Archipelago (est. pop. 300,000), 308 sq mi (798 sq km), Capital: Funchal, Country: Portugal, status: Autonomous. Set in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is the largest island, and Porto Santo are inhabited.
The volcanic origins of Madeira can still be seen. The Island is surprisingly mountainous with peaks of 1,860 meters; over 6,100 feet high! Fortunately for the tourists, volcanic activity stopped about 6,500 years ago. This activity has endowed the island with a fertile landscape where much of the island was, until comparatively recently covered in ancient subtropical rainforest. Indeed this is the reason for the name of the island, ‘Madeira’ meaning ‘wood’ in Portuguese.
Parts of this forest (Laurisilva) still remain, mainly on the northern slopes and have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the superb blooms for which the island has become famous may be found in abundance all year round.
Madeira’s tourism is also changing, bringing a greater variety of tourists from many different age groups and walks of life. The island, a once haunt of the older generation has of late been rediscovered by the younger more affluent set. Now seen as the home of “Ronaldo”, it no longer has the image of a small rural community but a stunning all year round summer island destination that is in easy reach of most of Europe and is attracting a classier younger crowd who not only like to enjoy a night out but also love the spectacular drives and friendly people that can be found in abundance. Madeira’s Nightlife, fine dining, water sports, perfect climate, and spectacular scenery, are second to none and a ‘must’ for the modern traveller.