The island of Madeira was discovered by Bartolomeu Perestrelo and João Gonçalves Zarco, two Portuguese explorers, in 1419, which dubbed the island ‘Madeira’ (“wood” in English) due to the abundance of this raw material.
Noticing the potential of the islands, as well as its strategic importance, the colonization of the islands began in 1425.
At the beginning of its settlement, some agricultural crops, such as cane sugar, were introduced, which quickly afforded the Funchal metropolis frank economic prosperity. This meant that, in the second half of the fifteenth century, the city of Funchal became a mandatory port of call for European trade routes.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were marked by the emergence of a new culture that would boost the Madeira economy again: wine.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Madeira flourished for the birth of the tourism sector, quickly becoming a mandatory reference for the European aristocracy that has set temporary residence here, attracted by the natural therapeutic qualities of the island.
In 1976, Madeira became an Autonomous Region of Portugal, thus having the power to legislate.
Geography & Geology
This archipelago is formed by the Madeira Island with an area of 741 km², Porto Santo with 42.5 km², the Desertas Islands with a total of 14.2 km² comprising the three uninhabited islands, and by the Selvagens Islands whose set of 2 islands and sixteen uninhabited islets make up an area of 3.6 km². Of the eight islands, only the two largest (Madeira and Porto Santo) are inhabited and can be accessed via the Madeira Airport in Funchal and Porto Santo Airport.
Funchal, the capital of the Archipelago of Madeira, is acessible by sea, featuring a port with a modern station that stands out on the national scene. With regard to cruising. more than half a million passengers disembark here per year. The remaining islands are nature reserves.
For hundreds of years, Funchal was the only city of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, until 5 other cities gained this status between the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next century: Câmara de Lobos, Santa Cruz, Machico, Santana and Vila Baleira.
The island of Madeira has a very rugged terrain, with the highest point being Pico Ruivo (1,862 m), the Pico das Torres (1,851 m) and Pico do Arieiro (1,818 m), respectively the third, fourth and fifth highest points of Portugal. The northern coast is dominated by high cliffs and in the western part of the island you find the only plateau in the island, the Paul da Serra with altitudes between 1,300 and 1,500 m.