Madeira (740 sq km) is the main island of the archipelago of the same name, made up of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, the small islands and rocks of the Ilhas Desertas (Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio) and finally the Ilhas Selvagens (Selvagem Grande, Selvagem Pequena, Palheiro da Terra, Palheiro do Mar, Ilhéu de Fora, Alto, Comprido, Redondo and the Ilhéus do Norte group).
The island was discovered in 1419 by Portuguese navigators João Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo. At the time of the discovery the island was completely covered by woods, it was therefore called Madeira, a word that in Portuguese indicates wood. Its colonization by the Portuguese began in 1425.
Madeira is a mountainous and wild island with three peaks over 1,800 meters high: Pico Ruivo (1,862 meters), Pico das Torres (1,850 meters) and Pico do Arieiro (1,818 meters).
The coast of the island is also very wild with cliffs and precipices that throw directly into the sea. The most scenic place on the coast is the famous Cabo Girão, a rocky cliff overlooking the sea 589 meters high.
The island is inhabited by about 250,000 inhabitants, mostly residing along the south-east coast. In fact, in this stretch of coast is Funchal (100,000 inhabitants, over 160,000 with the suburbs), which is the main city and the capital of the island.
In 1999, UNESCO included the island’s Laurissilva forest as a world heritage site.
HOW TO GET TO MADEIRA
The island is served by an international airport, the Aeroporto Internacional da Madeira (FNC). This airport is connected by daily flights with Lisbon, Porto and the nearby island of Porto Santo (15 minutes flight). There are also international flights from many European destinations. The best way to reach the island is to take a TAP Portugal flight with a stopover in Lisbon. During the summer there are also direct international connections including charters.
There are no ferry connections between Madeira and mainland Portugal. Madeira is also connected by ferries with the island of Porto Santo. The time taken in the crossing between the two islands is 2 hours and 15 minutes.