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Madeira Islands Information
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 3, 2003, 19:28

The Madeira, a group of Portuguese islands in the north Atlantic Ocean, lies between the paralels of 32º 22' 20'' and 33º 7' 50'' and in a longitude between the 16º 16' 30 W and 17º 16' 39'' W. Madeira Islands consists of two inhabited islands named Madeira and Porto Santo, three uninhabited small islands named collectively the Desertas, and another two uninhabited islands named the Selvagens, Selvagem. Discovered and settled by the Portuguese in 1418, Madeira is a Portuguese autonomous region.

Geography and climate

Funchal, the main city of Madeira Island, is on the south coast of the principal island, in 32° 37' 45 N lat. 16° 55' 20 W long. Madeira Islands has 6 cities: Funchal, Porto Santo, Machico, Câmara de Lobos, Santa Cruz and Santana.

The Madeira archipelago lies about 360 miles from the coast of Africa, 535 miles from Lisbon, 240 from Tenerife, and 480 from Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores.

Madeira is the largest island of the group with 741 km ², has a length of 30 geographical miles (57 km), an extreme breadth of 13 miles (22 km), and a coastline of 80 or 90 miles. 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 4000 feet, up to which many deep ravines penetrate from both coasts.

On the south there is very little left of the indigenous forest which once clothed the whole island and gave it the name it bears (Madeira means "wood" in Portuguese), 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 there is to be seen a tract of calcareous sand, known as the Fossil Bed, containg land shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration.

Its geographical position and its mountainous landscape, permits a very pleasing climate. Tempetures are about 22 degrees Celsius in the summer and circa 16 degrees Celcius during the winter. With Its mild humidity, the weather of the Island is classified has subtropical. Influenced by the Golf Stream, sea water temperature is 22 degrees Celcius during the summer and 16, in the winter. The islands are of vulcanic origin.

The archipelago has a valuable natural areas, recognized by UNESCO has Word Natural Patrimony.

Culture and people

The islands are noted as the source of Madeira wine. The islands are also known by the Portuguese shoes, flowers and sub-tropical fruits.

There are circa 250,000 inhabitants (1991) in the two main islands, only 4,800 live in Porto Santo Island. The population density is 337 inhabitants per square kilometre in Madeira and 112 in Porto Santo. Most of the early settlers were from the Portuguese regions of the Algarve and Minho. The islands have historical monuments, streets and plazas (praças) with many gardens and typical small towns, known has vilas.


It has been conjectured, but on insufficient evidence, that the Phoenecians 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 Madeira islands. There is a romantic story, of doubtful truth, to the effect that two lovers, Robert Machim and Anna d'Arfet, fleeing from England to France in 1346, were driven off 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. On the evidence of a portulano dated 1351, preserved at Florence, Italy, it would appear that Madeira had been discovered long previous to that date by Portuguese vessels under Genoese captains. In 1419 two of the captains of Prince Henry the Navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, were driven by a storm to the island called by them Porto Santo, or Holy Port, in gratitude for their rescue from shipwreck. The next year an expedition was sent to populate the island, and, Madeira being descried, they made for it, and took possession on behalf of the Portuguese crown.

The islands started to be settled circa 1432 or 1433. In September 23, 1433, the name ILHA DA MADEIRA (Madeira Island) appears in a map, by the first time, in a document.

In 1921, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles I was deported to Madeira, after an unsuccessful coup d'état. He died there one year later.

Postage stamps

In 1868, Portugal issued postage stamps for Madeira, consisting of the current stamps of Portugal overprinted "MADEIRA". This continued until 1928, when a series for Madeira was issued; but this was the last to be produced until 1980 (stamps of Portugal having been valid in Madeira since 1898), when Portugal began issuing stamps inscribed "Portugal Madeira" that were valid in both Madeira and Portugal, similar to those issued for the Azores.


The Islands has two airports, one being in Funchal, Madeira Island and the other in Porto Santo City in Porto Santo Island. Flights to the islands are mostly made from Lisbon, but there are direct flights from other European capitals. The European Union citizens of the Shengen area, can enter in the islands freely. While others need identification. The transportations between the two main islands is done by plane or by ferry-boat, that allow the transportation of vihacles. Visiting the interior of this islands, is today very easy, due to large development of this islands during Portugal's economical boom. There are modern roads, reaching all the interresting areas of the islands, there's also a good transportation network.

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