Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean that lies between 32º22.3’N, 16º16.5’W and 33º7.8’N, 17º16.65’W. It is one of the Autonomous regions of Portugal, with Madeira Island and Porto Santo Island being the only inhabited islands. It belongs politically and culturally to Europe, even is it can be considered to be a geographical part of the African Plate.
Madeira known originally to the Romans as the Purple Islands, was rediscovered, possibly accidentally, by Portuguese sailors and settled by Portugal as early as 1418 or as late as 1420. The archipelago is considered to be the first discovery of the exploratory period initiated by Henry the Navigator of Portugal. It is a popular year-round resort, noted for its Madeira Wine, flowers and embroidery artisans, as well as its New Year’s Eve celebrations that feature a spectacular fireworks show, which is the largest in the world according to the Guinness World Records.
In the south, there is very little left of the indigenous laurisilva subtropical rainforest which once covered the whole island (the original settlers set fire to the island to clear the land for farming) and gave it the name it now bears (Madeira means “wood” in Portuguese).in the north , the valleys contain native trees of fine growth. These laurisilva forests, notably the forests on the northern slopes of Madeira Island, are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
A long narrow, and comparatively low rock promontory forms the eastern extremity of the island, on which lies a tract of calcareous sand known as the Fossil Bed. It contains land shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration.
Madeira Island’s Geographical position and mountains landscape result in a very pleasant climate which varies between the north side, south side, and smaller islands groups like Porto Santo and Savages. The mean annual temperature on the coastline can reach more than 20º C in the south. With its mild humidity, the weather of the island is classified as oceanic subtropical and with its low rain level, desertic on the Savages. Sea water varies between 26º C during the summer and 17º C in the winter.
Climate, warm in the summer (22-26º C) and mild in the winter (17-22ºC) the temperature is also very pleasant year round owing the Gulf Stream influence rainfalls.
When the Portuguese discovered the island of Madeira in 1419, it was completely uninhabited by humans, with no aboriginal population at all. The island was settled by Portuguese people, especially farmers from the Minho region, meaning that Madeirans (Portuguese: madeirenses), as they are called, are ethnic Portuguese, though they have developed their own distinct regional identity and cultural traits.
The region has a total Population of just under 255000 inhabitants, the majority of whom live on the main island of Madeira where the population density is 337/km2 meanwhile only around 4.500 live on the Porto Santo Island where the population density is 112/km2.
The Autonomous Region of Madeira is composed of Madeira Island, Porto Santo Island, Desertas Islands and Savage Islands.
The Archipelago lies about 360 miles (580km) from the coast of Africa, 535 miles (861km) from Lisbon, 230 miles (370km) from Gran Canaria, and 480 miles (770km) from Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores.