusion of the Selvagens in the Madeira Archipelago is due to political rather than to geographical reasons.

Table of contents


All the islands of the group are of volcanic origin. They are the summits of very lofty mountains which have their bases in an abyssal ocean. The greater part of what is now visible in Madeira is of subaerial formation, consisting of basaltic and trachytic lavas, beds of tuff and other ejectamenta, the result of a long and complicated series of eruptions from innumerable vents. Besides this building up by the emission of matter from craters and clefts, a certain amount of upheaval in mass has taken place, for at a spot about 1200 ft. above the sea in the northern valley of Sao Vicente, and again at about the same height in Porto Santo, there have been found fragments of limestone accompanied by tuffs containing marine shells and echinoderms of the Miocene Tertiary epoch. We have here proof that during or since that epoch portions at least of these islands have been bodily uplifted more than moo ft. The fossils are sufficiently well preserved to admit of their genera, and in many instances even their species, being made out.

There were pauses of considerable duration whilst the island of Madeira was being increased in height. The leaf bed and the accompanying carbonaceous matter, frequently termed lignite, although it displays no trace of structure, which lie under 1200 ft. of lavas in the valley of Sao Jorge, afford proof that there had been sufficient time for the growth of a vegetation of high order, many of the leaf impressions belonging to species of trees and shrubs which still exist on the island. Moreover, great alterations and dislocations had taken place in the rocks of various localities before other lavas and tuffs had been thrown upon them.

There are no data for determining when volcanic action began in this locality, but looking at the enormous depth of the surrounding sea it is clear that a vast period of time must have elapsed to allow of a great mountain reaching the surface and then rising several thousand feet. Again, considering the comparatively feeble agents for effecting the work of denudation (neither glaciers nor thick accumulations of alpine snow being found here), and then the enormous erosion that has actually taken place, the inference is inevitable that a very great lapse of time was required to excavate the deep and wide ravines that everywhere intersect the island. Nor is anything known as to the period of the cessation of volcanic action. At the present day there are no live craters or smoking crevices, as at the Canaries and Cape Verdes, nor any hot springs, as at the Azores.

In one of the northern ravines of Madeira by Porto da Cruz some masses of a coarsely crystalline Essexite are exposed to view; this rock is evidently the deep-seated representative of the Trachydoleritic and Nepheline basalt lavas. Fragments of a sodalite-syenite have also been found at Soca in the same neighbourhood.

In the eastern part of the island several small crater rings are to be seen; their rims are formed of spheroidal basalt, while within the craters themselves masses of bauxite are found accompanied by evidences of fumerolic action.

In the sections afforded by the ravines, which strike north and south from the central ridge of Madeira to the sea, the nucleus of the island is seen to consist of a confused mass of more or less stratified rock, upon which rest beds of tuff, scoriae and lava, in the shape of basalt, trap and trachyte, the whole traversed by dykes. These beds are thinnest near the central axis; as they approach the coast they become thicker and less intersected by dykes.

In various parts are elevated tracts of comparatively level ground. These are supposed to have been formed by the meeting of numerous streams of lava flowing from cones and points of eruption in close proximity, various ejectamenta assisting at the same time to fill up inequalities. Deep down in some of the lateral ravines may be seen ancient cones of eruption which have been overwhelmed by streams of melted matter issuing from the central region, and afterwards exposed to view by the same causes that excavated the ravines. These ravines may be regarded as having been formed at first by subterranean movements, both gradual and violent, which dislocated the rocks and cut clefts through which streams flowed to the sea. In course of time the waters, periodically swollen by melted snows and the copious rains of winter, would cut deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains, and would undermine the lateral cliffs, until the valleys became as large as we now find them. Even the Curral, which from its rounded shape and its position in the centre of the island has been usually deemed the ruins of a crater, is thought to be nothing more than a valley scooped out in the way described. The rarity of crateriform cavities in Madeira is very remarkable. There exists, however, to the east of Funchal, on a tract 2000 ft. high, the Lagoa, a small but perfect crater, Soo ft. in diameter, and with a depth of 150 ft.; and there is another, which is a double one, in the district known as Fanal, in the northwest of Madeira, nearly 5000 ft. above the sea. The basalt, of which much of the outer part of the island is composed, is of a dark colour and a tough texture, with small disseminated crystals of olivine and augite. It is sometimes full of vesicular cavities, formed by the expansion of imprisoned gases. A rudely columnar structure is very often seen in the basalt, but there is nothing so perfect as the columns of Staffa or the Giant's Causeway. The trachytic rocks are small in quantity compared with those of the basaltic class. The tufa is soft and friable, and generally of a yellow colour; but where it has been overflowed by a hot stream of lava it has assumed a red colour. Black ashes and fragments of pumice are sometimes found in the tufaceous strata.

There are no metallic ores, nor has any sulphur been found; but a little iron pyrites and specular iron are occasionally met with. The basalt yields an excellent building-stone, various qualities of which are quarried near Camara de Lobos, five or six miles west of Funchal.

In Porto Santo the trachytic rocks bear a much greater proportion to the basaltic than in Madeira. An adjacent islet is formed of tuffs and calcareous rock, indicating a submarine origin, upon which supramarine lavas have been poured. The older series contains corals and shells (also of the Miocene Tertiary epoch), with water-worn pebbles, cemented together by carbonate of lime, the whole appearing to have been a coral reef near an ancient beach. The calcareous rock is taken in large quantities to Funchal, to be burnt into lime for building purposes.


Observations taken at Funchal Observatory (80 ft. above sea-level) in the last twenty years of the 19th century showed that the mean annual temperature is about 65° F. The mean minimum for the coldest part of the year (October to May inclusive) does not fall below 55°, and the average daily variation of temperature in the same period does not exceed 10°. Madeira thus has a remarkably mild climate, though it lies only 10° north of the Tropic of Cancer. This mildness is due to the surrounding ocean, from which the atmosphere obtains a large supply of watery vapour. The mean humidity of the air is about 75 (saturation = loo). The prevalent winds are from the north or from a few points east or west of north, but these winds are much mitigated on the south coast by the central range of mountains. The west wind usually brings rain. That from the east is a dry wind. A hot and dry wind, the leste of the natives, occasionally blows from the east-south-east, the direction of the Sahara, and causes the hill region to be hotter than below; but even on the coast the thermometer under its influence sometimes indicates 93°. The leste is often accompanied by sandstorms. As the thermometer has never been known to fall as low as 46° at Funchal, frost and snow are there wholly unknown; but snow falls on the mountains once or twice during the winter, very seldom, however, below the altitude of 2000 ft. Thunderstorms are rare, and scarcely ever violent.

Madeira has long had a high reputation as a sanatory resort for persons suffering from diseases of the chest. Notwithstanding the ever-increasing competition of other winter resorts, a considerable number of invalids, especially English and German, winter at Funchal.


No species of land mammal is indigenous to the Madeiras. Some of the early voyagers indeed speak of wild goats and swine, but these animals must have escaped from confinement. The rabbit, black rat, brown rat and mouse have been introduced. The first corners encountered seals, and this amphibious mammal (Monachus albiventer) still lingers at the Desertas. Amongst the thirty species of birds which breed in these islands are the kestrel, buzzard and barn owl, the blackbird, robin, wagtail, goldfinch, ring sparrow, linnet, two swifts, three pigeons, the quail, red-legged partridge, woodcock, tern, herring gull, two petrels and three puffins. Only one species is endemic, and that is a wren (Regulus madeirensis), but five other species are known elsewhere only at the Canaries. These are the green canary (Fringilla butyracea, the parent of the domesticated yellow variety), a chaffinch (Fringilla tintillon), a swift (Cypselus unicolor), a wood pigeon (Columba trocaz) and a petrel (Thalassidroma Bulwerii). There is also a local variety of the blackcap, distinguishable from the common kind by the extension in the male of the cap to the shoulder. About seventy other species have been seen from time to time in Madeira, chiefly stragglers from the African coast, many of them coming with the leste wind.

The only land reptile is a small lizard (Lacerta dugesii), which is abundant and is very destructive to the grape crop. The loggerhead turtle (Caouana caretta, Gray) is frequently captured, and is cooked for the table, but the soup is much inferior to that made from the green turtle of the West Indies. A single variety of frog (Rana esculenta) has been introduced; there are no other batrachians.

About 250 species of marine fishes taken at Madeira have been scientifically determined, the largest families being Scombridae with 35 species, the sharks with 24, the Sparidae with 15, the rays with 14, the Labridae with 13, the Gadidae with 12, the eels with 12, the Percidae with I I, and the Carangidae with io. Many kinds, such as the mackerel, horse mackerel, groper, mullet, braise, &c., are caught in abundance, and afford a cheap article of diet to the people. Several species of tunny are taken plentifully in spring and summer, one of them sometimes attaining the weight of 300 lb. The only freshwater fish is the common eel, which is found in one or two of the streams.

According to T. V. Wollaston (Testacea atlantica, 1878), there have been found 158 species of mollusca on the land, 6 inhabiting fresh water, and 7 littoral species, making a total of 171. A large majority of the land shells are considered to be peculiar. Many of the species are variable in form or colour, and some have an extraordinary number of varieties. Of the land mollusca 91 species are assigned to the genus Helix, 31 to the genus Pupa, and 15 to the genus Achatina (or Lovea). About 43 species are found both living and fossil in superficial deposits of calcareous sand in Madeira or Porto Santo. These deposits were assigned by Lyell to the Newer Pliocene period. Some 12 or 13 species have not been hitherto discovered alive. More than 100 species of Polyzoa (Bryozoa) have been collected, among them are some highly interesting forms.

The only order of insects which has been thoroughly examined is that of the Coleoptera. By the persevering researches of T. V. Wollaston the astonishing number of 695 species of beetles has been brought to light at the Madeiras. The proportion of endemic kinds is very large, and it is remarkable that 200 of them are either wingless or their wings are so poorly developed that they cannot fly, while 23 of the endemic genera have all their species in this condition. With regard to the Lepidoptera, I I or 12 species of butterflies have been seen, all of which belong to European genera. Some of the species are geographical varieties of well-known types. Upward of 100 moths have been collected, the majority of them being of a. European stamp, but probably a fourth of the total number are peculiar to the Madeiran group. Thirty-seven species of Neuroptera have been observed in Madeira, 12 of them being so far as is known peculiar.

The bristle-footed worms of the coast have been studied by Professor P. Langerhans, who has met with about 200 species, of which a large number were new to science. There are no modern coral reefs, but several species of stony and flexible corals have been collected, though none are of commercial value. There is, however, a white stony coral allied to the red coral of the Mediterranean which would be valuable as an article of trade if it could be obtained in sufficient quantity. Specimens of a rare and handsome red Paragorgia are in the British Museum and Liverpool Museum.


The vegetation is strongly impressed with a south-European character. Many of the plants in the lower region undoubtedly were introduced and naturalized after the Portuguese colonization. A large number of the remainder are found at the Canaries and the Azores, or in one of these groups, but nowhere else. Lastly, there are about a hundred plants which are peculiarly Madeiran, either as distinct species or as strongly marked varieties. The flowering plants found truly wild belong to about 363 genera and 717 species, - the monocotyledons numbering 70 genera and 128 species, the dicotyledons 293 genera and 589 species. The three largest orders are the Compositae, Leguminosae and Graminaceae. Forty-one species of ferns grow in Madeira, three of which are endemic species and six others belong to the peculiar flora of the North Atlantic islands. About ioo species of moss have been collected, and 47 species of Hepaticae. A connexion between the flora of Madeira and that of the West Indies and tropical America has been inferred from the presence in the former of six ferns found nowhere in Europe or North Africa, but existing on the islands of the east coast of America or on the Isthmus of Panama. A further relationship to that continent is to be traced by the presence in Madeira of the beautiful ericaceous tree Clethra arborea, belonging to a genus which is otherwise wholly American, and of a Persea, a tree laurel, also an American genus. The dragon tree (Dracaena Draco) is almost extinct. Amongst the trees most worthy of note are four of the laurel order belonging to separate genera, an Ardisia, Pittosporum, Sideroxylon, Notelaea, Rhamnus and Myrica, - a strange mixture of genera to be found on a small Atlantic island. Two heaths of arborescent growth and a whortleberry cover large tracts on the mountains. In some parts there is a belt of the Spanish chestnut about the height of 1500 ft. There is no indigenous pine tree as at the Canaries; but large tracts on the hills have been planted with Pinus pinaster, from which the fuel of the inhabitants is mainly derived. A European juniper (J. Oxycedrus), growing to the height of 40 or 50 ft., was formerly abundant, but has been almost exterminated, as its scented wood is prized by the cabinet-maker. Several of the native trees and shrubs now grow only in situations which are nearly inaccessible, and some of the indigenous plants are of the greatest rarity. But some plants of foreign origin have spread in a remarkable manner. Among these is the common cactus or prickly pear (Opuntia Tuna), which in many spots on the coast is sufficiently abundant to give a character to the landscape. As to Algae, the coast is too rocky and the sea too unquiet for a luxuriant marine vegetation, consequently the species are few and poor.


The inhabitants are of Portuguese descent, with probably some intermixture of Moorish and negro blood amongst the lower classes. The dress of the peasantry, without being picturesque, is peculiar. Both men and women in the outlying country districts wear the carapuca, a small cap made of blue cloth in shape something like a funnel, with the pipe standing upwards. The men have trousers of linen, drawn tight, and terminating at the knees; a coarse shirt enveloping the upper part of their person, covered by a short jacket, completes their attire, with the exception of a pair of rough yellow boots. The women's outer garments consist of a gaudily coloured gown, made from island material, with a small cape of coarse scarlet or blue woollen cloth.) The population tends to increase rapidly. In 1900 it amounted to 150,574, including 890 foreigners, of whom the majority were British. The number of females exceeds that of males by about 6000, partly because many of the ablebodied males emigrate to Brazil or the United States. The density of population (479 5 per sq. m.) is very great for a district containing no large town and chiefly dependent on agriculture and viticulture.


A large portion of the land was formerly entailed in the families of the landlords (morgados), but entails have been abolished by the legislature, and the land is now absolutely free. The deficiency of water is a great obstacle to the proper cultivation of the land, and the rocky nature or steer inclination of the upper parts of the islands is an effectual bar to all tillage. An incredible amount of labour has been expended upon the soil, partly in the erection of walls intended to prevent its being washed away by the rains, and to build up the plots of ground in the form of terraces. Watercourses have been constructed for purposes of irrigation, without which at regular intervals the island would not produce a hundredth part of its present yield. These watercourses originate high up in the ravines, are built of masonry or driven through the rock, and wind about for miles until they reach the cultivated land. Some of them are brought by tunnels from the north side of the island through the central crest of hill. Each occupier takes his turn at the running stream for so many hours in the day or night at a time notified to him beforehand. In this climate flowing water has a saleable value as well as land, which is useless without irrigation.

The agricultural implements employed are of the rudest kind, and the system of cultivation is extremely primitive. Very few of the occupiers own the land they cultivate; but they almost invariably own the walls, cottages and trees standing thereon, the land alone belonging to the landlord. The tenant can sell his share of the property without the consent of the landlord, and if he does not so dispose of it that share passes to his heirs. In this way the tenant practically enjoys fixity of tenure, for the landlord is seldom in a position to pay the price at which the tenant's share is valued. Money rents are rare, the metayer system regulating almost universally the relations between landlord and tenant; that is, the tenant pays to the owner a certain portion of the produce, usually one half or one third. The holdings are as a rule rarely larger than one man can cultivate with a little occasional assistance. There are few meadows and pastures, the cattle being stall-fed when not feeding on the mountains. Horses are never employed for draught, all labour of that kind being done by oxen.

The two staple productions of the soil are wine and sugar. The vine was introduced from Cyprus or Crete soon after the discovery of the island by the Portuguese (1420), but it was not actively cultivated until the early part of the 16th century. The vines, after having been totally destroyed by the oidium disease, which made its first appearance in the island in 1852, were replanted, and Wine. in a few years wine was again made. The phylloxera N also made its way to the island, and every vineyard in Madeira was more or less affected by it. The wine usually termed Madeira is made from a mixture of black and white grapes, which are also made separately into wines called Tinta and Verdelho, after the names of the grapes. Other high-class wines, known as Bual, Sercial and Malmsey, are made from varieties of grapes bearing the same names. (See also Wine.) The sugar cane is said to have been brought from Sicily about 1452, and in course of time its produce became the sole staple of the island. The cultivation languished, however, as the more abundant produce of tropical countries came into the European market, and sugar had long ceased to be made when the destruction of the vines compelled the peasants to turn their attention to other things. Its cultivation was resumed and sugar machinery imported. A. considerable quantity of spirit is made by the distillation Sugar of the juice or of the molasses left after extracting the sugar, and this is consumed on the island. The cane does not flourish here as luxuriantly as within the tropics; but in localities below moo ft., where there is a good supply of water, it pays the cultivator well.

The grain produced on the island (principally wheat, barley and Indian corn) is not sufficient for the consumption of the people. The common potato, sweet potato and gourds of various kinds are extensively grown, as well as the Colocasia esculenta, the kalo of the Pacific islanders, the root of which yields an insipid food. Most of the common table vegetables of Europe are plentiful. Besides apples, pears and peaches, all of poor quality, oranges, lemons, guavas, mangoes, loquats, custard-apples, figs, bananas and pineapples are produced, the last two forming articles of export. The date palm is occasionally grown, but its fruit is scarcely edible. On the hills large quantities of the Spanish chestnut afford an item in the food of the common people. A little tobacco is grown, and is made into cigars of inferior quality.

The total foreign trade of Madeira was valued at 628,000 in 1900. The principal exports are wine, sugar, embroidery, vegetables, fruits and wicker goods. Coal is imported for the ships calling at Funchal, which is the headquarters of Madeiran commerce and industry. Spirits, beer, olive oil, soap, butter, linen and woollen goods, straw hats and leather, are manufactured for home consumption, and there are important fisheries.

Chief Towns and Communications

Funchal (pop. 20,850) is described in a separate article. The other chief towns are Camara de Lobos (7150), Machico (6128), Santa Cruz (5876) Ponta do Sol (5665), Sao Vicente (4896), Calheta (3475), Sant' Anna (3011) and Porto Santo (2311). Each of these is the capital of a commune (concelho), to which it gives its name. Madeira is connected by regular lines of steamships with Great Britain, Germany, Portugal, Cape Colony, Brazil and the United States. There is no railway in the archipelago, and partly owing to the irregularities of the surface of the roads, of which there are some 580 m., are bad, except in the neighbourhood of Funchal. Wheel carriages are rare, and all heavy goods are transported either on the backs of mules or upon rude wooden sledges drawn by bullocks. When horses are not employed, locomotion is effected either by means of hammocks or by bullock cars. The hammock (rede) is a piece of stout canvas gathered up and secured at each end to a long pole carried by a couple of bearers. In place of cabs, curtained cars on sledges, made to hold four persons, and drawn by a pair of bullocks, are employed. They are convenient, but the rate of progress is very slow.


The archipelago is officially styled the district of Funchal; it returns members to the Portuguese Cortes, and is regarded as an integral part of the kingdom. The district is subdivided into the eight communes already enumerated, and is administered in accordance with the same laws that 283 regulate local government on the mainland (see Portugal). Funchal is a Roman Catholic bishopric in the archiepiscopal province of Lisbon. Education is compulsory in name only, for less than 2% of the population could read when the census of 1900 was taken. An infantry regiment and a battery of garrison artillery are permanently stationed in Madeira.


It has been conjectured, but on insufficient evidence, that the Phoenicians discovered Madeira at a very early period. Pliny mentions certain Purple or Mauretanian Islands, the position of which with reference to the Fortunate Islands or Canaries might seem to indicate the Madeiras. There is a romantic story, to the effect that two lovers, Robert Machim, a Machin, or Macham, and Anna d'Arfet, fleeing from England to France (c. 1370) were driven out of their course by a violent storm and cast on the coast of Madeira at the place subsequently named Machico, in memory of one of them. Both perished here, but some of their crew escaped to the Barbary coast, and were made slaves. Among them was the pilot Pedro Morales of Seville, who is said to have been ransomed and to have communicated his knowledge of Madeira to Joao Goncalvez Zarco (or Zargo). How far this story is true cannot now be ascertained. It is, however, certain that Zarco first sighted Porto Santo in 1418, having been driven thither by a storm while he was exploring the coast of West Africa. Madeira itself was discovered in 1420. It is probable that the whole archipelago had been explored at an earlier date by Genoese adventurers, and had been forgotten; for an Italian map dated 1351 (the Laurentian portolano) shows the Madeiras quite clearly, and there is some reason to believe that they were known to the Genoese before 1339. When Zarco visited Madeira in 1420 the islands were uninhabited, but Prince Henry the Navigator at once began their colonization, aided by the knights of the Order of Christ. Sanctioned by the pope and by two charters which the king of Portugal granted in 1430 and 1433, the work proceeded apace; much land was deforested and brought into cultivation, and the Madeiran sugar trade soon became important. For the sixty years1580-1640Madeira, with Portugal itself, was united with Spain. Slavery was abolished in Madeira in 1775, by order of Pombal. In 1801 British troops, commanded by General Beresford, occupied the island for a few months, and it was again under the British flag from 1807 to 1814. It shared in the civil disturbances brought about by the accession of Dom Miguel (see Portugal: History), but after 1833 its history is a record of peaceful commercial development.

See A. S. Brown, Madeira, the Canary Islands and the Azores (1903), a comprehensive study of the three archipelagoes. The Land of the Wine, by A. J. D. Biddle (Philadelphia, 1901) is generally valuable, but its history cannot be trusted. See also P. Langerhaus, Handbuch far Madeira (1884) and Vahl, Madeira's Vegetation (Copenhagen, 1904).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also madeira




From Portuguese madeira (wood), from Latin materia, from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr (mother).


  • (UK) IPA: /məˈdɪə(ɹ).ə/, SAMPA: /m@"dI@(r).@/
    Rhymes: -ɪə(ɹ)ə

Proper noun




  1. Island in the Atlantic Ocean and an autonomous region of Portugal.

Derived terms



Proper noun

Madeira f.

  1. Madeira



From Latin materia (stuff, timber) from Proto-Indo-European *méh₂tēr (mother). Formal cognates include Spanish madera.


  • IPA: /mɐˈdɐjrɐ/, SAMPA: /m6"d6jr6/

Proper noun


  1. Madeira

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