Madeira is a volcanic island , originated 20 million years ago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It is located 600 km west of Morocco. The average temperature is 21ºC. Madeira is known as the ” island of eternal spring”. Famous for its beautiful nature, flowers and unique wines.
Madeira is situated 600 kilometer west of the Moroccan coast and 900 kilometer southwest of Portugal. The island measures 57 km from east to west and 23 km from north to south, all together 752 km2 . The capital in the south is Funchal (Funchal means “fennel”). Madeira is an archipelago, to which also belong the isles of Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens.
Madeira is known as the “Island of Eternal Spring”. The climate is subtropical and very evenly. In the south it is mostly pleasantly warm and never hot, with an average 24 ºC in summer and 17 ºC in winter. In the north and high in the mountains it can be a lot cooler. In winter sometimes snow can appear on the mountain tops.
The warmth in Madeira is caused by the southern latitude (Funchal is situated at 32 º N) and the hot winds from the Sahara that mostly arrive in the south. The cold ocean current around Madeira cools the weather, especially in the north.
As a result, there is often fog in the mountains and in the north. There is 500 mm of rainfall on the south coast and 3000 mm of rainfall in the north.
View the current weather
Madeira has a mountainous landscape. Because of the steep slopes only some parts of the island are suitable for agriculture. The highest peak is the Pico Ruivo, 1862 meters high. The combination of warmth and high humidity from the ocean makes Madeira green all over. Here we find the highest cliffs of Europe, the Cabo Girao, at a spectacular 589 meter! There is a glass plaque for those who want to look down and have no fear of heights.
Flowers, ferns and trees
Madeira is a realy flowery island, they bloom the whole year around. Many of which are tempting fragrant, like aloe and gorse in spring, oleander and frangipani in summer, lilies and Venus shoe in the fall and winter and bougainvillea and hibiscus throughout the year. There are 67 species of ferns.
One wil find many eucalyptus trees, as well as wild olives, orange trees and cork oaks. The “laura silva” (laurel forest) at Madeira was declared by the UNESCO World Heritage.
Madeira was discovered in 1419 by Portuguese navigators João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz. Ilha da Madeira means “wood island” (especially laurels were ment). In the beginning a lot of wood was burned in order to create farmland. Yet still the forests are everywhere. The first settlers were relatives of the discoverers, then followed by Portuguese nobility. Soon prisoners were imported to make agriculture possible. With such steep slopes it was hard and dangerous work. In this early period, the “levadas” were built; irrigation canals which are now gratefully used by hikers.
Revenues of Madeira : agriculture and tourism
In the 15th century sugarcane was the main export product and Madeira was previously the world’s most important trading center of it. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Madeira wine trade flourished , especially with England.
Today, bananas are the main agricultural exportproduct: 600,000 kg / year.
But the biggest source of income for Madeira is tourism. Each year, some 500,000 visitors enjoy nature. Mass tourism is not there, the visitors come for tours through the green mountains in the mild climate.
Fortified wines as ballast
In the 17th century, the Portuguese sailed around the world. On their journeys to India and Brazail the wines were taken as ballast.
During these long lasting trips in the tropics the wines were heated by the climate and after arriving home surprisingly the quality appeared to be greatly improved! These wines were called VdR, Vinho da Roda: wines that had come a long way. From the 18th century the wines were fortified with alcohol. As a result, they turned out indefinitely. The British have always been the major traders in this wine.
Over the past century Madeira wine became well known for its young Estufada wines, which are used as cooking wine. Quality wines from Madeira were almost forgotten, but fortunately not lost ! Wine lovers today become interested in the beautiful Madeira ‘s that can mature in such great ways.
Map of Madeira
Click on the map to view in google maps Madeira.