from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Madeira satellite image
Madeira satellite image
Waters Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago Madeira
Geographical location 32 ° 45 ′  N , 17 ° 0 ′  W Coordinates: 32 ° 45 ′  N , 17 ° 0 ′  W
Location of Madeira
length 57 km
width 22 km
surface 740.7 km²
Highest elevation Pico Ruivo
1862  m
Residents 254,368 (December 31, 2017)
343 inhabitants / km²
main place Funchal
Topographic map
Topographic map

Madeira [ ma'daɪ̯ɾa ] (from Portuguese madeira for "wood") is a Portuguese island , 951 km southwest of Lisbon and 737 km west of the Moroccan coast in the Atlantic Ocean . Together with the smaller island of Porto Santo and the uninhabited, smaller island group of Ilhas Desertas, it belongs to the Madeira archipelago , which together with the likewise uninhabited Ilhas Selvagens forms the autonomous region of Madeira .

The inhabitants of Madeira are called Madeirans, the adjective for Madeira is Madeiran. 94.5% of the population of Madeira belong to the Catholic Church . Madeira has around 250,000 inhabitants on an area of ​​801 km². Of this, 741 km² are on the main island of Madeira and 42.5 km² on the smaller island of Porto Santo, 14.2 km² on the Ilhas Desertas and 3.6 km² on the Ilhas Selvagens.

As part of Portugal, Madeira is part of the European Union . The time zone is GMT like in the metropolitan Portugal and corresponds to the coordinated world time in winter (UTC + 0, compared to Central Europe - 1 hour). As in the rest of Europe, summer time has been introduced for the period from the end of March to the end of October, so that the time difference remains unchanged throughout the year.



View from the east to the north coast
View from the cable car station at Achadas da Cruz

The entire island has a medium to high mountain character. Madeira's coast drops steeply into the sea. In the middle of the island rise the highest peaks. The highest mountain is the Pico Ruivo with 1862  m . Together with the Pico do Arieiro , the Pico das Torres and the Pico Grande, this forms the high mountains of the island. Here the lava rock is very rugged and shows interesting rock formations.

In the western part of the island is the Paul da Serra raised bog . It is a relatively flat plateau at an altitude of 1300  m to 1500  m above sea level. To the north of the plateau, the valley of the Ribeira da Janela joins the deeply cut valley of the longest river on the island at twelve kilometers.


The western part of the Ponta de São Lourenço on the eastern tip of Madeira
Madeira's rugged hinterland
Cabo Girão

Madeira is located on the African Plate and, like its neighbors, the Azores and the Canary Islands , is of volcanic origin and, along with the Canaries, Cape Verde and the Azores, belongs to the group of Macaronesian (“blissful”) islands. The Madeira Archipelago was created by a hot spot . The island is only the top quarter of the entire volcanic system. The cliffs drop below the surface of the water up to 4000 m to the sea floor.

Madeira was formed in several volcanically active phases, whereby the exact location of the respective crater can no longer be determined. During each volcanic phase there were eruption centers in several places on the island. Remnants of this phase can be seen in some places in the interior of the island, where pyroclastic rock is criss-crossed by eruptive dykes filled with basaltic material. In some places in the high mountains you can also see striking domes or rocky cliffs. These are former chimneys that, unlike the surrounding rock, have not yet been eroded.

The first phase of volcanic activity began around 18 million years ago and ended in the Pliocene around three million years ago. It was characterized by very strong eruptive eruptions. In the second phase of volcanic activity, which ended around 740,000 years ago, lava ejections and pyroclastic sediments enlarged the island's circumference, especially on the southern, western and southeastern edges. Two further volcanic phases formed the steep slopes in the north and south as well as the basalt coverings of the plateau. The last volcanically active phase began around 500,000 years ago. Since pieces of charcoal have been found in some rocks that could be dated using the radiocarbon method, it is estimated that this last phase did not end until 6450 years ago. The Grutas de São Vicente lava caves, now marketed as a tourist attraction, were created during this last phase of volcanic activity. They remained as a tubular cavity as the lava drained from the eruption cooled and solidified on the surface. Below the surface, on the other hand, the lava flowed through this tube at high temperatures and at high flow speeds until the volcano stopped spewing out any more material.

Calcareous sediments, formed from Miocene coral reefs, can also be found in some places on the island. Some of them contain fossilized snail shells, by means of which it was possible to prove that the climate in the Miocene on Madeira was significantly warmer than the climate today.

Since Madeira is a relatively young island, the rivers of the island usually have a very steep gradient, have numerous waterfalls and the rivers lead directly to the sea without meandering loops. At 1862  m, Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on the island and also one of the highest mountains in Portugal. Madeira's coast is steep and rocky. To the west of Câmara de Lobos , Cabo Girão , one of the highest cliffs in Europe, rises 580  m above the Atlantic.

Deep, fertile soils can be found in Madeira at the foot of slopes. They are called Fajãs by the inhabitants of Madeira and, like the equally fertile Achadas , the small high plateaus , are used as arable land. In the high mountains, on the other hand, the soils are very thin and occasionally only consist of stones and gravel.


Madeira has several mesoclimates . In the north of the island it rains frequently, while the south is subtropically warm. In the summer half-year the island is in the area of ​​influence of the northeast trade winds, in the winter half-year it is in the west wind belt. The prevailing wind comes from the northeast. It arises off the coast of Portugal and moves towards the Cape Verde Islands . This wind brings moisture with it and causes high waves on the north coast and often, especially in the morning, inconsistent weather on the east side of the island. With westerly winds it can be sunny and dry in the east of the island, while it rains in the south and west.

The average maximum daily temperature fluctuates between 19 degrees Celsius in January and February and 26 degrees Celsius in August and September.

In sophisticated, open irrigation systems, the levadas , water is fed from the rainier north to the south, to the plantations and gardens.

Climate diagram
J F. M. A. M. J J A. S. O N D.
Temperature in ° Cprecipitation in mm
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Madeira
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 19.1 19.1 19.5 19.6 20.9 22.3 24.3 25.6 25.7 24.2 22.0 20.0 O 21.9
Min. Temperature (° C) 13.1 12.8 13.0 13.4 14.6 16.5 18.0 18.9 18.9 17.6 15.6 13.9 O 15.5
Precipitation ( mm ) 103 87 64 39 19th 12 2 3 37 75 101 100 Σ 642
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 4.5 5.3 5.8 6.1 6.5 5.4 7.4 7.7 6.7 5.9 5.2 4.5 O 5.9
Rainy days ( d ) 8th 9 7th 5 3 2 0 1 3 6th 8th 9 Σ 61
Water temperature (° C) 18th 17th 17th 17th 18th 20th 21st 22nd 23 22nd 20th 19th O 19.5
Humidity ( % ) 71 70 68 68 70 73 73 72 71 71 70 70 O 70.6
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Flora and fauna

Natural colonization by plants and animals

The pride of Madeira (Echium candicans, Echium candicans )
The Madeira lizard is quite common on the island
Madeiran chaffinch

Since Madeira never had a connection to the mainland and is 630 kilometers west of the African coast, the island was colonized by plants and animals mainly through three mechanisms:

  • Passive drifting through wind: Through these, plant spores , flying seeds , spiders and microscopic animals such as unicellular organisms , wheel animals and tardigrade reached the island. Occasionally, however, land birds or bats are carried along by the wind and thus arrive on the island. As a result, golden chickens , warblers , blackbirds and chaffinches came to Madeira and have successfully reproduced here. Relative newcomers are the two butterfly species, the little cabbage white butterfly and the forest board game , which only arrived in Madeira in the last quarter of the 20th century and which have successfully reproduced here. The Madeira Cabbage White , a subspecies of the Great Cabbage White , which has not been proven with any certainty since 1977, is extremely rare or already extinct .
  • Passive drifting through ocean currents: both animals and plant seeds end up on islands on driftwood. Among the animals, it is mainly reptiles, insects, spiders, millipedes, woodlice and snails that can survive a long sea voyage. The ancestors of the endemic Madeira lizard made their way from Africa to Madeira in this way. The closest related species of this lizard is the spectacled lizard found in Morocco . Snakes are not present in Madeira.
  • Passive displacement by birds and bats: Most species of the Madeiran laurel forest can be traced back to the fact that fruit-eating birds carry plant seeds with them in their intestines. Birds and bats also have the seeds of Velcro and sticky fruits, as well as the eggs of insects and spiders, in their plumage and fur.

Seabirds and migratory birds also reach Madeira through active flying. The monk seal was the only mammal to swim to the island.

Species numbers

Species that were able to settle on Madeira have developed over time into subspecies and occasionally into separate species, so-called endemics . Originally native plants are about 793 higher plants, this includes the fern plants, bare seeds, dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous. About 118 of them are endemic to Madeira, and 69 other species are endemic to the Macaronesia region, i.e. in addition to Madeira also the Azores , Selvagens , the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands . The number of lower plants, i.e. algae, fungi, lichens and mosses, is significantly larger. This number is estimated to be around 1890. How many of them occur only in the Madeira Archipelago is unknown. The number of animal species living on Madeira is estimated at more than 3340, of which 900 are endemic species of Madeira or Macaronesia. The largest number of endemic species are beetles and snails. Only 20 higher vertebrates - mostly birds - are endemic species or subspecies.

Since humans settled Madeira, the composition of the species on Madeira has changed significantly. In addition to the approximately 793 higher plants originally found here, more than 540 other plant species have consciously or unconsciously been settled by humans. The number of introduced animal species is lower, but has had a significant impact on the composition of the species.

The flora

Madeira, part of the Holarctic flora, is advertised today as a flower island. Neither the Strelitzia nor the hydrangeas , the African love flowers , caplilies or other species with large, attractive flowers, which are often shown in travel guides or brochures from travel companies, were originally native to Madeira. More interesting for botanists than these introduced plants are the plant species originally occurring here, which are known as tertiary relics , as well as the endemic species that arose here.

The flora of the coastal zone
Tropical garden with azulejos in Monte

Madeira has only remnants of the original vegetation in the coastal zone, as human interventions have had a particularly strong impact here since human settlement. Trees are rare in this area, where temperatures are mild all year round and there is little rainfall. In the past, the dragon tree ( Dracaena draco ) was found here more often , a type of tree that has an unusual growth in thickness for monocot plants. This unusual tree can be seen more often in gardens and parks than in natural locations.

Low shrubs, herbs and succulent plants are more typical of the coastal region . Here, too, there are a number of plants that are restricted in their natural distribution to Madeira and Macaronesia. The fish-caught spurge ( Euphorbia piscatoria ), which can be up to two meters high and forms dense undergrowth in some places of the coastal cliffs, is striking . Like many milkweed plants , it also secretes a toxic milky sap. This was previously used by the Madeirans to catch fish in the shallow coastal waters. In the rocky regions there are two thick-leaf plants that only occur on Madeira. The glandular aeonium ( Aeonium glandulosum ) has specialized in locations on vertical rock walls, where it forms a leaf rosette up to 20 centimeters wide, but very flat. The glutinous aeonium ( Aeonium glutinosum ), on the other hand, grows into a small and strongly branched shrub. Both types are very common. Endemic composites are particularly numerous in this region . They include a number of species of everlasting flowers ( Helichrysum ), wild flowers ( Argyranthemum ), goose thistles ( Sonchus ) and Pippaus ( Crepis ).

The transition zone to the laurel forest, which can be found from around 300 meters above sea level, has more trees in contrast to the immediate coastal zone. Here can be found, among other bayberry , the first representatives of Barbusanos ( Apollonias barbujana ) and the Canary willow ( Salix canariensis ).

The laurel forest Laurisilva
Laurisilva in Madeira

Madeira's Laurisilva covers about 20% of the island's area and has a spread of about 150 square kilometers. It shows plant species that were also native to Europe in the climatically warmer Tertiary. While these plants disappeared in Europe during the ice ages, this plant society was able to survive in part on Madeira.

Because of its uniqueness, this area is under the protection of UNESCO.

Due to the mist precipitation, the forests are very humid.

The characteristic tree species include the Azores or Canary laurel ( Laurus azorica ), an Isoplexis species, the Barbusano ( Apollonias barbujana ), the Canary holly ( Ilex canariensis ), the tree heather ( Erica arborea ), the Madeira elder ( Sambucus lanceolata ) and the Madeira laurel ( Persea indica ). Ferns and mosses are mainly found in the undergrowth of the laurel forest. Originally non-native eucalyptus forests have also been created through afforestation.

Madeira's heather forest

The transition zone between the laurel forest of Madeira and the high mountains is called heather forest. Since it grows in places that are significantly more exposed to wind and sun than the laurel forest, the plants found here rarely exceed four meters and remain bush-like low in some places. All species that occur here can also be found in the laurel forest. Here, however, the tree heath and dominate heather ( Erica scoparia ). The Madeira blueberry - an endemic shrub that can grow up to six meters high - is also common here.

The flora of the high altitudes

The higher mountains of Madeira are characterized by barren and very thin soils. Erosion damage can be seen in many places. As larger tree and shrub species, in addition to Madeira bilberry and tree heather, the Madeira rowan tree ( Sorbus maderensis ), the yew tree ( Taxus baccata ) and the cedar juniper ( Juniperus cedrus ) can be found in protected areas . The Madeira bell heather ( Erica maderensis ) is one of the plants adapted to the special conditions . The Madeira eyebright ( Odontites hollianus ) and the yellow-flowered Madeira violet ( Viola paradoxa ) are among the rarest mountain plants in Madeira . The high plateau Paul da Serra was mostly overgrown with cedar-juniper before human settlement. Deforestation have led to almost exclusively grasses, bracken and introduced in Madeira here gorse can be seen.

At the levada near Rabaçal


Early history

According to Diodorus , Madeira was founded in the 6th century BC. Discovered by the Phoenicians . Pliny the Elder reports in his natural history of an island Atlantis opposite the prominent cape of the High Atlas, which can be identified with Madeira. Plutarch probably already mentioned the two islands of Madeira and Porto Santo in his biography of Sertorius . Pliny calls the archipelago the Purple Islands. When Claudius Ptolemy , the main island of Madeira "Erythia" and the more northerly smaller island of Porto Santo with "PAENA" is called. However, there are no indications of constant visits or settlement during this time. The so-called Medici map from 1351 shows three islands off the African coast, Porto Séo, Deserta and Isola de Lolegname.

middle Ages

The year 1419 is considered to be the year of rediscovery by the Portuguese navigator João Gonçalves Zarco . However, it is known that as early as the 14th century ships regularly docked here on their return voyages from the Canaries . From 1420 Madeira was settled by the Portuguese at the instigation of Henry the Navigator . Madeira is therefore the first island outside Europe that is permanently settled by Europeans. The simple settlers came mainly from the Portuguese regions of Algarve and Minho , but nobles and specialists from France, Italy, Spain, England and Flanders also settled on the islands. Slaves from the Guinea Coast, the Canary Islands and later from North America were brought to the island. The precious laurel wood was mainly used for shipbuilding .

Traditional Madeiran farmhouse in Santana

In just a few decades, the archipelago was successfully colonized. Building on the available resources of wood and fish, grain and wine industries were introduced and cattle breeding was carried out very quickly. The land required for this was obtained by slash and burn . The fire that Zarco had set for it in 1420 is said to have raged seven years later. The cultivation of sugar cane imported from Sicily also played an increasingly important role. The first water mill for processing sugar cane was built as early as 1452, and the first irrigation canals ( levadas ) were built at almost the same time . By the middle of the 15th century Madeira had risen to become the center of Portuguese sugar cane cultivation, which satisfied a large part of the (still small) European sugar demand. In 1456 exports went to Bristol, England .

Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1478 as a sugar trader. The abundant fertility and the great prosperity attracted many Europeans from 1480 onwards. Especially Italian and Flemish traders settled on the island. Jeasnin Essmerandt became the most important representative of the Flemish community of Madeira and linked himself to the local aristocracy through a clever marriage policy.

Pope Leo X raised Madeira to its own diocese in 1514 , which in future was to be responsible for all overseas Portuguese possessions. In 1515 Madeira had 19,000 inhabitants, including around 3,000 slaves. After 1521, the island's depleted soil yielded increasingly poor yields and there was a drastic decline in sugar cane production. Many plantations have been converted into vineyards . Madeira became an exporter of wines in the 16th century . The vines originally came from Cyprus , Crete and Sicily.

Portugal was linked with Spain in a personal union in 1580. Madeira administration has been centralized. The Portuguese revolted against Spain in 1640 and became an independent kingdom again. In Madeira, the Portuguese kept the central administration of the island introduced by the Spanish. Madeira was an important stop for sailors to the New World , America or India . Madeira was also a hub for slave traders coming from West Africa .

English influence

In the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668, Portugal finally regained its independence, but had to make numerous concessions to England. English traders settled in Madeira to export wine. The Portuguese were not allowed to export wine. During the Napoleonic Wars, Madeira was occupied by England from 1801 to 1814 to protect the island from the French. Other English families settled on the island.

Modern times

As a result of powdery mildew and phylloxera plagues , which destroyed most of the vineyards, numerous people left the island from 1852 onwards. From 1860 onwards, embroidery became more and more popular and the handicrafts were exported to England.

From November 19, 1921, the deposed Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary , Charles I , and his wife, Empress Zita , were in exile in Madeira. Karl died here on April 1, 1922 of pneumonia.

After a military coup in 1926, the Estado Novo was established in Portugal . After a “hunger revolt” was put down in 1931, numerous Madeirans were banished to the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands .

Memorial stone evacuating residents of Gibraltar

From July 21 to August 13, 1940, 2000 residents of Gibraltar were evacuated to Madeira, who were accommodated in hotels and other accommodations in Funchal until the end of the Second World War.

After the first regular flight connection between England and Madeira by seaplanes was started in 1947, an airport was opened in Porto Santo in 1960 and another in Santa Cruz in 1964.

The military dictatorship in Portugal ended in 1974 with the Carnation Revolution . Madeira received internal autonomy in 1976 with extensive rights of self-government (own government and parliament). In the first free elections, there was a majority for the Christian-conservative Social Democratic Party PSD of the Catholic newspaper publisher Alberto João Jardim , who was president of the island government from 1978 to 2015 with a brief interruption in 2007.

Portugal and Madeira have been a member of the European Union since 1986. Above all, the construction of new roads is subsidized. The number of vacationers rose from 180,000 in 1976 to 500,000 in 1995 and to around one million in 2005.

On February 20, 2010, the main island was hit by a severe storm. After hours of rain and storms, as well as subsequent floods and landslides, at least 40 people were killed and 120 others were injured. The water masses were mainly concentrated in the densely populated southern coastal region. Especially in Funchal and the places up to the airport they tore trees, rubble, mud, masts of all kinds and many automobiles from the mountains and slopes into the depths. In the lower streets, parks and squares of Funchal, the water temporarily rose several meters high and penetrated buildings. Some districts, exposed hillside settlements and remote villages became inaccessible due to destroyed or impassable roads.

In August 2016, a forest fire destroyed around 150 houses near Funchal and killed at least three people. A 23-year-old was suspected of having started the fire. More than 1000 people were evacuated.

Administrative division

The archipelago forms a Portuguese Autonomous Region Madeira (Região Autónoma da Madeira), which in turn is divided into eleven districts (municípios) .


Administrative division of Madeira
circle Number of
Density of
population / km²
Calheta 8th 11,521 111.51 103 3101
Câmara de Lobos 5 35,666 52.14 684 3102
Funchal 10 111,892 76.13 1,470 3103
Machico 5 21,828 68.33 319 3104
Ponta do Sol 3 8,862 46.18 192 3105
Porto Moniz 4th 2.711 82.93 33 3106
Porto Santo 1 5,482 42.59 129 3201
Ribeira Brava 4th 13,375 65.41 204 3107
Santa Cruz 5 43.005 81.50 528 3108
Santana 6th 7,719 95.56 81 3109
Sao Vicente 3 5,721 78.83 73 3110
Madeira 54 267,782 801.11 334 3

Largest communities


local community Residents
Funchal 92,800
Câmara de Lobos 34,300
Machico 12,900
Caniço 14,632
Camacha 9,563
Santa Cruz 6,000
Ribeira Brava 5,915


In comparison with the GDP per capita in the EU expressed in purchasing power parity , the region achieved an index of 72 (EU-28 = 100) (2015). In 2017 the unemployment rate was 10.4%.

Market in Funchal


View from Pico do Arieiro to Pico das Torres
Madeira flower island
Natural swimming pools in Porto Moniz

Visitors from Great Britain predominate among the guests especially in Funchal and Câmara de Lobos, where Churchill painted. He stayed at the luxury hotel Reid's Palace , which opened in 1891 , is one of the Leading Hotels of the World and the most famous hotel in Madeira far beyond the island.

Madeira is a traditional holiday destination for the British. On Madeira, however, you also meet tourists from all over Europe - but not too many in total and then mainly east of the capital (Funchal), in Caniço . The ratio of British to German visitors has shifted because the number of German tourists has risen sharply over the past three years. There are flights to Funchal from Germany on three to four days of the week (as of 2007).

Madeira is known as a hiking paradise, with spring to summer pleasant temperatures all year round. Along the levadas (small water channels, especially in the northern part of the island), moorish slaves laid paths for maintenance and care a good 300 years ago, which are still well-maintained as hiking trails and provide grandiose insights and views into the beauty of the island. The core area is the area between Porto da Cruz and Santana in the north ( UNESCO World Heritage Site). The mountain hiking route between the third highest peak Pico do Arieiro and the highest mountain Pico Ruivo is also remarkable . This hike should be started early in the morning - around noon the mountains are often in the clouds.

There are hardly any beaches in Madeira. In the last (2006) years, however, sheltered bathing bays were built. These are either fortified natural rock bathing bays (for example Lido Galomar in Caniço), natural rock bathing pools like in Porto Moniz or small artificial sandy beaches ( Calheta ). Caniço has had an underwater national park where you can dive for 25 years .

A total of around one million tourists visited the island in 2005, with around 200,000 arriving by cruise ship and therefore only staying briefly.


Botanical Garden, Funchal in the background

power supply

Since Madeira has no fossil fuels, it is dependent on transportation from the mainland. Only finished distillates such as oil and gas are transported to the island. 70% of the electricity is generated from oil, 27% from three hydropower plants fed by levadas and 3% from wind turbines .


View of the expressway at Machico
Expressway bridge near Funchal
Achadas da Cruz, Madeira; Drive to the Fajã da Quebrada Nova
Rocha do Navio, Santana, Madeira. Lower left valley station, mountain station in the right saddle on the ridge
Funchal airport

Road network

At the end of the 1990s, Madeira's previously inadequate road network was heavily modernized using EU funds from the regional fund, and an express road network was set up to relieve the narrow and sometimes steep streets of the towns. Around 140 tunnels and, in some cases, complex bridges and numerous slope support structures were built for this road network . The topographically difficult island is thus largely able to cope with modern road traffic, especially in its southern part, which is heavily frequented by tourists. Of particular importance is the approximately 42-kilometer-long motorway-like expressway Via rápida 1 (VR1), which starts north of Ribeira Brava and then runs parallel to the south coast past Câmara de Lobos , Funchal and Machico to Caniçal and thereby opens up the airport. The number of cars grew in the course of urbanization and rising incomes from what was once low from around 1975 to the European average. The license plates begin with M.

Public bus transport

There are several regular bus companies in Madeira. Horarios do Funchal operates the city bus network of Funchal with many lines and a relatively dense offer. Even many of the capital's side streets are used. The entire overland network is geared towards Funchal. In the east of the island there is a dense network of lines that often use the motorway to Machico. The west and north of the island are poorly connected due to the sparse population. The few buses a day use the old mountain roads and therefore require a multiple of the travel time that can be reached on the tunnel roads. The highlands in the interior of the island, which are particularly interesting for tourists, cannot be reached by bus.

Rail transport

From 1893 to 1943 there was a rack railway from Funchal to Monte, the Caminho de Ferro do Monte . There is no railroad.


There are six cable cars in Madeira . The two larger ones are in Funchal. They connect the old town ( Teleférico Funchal-Monte ) and, since 2005, the botanical garden ( Teleférico do Jardim Botânico da Madeira ) with Monte.

There are also five smaller cable cars that were originally built to give farmers easier access to their fields and to transport agricultural products or to facilitate access to a beach:

  • The Achadas da Cruz cable car (Porto Moniz) connects Achadas da Cruz with the beach.
  • The Rancho cable car (near Cabo Girão) has been in operation since August 2003 and connects Rancho with the region of Fajãs do Cabo Girão with two cabins with six seats each.
  • The cable car to the Rocha do Navio Natural Park is located on the north coast near Santana.
  • The cable car at Ponta do Garajau with two cabins that leads from the statue of Christo Rei to the beach.
  • The Fajã dos Padros cable car with two cabins was built in 2016 to bridge a distance of around 300 meters along a steep slope.

air traffic

Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo Airport in Santa Cruz in the east of the island, which opened in 1963, is Madeira's main transport hub. In 2000 the runway was extended to 2,781 meters for 520 million euros, which means that the airport can also be approached by wide-body aircraft. 2.3 million passengers used the airport in 2005, with the maximum capacity being 3.5 million passengers per year. Since the sloping terrain north of the airport did not allow for any extension, a 1000-meter-long bridge structure was built, which supports the runway with 180 concrete pillars.

Despite the extended runway, the airport is still only allowed to be approached by pilots with special instruction. The approach from the south-westerly direction still requires the highest level of concentration on the part of the pilots, as shortly before touchdown you get dangerously close to the built-up slopes and wind shear frequently occurs. There is also no instrument landing system .

Madeira is about four hours by plane from Germany and one and a half hours by plane from Lisbon .


Until the expansion of the road network, coastal shipping on Madeira played an important role in the transport of goods and people, as transport by ship was often much easier. Until the end of the 19th century, coastal shipping was done with sailing and rowing boats, then small steamships such as the Gavião took over this task .

For a long time there were no regular ferry connections from Europe or the African mainland to Madeira. Only between Madeira and the neighboring island of Porto Santo does a ferry of the Porto Santo Line operate daily . Since July 9, 2006, another ferry has been connecting Madeira with the Canary Island of Gran Canaria . From June 2008 to spring 2012 there was a weekly car ferry from / to Portimao (Algarve / Portugal) with Funchal. The crossing to Porto Santo takes about two to three hours, to Gran Canaria about 14 hours.

Madeira is a popular destination for cruise ships , which mainly head for the port of Funchal in the spring months. All cargo traffic on the island is handled through the port of Caniçal .

Madeira is often a stopover for sailors when crossing the Atlantic . In addition to the marina in Funchal, new facilities were built in many places.

Tax relief

A variety of financial incentives are provided to facilitate business relocation. Until 2012 there was a tax-free zone on the island, since 2013 the corporation tax has been five percent and is therefore called a tax haven . The Swatch Group was one of the companies recruited in this way (a total of 2,700 companies) . On paper, the Swiss watch company was at times the island's second largest exporter of goods. The low tax policy, which is approved by the EU Commission until 2027, should stimulate the economy in Madeira. In fact, large international corporations and the wealthy benefit, as a cross-media research by Bayerischer Rundfunk BR together with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia , the French newspaper Le Monde and the Austrian broadcasting company ORF shows.

Art and museums


Azulejo with a historical scene, Funchal

Azulejos are mosaics made of mostly square, brightly painted and glazed ceramic tiles. These weatherproof tiles can be seen on public buildings, house facades and churches, also on interior walls. Often old flower, bird and ship motifs are used.

The azulejos were first introduced to Portugal around 1500 from Moorish workshops in southern Spain. The first Portuguese ceramic factories came into being in the 16th century. From the 17th century it became fashionable via the Netherlands to decorate ceramic products in blue and white based on the Chinese model. Most of the azulejos in Madeira's churches date from this period.

Modern azulejos can be seen in the main post office in Funchal and in the palace gardens of Monte.

Basket weaving

Wicker basketry has a long tradition in Madeira. Due to its flexibility, the willow rod is suitable for fine and light objects as well as for the manufacture of furniture such as baskets or armchairs.


  • Fotomuseum Vicente , Funchal (permanently closed since May 5 2014)
  • Cultural history museum in the Quinta das Cruzes, Funchal
  • Museu de Arte Sacra (Funchal)
  • Museu Henrique e Francisco Franco, Funchal
  • Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Funchal
  • Frederico de Freitas Collections, Funchal
  • Embroidery Museum in the Instituto do Vinho, do Bordado e do Artesanato da Madeira, Funchal
  • Museu da Electricidade, Funchal
  • Madeira Story Center, Funchal
  • CR7 Museu, Funchal

Football clubs

The Madalena do Mar Church in Madeira, the hypothetical burial place of Władysław of Varna, King of Poland, Hungary and Croatia
The Villa Quinta Bettencourt in Funchal

Famous visitors and residents

According to a Portuguese legend , the King of Poland, Hungary and Croatia Władysław survived the Battle of Varna in 1444 and then settled on the island of Madeira under the name Henrique Alemão. Christopher Columbus lived here before the discovery of America in 1492 and was married in Madeira to Dona Felipa Perestrelo e Moniz , the daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo , governor of the island of Porto Santo . Whether his son Diego Columbus was born here or in Lisbon is a matter of dispute.

The Austrian Novara expedition anchored off Madeira from June 8th to 17th, 1857. Austria's Empress Elisabeth ( Sisi ) (1837–1898) spent six months in Madeira in the winter of 1860/61 to recover from a lung disease.

In 1879 the musician Joao Fernandez emigrated on the emigrant ship "Ravenscrag" because of the collapse of the sugar cane market from Madeira to Honolulu on Oahu (Hawaii). With him the Braguinha , a small four-string guitar from Madeira, came to the island. The Hawaiian ukulele developed from it within a short time .

From September 6th to 9th, 1910, the Antarctic expedition , led by Roald Amundsen , made its last stopover with its ship Fram on the way to the South Pole , before setting off for the Bay of Whales . The Terra Nova Expedition of Robert Falcon Scott , which was to end tragically in 1912, laid in the summer of 1910, from 23 to 26 June a stopover on the island one.

The last emperor of Austria, Charles I , was founded in 1921 with his wife Zita (1892-1989) to Madeira from exile banished. He died of flu on April 1, 1922, practically penniless, in Monte above Funchal and was buried in the local church of Nossa Senhora do Monte .

The Polish statesman Józef Piłsudski stayed on Madeira from December 21, 1930 to March 22, 1931. A memorial plaque in the Villa Quinta Bettencourt in the suburb of Funchal commemorates his stay at the spa .

The British statesman Winston Churchill also visited Madeira. He stayed at the fashionable Hotel Reid's Palace in Funchal. Above Câmara de Lobos there is a memorial plaque that reminds that Churchill painted some pictures in this place.

Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Funchal in 1985 and began his career with CD Nacional Madeira until he moved to the mainland in 1997 at the age of twelve to play for Sporting Lisbon . On December 15, 2013, he opened his own museum in Funchal.


Espada and Espetada

Black scabbardfish in the
Funchal fish market
Typical preparation of the Espada with bananas
Fruit from Anona da Madeira

One of the original specialties of Madeiran cuisine is the black scabbard fish , which is called Espada here . It is usually served as a fried fillet, typically with bananas cut in half. The scabbardfish live meso- to bathypelagic at a depth of 200 to 1700 m in the North Atlantic between Bermuda, Newfoundland, Labrador, Disko Island, Iceland, the Orkney Islands and Madeira as well as over several submarine mountains in between. It rises into the open water at night and sinks again in the morning. Another six very similar species, which have been delimited since Lowe , make the genus almost circumglobal.

Not to be confused with the Espada is the Espetada , a meat skewer about one meter long. Traditionally, the skewer is made of laurel wood. Since the laurel forest is now under nature protection, traditional preparation is usually not used.


In the October to December chestnuts (are chestnuts ) offered on charcoal are roasted and doused with sea water.

Madeira wine

The Madeira wine , often abbreviated to "Madeira", is a well known specialty, which is also used in the cuisine. At least as well-known as the starting product is the Madeira sauce prepared on its basis .

According to the grape variety used, the following four types are distinguished: from dry Sercial to Verdelho (semi-dry) and Boal (Bual) (semi-sweet) to sweet Malvasia (Malmsey). In addition, the Terrantez grape variety is rarely found , which, like Verdelho, is classified as semi-dry. The harvest of the wine begins in mid-August and lasts around six weeks. Around 5.3 million bottles are filled each year. The alcoholic fermentation is first stopped with high percentage alcohol ( brandy ), so that a certain residual sweetness is retained in the wine. The wine is then further treated by heating in so-called Estufas and stored in the barrel for several years, but this only applies to wine qualities that are older than five years. For the three-year quality, the Estufa process is brought about in a stainless steel tank. In contrast to sherry , which is often further refined using the solera process, the wine of a vintage remains untouched. As a pre-oxidized wine, it does not gain from the subsequent bottle storage, but can be stored for a good 100 years if the cork is replaced every 15 years. Even an opened bottle of Madeira is very durable and can still be drunk after a year without any loss of quality. The alcohol content is between 18 and 21% by volume.


Madeira's national drink is the poncha , a mixture with a sweet taste made up of one third each of sugar cane schnapps (Aguardente-Cana), honey and lemon juice. In addition to the classic variant with lemon, the poncha is also offered with passion fruit, orange, tamarillo or in the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos with absinthe .


Madeira Island is famous for the quality of the anona fruits (cherimoya) . The Festa da Anona (Annona Festival) is traditional and takes place annually in the parish of Faial. This event promotes the consumption of these fruits and their derivatives such as liqueurs, puddings, ice cream and smoothies.

See also


  • Peter Sziemer: A Brief Natural History of Madeira. Ribeiro, Funchal 2000, ISBN 972-9177-30-9 ; English version ISBN 972-9177-31-7 .
  • Alfred Wirthmann: On the climatic geomorphology of Madeira and other Atlantic islands. In: Karlsruhe Geographical Hefts No. 2, Karlsruhe 1970.
  • R. Jardim, D. Francisco: Flora endémica da Madeira / Flore Endémique de Madère / Endemic flora of Madeira / Endemische Flora Madeiras , Muchia, Funchal 2000, ISBN 972-8622-00-7 (Portuguese / French / English / German).

Web links

Commons : Madeira  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Madeira  - travel guide
Wiktionary: Madeira  - Explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Anuário Estatístico da Região Autónoma da Madeira - 2017. p. 88.
  2. Sziemer, p. 17
  3. Sziemer, p. 27
  5. See also Sziemer, p. 38 ff.
  6. Sziemer, p. 43
  7. Man drives butterfly into extinction and it could be bad news for us too
  8. The number of species fluctuates slightly depending on the author, here the investigation by Sziemer is followed, see p. about p. 48
  9. Sziemer, p. 125 ff.
  10. Sziemer, p. 73
  11. Diodorus, 5: 19-20.
  12. Pliny the Elder: Naturalis historia , 6,36.
  13. Briton killed in Madeira flash floods on BBC from 20:34 GMT, Sunday 21 February 2010, accessed on 21 February 2010
  14. Situation in southern France "out of control": 1,800 firefighters on duty August 11, 2016, accessed August 11, 2016.
  15. Eurostat. Retrieved August 22, 2018 .
  16. Unemployment rate, by NUTS 2 regions. Retrieved November 5, 2018 .
  17. Handelszeitung : Swatch Group: Paradies auf Zeit , dated February 24, 2011, loaded on February 14, 2017
  18. Tages-Anzeiger : Swatch withdraws from Madeira tax haven , November 24, 2011, loaded on February 14, 2017
  19. ^ BR Data, BR Research: Money Island . In: BR . ( [accessed on March 14, 2017]).
  20. HENRIQUE ALEMÃO, CAVALEIRO DE SANTA CATARINA E LADISLAU III A Lenda ... ( Memento of December 22, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  21. Jornaldamadeira of October 27, 2009: Polacos homenageiam marechal na Madeira
  22. Article in the FAZ
  23. Ronaldo opens his museum on December 15th
  24. Caderno de Especificações - Anona da Madeira - Denominação de Origem ( Portuguese , PDF) In: Produtos Tradicionais Portugueses . Agripérola, Cooperativa Agrícola CRL. 1998. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  25. Anona da Madeira DOP ( Portuguese ) In: Produtos Tradicionais Portugueses . Direção-Geral de Agricultura e Desenvolvimento Rural. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  26. Festa da Anona ( Portuguese ) In: Visit Madeira . Direcção Regional do Turismo da Madeira. 2019. Retrieved March 18, 2019.