About the Region
The Archipelago of Madeira is a Portuguese region with political and administrative autonomy. Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Madeira archipelago lies precisely between 32°22.3′N 16°16.5′W and 33°7.8′N 17°16.65′W, just c.500 km (310 mi) off the coast of Morocco, Africa and c.1000 km (621 mi) southwest from Lisbon, Portugal, and is an outermost region of the European Union. The Madeira Island is the principal island in the archipelago of Madeira, which consists of the Madeira Island, Porto Santo Island, Desertas Islands and the Selvagem Islands (the latter two are uninhabited nature reserves).
Madeira was claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator) in 1419, and settled after 1420. The archipelago is considered to be the first territorial discovery of the exploratory period of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
Today, it is a popular scenic year-round resort, being visited every year by about one million tourists, noted for its Madeira wine, exotic flowers, stunning landscapes (two thirds of Madeira Island is a protected area and where the largest Laurisilva forest in the world is located) and embroidery artisans. The main harbour in Funchal is the leading Portuguese port in cruise liner dockings, being an important stopover for commercial and trans-Atlantic passenger cruises between Europe, the Caribbean and North Africa.
The springtime temperature, felt all year round, cries out for open air activities. You can go for a walk along the network of levadas (irrigation channels), visit the city of Funchal and discover the heritage associated with the Discoveries or roam freely around the island. Boat rides are an excellent way of admiring the coastline from a different perspective.
In such a naturally welcoming environment, balance and well-being are taken for granted. Madeira offers various tourist complexes and accesses to the sea with prime conditions for leisure boating and scuba diving. The island of Porto Santo, in particular, is the ideal place to escape from stress and undertake a thalassotherapy programme, or a beach holiday combined with a spot of golf.
Popular feasts, which take place all year round, are opportunities to appreciate traditional gastronomic flavours and see Madeira partying, especially for the Carnival parades, the Flower Festival, the Atlantic Festival and, above all, the famous New Year celebrations that feature the largest fireworks display in the world, as officially recognised by the Guinness World Records, in 2006.