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Madeira is a Portugese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly between Portugal and the Canary Islands. The archipelago contains Madeira Island and Porto Santo Islands, as well as smaller uninhabited islands. It is an one of the autonomous regions of Portugal, but part of the European Union. About 250,000 people call Madeira their home.
The first settlers began colonizing the islands around 1420 or 1425. In 23 September 1433, the name Ilha da Madeira (English: Madeira Island, or literally island of wood) began to appear in the first documents and maps. The name given to the islands corresponded to the large dense forests of native laurisilva trees that populated the island during the settlement. In 1617, Algerian pirates, having enslaved Europeans along the Mediterranean coasts, captured 1,200 men and women in Porto Santo. After the 17th century, as sugar production shifted to Brazil, São Tomé and Príncipe and elsewhere, Madeira's most important product became its wine. The British occupied Madeira as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, a consented occupation starting in 1807 and concluding in 1814 when the island was returned to Portugal.
On 1 July 1976, following the democratic revolution of 1974, Portugal granted political autonomy to Madeira, celebrated on Madeira Day. The region now has its own government and legislative assembly.
The archipelago of Madeira is located 520 kilometres from the African coast and 1,000 kilometres from the European continent. Madeira not only contains the main island but also other islands. The main island chains are Madeira (including Ilhéu de Agostinho, Ilhéu de São Lourenço, Ilhéu Mole), Porto Santo (Ilhéu de Baixo ou da Cal, Ilhéu de Ferro, Ilhéu das Cenouras, Ilhéu de Fora, Ilhéu de Cima, Desertas Islands (including the three uninhabited islands: Deserta Grande Island, Bugio Island and Ilhéu de Chão),
Savage Islands, the latter containing two groups again: the Northwest Group (Selvagem Grande Island, Ilhéu de Palheiro da Terra, Ilhéu de Palheiro do Mar) and the Southeast Group (Selvagem Pequena Island, Ilhéu Grande, Ilhéu Sul, Ilhéu Pequeno, Ilhéu Fora, Ilhéu Alto, Ilhéu Comprido, Ilhéu Redondo, Ilhéu Norte).
Funchal is the main focal point of the flamboyant Madeira Carnival in mid-February. Not unlike the Rio Carnival, albeit on a smaller scale, the event boasts big processions (on Avenida Arriaga in the capital) and also features live music and theater from Saturday to Shrove Tuesday, concluding with the Trapalhão ‘fun’ parade.
Madeira’s Flower Festival is like no other, bringing all the island’s beautiful floral produce together in a riotous splash of color in the center of Funchal. There are floats, singing and dancing galore, flower carpet-making and musical performances. The day before sees costumed kids construct a ‘Wall of Hope’ in the Municipal Square (Praça do Município) and the whole shebang takes place two weeks after Easter.
Orchestras perform to a backdrop of elaborate fireworks every Saturday in June in Funchal. The event incorporates the International Fireworks Competition and the Madeira Music Festival at the waterfront. For classical music, head to the Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias, Palácio de São Lourenço or Casa das Mudas.
July 1 marks the autonomy of the archipelago of Madeira, granted by Portugal in 1976. There’s plenty of flag-waving and parades, and local events take place all around the archipelago and the neighboring islands.
Local acts and bands from around the world perform for two days at the Funchal Jazz Festival in early July. Jazz and blues musicians can be seen at the Santa Catarina Park and jam sessions, workshops, and master classes are also held.
A really fun and intriguing event for tourists is the Madeira Wine Festival, which reveals some of the culture and history behind the island’s wine making heritage. The late-August celebration begins in Camara de Lobos with the picking and stomping of grapes and a parade, followed by the main event in Funchal, which hosts various shows and tasting ceremonies.
This week-long event takes place on Porto Santo, where Christopher Columbus lived for a time and still holds a special place in the hearts of Madeirans. There are parades, parties, and exhibitions in mid-September, with the culmination being the re-enactment of Columbus’s arrival on the island.
This is without a doubt the main event on the Madeira festival calendar. Forget the Chinese with their noisy firecrackers on Chinese New Year, the New Year’s Eve display in Funchal Harbor is the biggest and best. The display goes on for around 20 minutes and is best seen either from the marina or a special cruise ship launched for the day. Bars and restaurants all over the island put on parties for the celebrations.
Madeira has roughly the same climate as much of the Mediterranean or the Canary Islands, though the influence of the Atlantic Ocean means that differences between the highest and lowest temperatures are (much) smaller. Summers last from May to September with daytime temperatures averaging between 22 °C and 24 °C, nights around 19 °C. Winters last from December to April with days of around 19 °C and nights averaging 14 °C. The lowest and highest recorded temperature ever (at sea level) is 4 °C and 39 °C respectively.
The winter months are the wettest months, with from October to March around 80 mm of rain at lower levels but much more at higher levels, and stormy and cloudy conditions may last for a few days sometimes. That said, there are fine periods with settled weather during winter as well. From May until September it is usually dry, especially at sea level, but occasional light rain may fall and fog can occur. Higher in the mountains rain is more heavy during this time.
Madeira Airport (airport code: FNC) is located on the island of Madeira and receives international flights. About 20 airlines have flights to and from Madeira, mainly to Portugal, Spain and most of the countries in the west and north of Europe. It also receives flights from the Azores.
The smaller Porto Santo Airport (airport code: PXO) has some seasonal charters from Italy, the UK, Spain, Germany, Tangier and Casablanca, as well as regular connections to the Azores and mainland Portugal (Lisbon, Faro and Porto)
Naviera Armas runs weekly services between Portimao in mainland Portugal and on to Tenerife, with connections to other Canary Islands, like Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.
SATA Air Acores has flights between Madeira and Porto Santo.
On Madeira there is one road (101) that circles the island. On the west and the east other roads make connections to the other side of the island easy. In the middle there are no roads, as the landscape it too mountainous.
The are island busses, but getting around by bus needs some planning, as their are infrequent. More information can be found here.
Porto Santo Line operates a modern ferry, the Lobo Marinho, carrying passengers and vehicles between Madeira and Porto Santo every day. The crossing takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes.
The same rules apply as Portugal.
Madeira is presently one the best locations in the E.U. for companies with operations in the single market and worldwide. With reduced direct and indirect taxation, adequate infrastructures, competitive operational costs, safety and quality of life, Madeira is positioned to provide the investor with a unique package of benefits, offering a wide range of solutions to enhance the efficiency and performance of various forms of investment.
Portugese is the official language, but quite a few people will speak some English.
|Aquela Banda||Sitio da Igreja, Paul do Mar, Madeira||Guesthouse||-|
|Estalagem Pico da Urze||Sitio do Ovil - Paul da Serra Calheta||Hotel||-|
|Quinta Splendida Wellness & Spa||Estrada da Ponta da Oliveira 11 Canico de Baixo,Funchal||Hotel||-|
|Solar da Bica||Lameiros São Vicente||Guesthouse||-|
Madeira Wine is a fortified wine prized equally for drinking and cooking. There are four major types of Madeira: Malvasia (also known as Malmsey or Malvazia), Bual (or Boal), Verdelho, and Sercial, the latter two being drier.
One drink you surely have to try though is the famous Poncha, Madeira’s traditional white-rum lemon juice and Bee's honey drink.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Madeira. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Madeira) where that disease is widely prevalent.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Emergency Service telephone number is 112 Some police in Funchal have red armbands, this signifies that they speak another language other than Portuguese, mainly English and German. Crime figures for Madeira are very low.
Wifi is common in many places in Portugal, including hotels, restaurants and coffee bars. Free wifi along the Algarve coast is available in many places. Internet cafés can still be found in most larger cities and tourist areas though.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Portugal's international telephone code is 351. The general emergency number is 112.
Each provider offers a variety of prepaid (Pré-Pagos) and contract (pós-pagos) SIM cards, both of which are available to foreigners. It generally means much lower rates for calls and especially internet. Be sure to switch off data roaming if you don't buy a local SIM card, as prices for internet are very high.
CTT is the national postal service of Portugal. It has relatively fast and reliable services and it takes several days to over a week for your post to arrive within other European countries, more so if you send post to North America or Australia. Post offices (correios) have varying opening hours, but in general post offices are open on weekdays from 08:30am-6:00pm and on Saturday mornings until 12:30. More information about offices, costs and other details can be found at the CTT website. It's a relatively efficient but also relatively slow postal service. If you want to send packages overseas, you'd better use international companies like FedEx, DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are competitively priced, fast and very reliable.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Madeira searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Madeira and areas nearby.
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