Posted by: Author | January 9, 2013

Madeira Overview

Madeira Island is known as the Pearl of the Atlantic, the ultimate Floating Garden and Paradise.

Here in the Atlantic Ocean, not too far from the centre of Europe, we find the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Ilhas Desertas (Chão Islet, Deserta Grande, Bugio).

The Madeiran archipelago is famous for its friendly people, exceptional natural beauty and mild climate. Madeira Islands are just a short trip from Europe, to a destination where you can combine holidays on the beach, in the mountains or in the city.Madeira and Porto Santo are the ideal places to relax and restore the balance of mind and body that you need to face the stress of daily life. The islands of Ilhas Desertas is famous for its quite landscape without any tourist on it.The soil in Madeira is of volcanic origin, consisting mainly of basalt, trachytes and trachydolerites, tufa, scoria (clinker) and conglomerates.
Over time, the volcanic rock disintegrates under the erosion of sun and rain and produces a variety of soils. In general terms, these soils are clayey, acid, rich in organic material, magnesium and iron, poor in potassium and adequate in phosphorus.

Basalt predominates at lower altitudes, and is the origin of more or less clayey dark or reddish-brown soils. Trachytes are grey or dark-grey rocks found above 300 metres. Trachydolerites are lighter coloured and are found at very high altitudes. Tufa is solidified volcanic mud and occurs in two forms: pedra mole, which is yellow, and cantaria de forno, which is red. They have a variable composition. Scoria is solidified cellular lava, dark (sometimes purple) in colour, and porous in texture. Conglomerates are formed from basalt and tufa detritus.

Madeira is also very famous for its natural environment, where the most important feature is the Laurissilva Forest, a relic of the Tertiary Age, which has been classified by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site. It is no less well known for its year-round outdoor activities.

Map Madeira Archipelago

Some interesting facts about Madeira

Madeira is an island 650 km west of Morocco. The landscape remembers its volcanic origin, but don’t worry – volcanic activity has ceased. Madeira is but 57 km long and 22 km broad.

Because of its pleasant subtropical climate Madeira has been a tourist attraction for many years now. It is mild during winter, and during summer it never gets very hot (rarely above 30°C) like in the Mediterranean, because there’s a cool breeze from the Atlantic, where a branch of the Gulf Stream ensures stabile temperatures all year round.

The predominant wind comes from the North, and most of the rain falls on the island’s North side, where the winds collide with the mountains. The Southern side basks in the sun and a cool breeze is sucked in from the sea when the heated air rises.

Madeira has ca. 267.000 inhabitants (2011), of which the majority lives in and around the main city Funchal. The language is Portuguese, but as a tourist you get along fine with English. In 2005 ca. 1.000.000 tourists visited the island, and tourism is the main source of income. Other important industries are fishing and agriculture (winemaking). Off hand you’d think that fishing would be lucrative at an island like Madeira, but because of the volcanic origin the water gets very deep not far from land, and there aren’t that many species. If you like fish do try the island’s speciality, Espada, which is a deep-sea fish caught only here and in Japan. Fresh tuna and swordfish are other delicacies. Madeira’s fortified wine is famous. You don’t see or taste locally produced table wine – in supermarkets and at restaurants the table wine is Portuguese. Did you know, Madeira was the location where the movie Moby Dick (author Herman Melville) was filmed, with Gregory Peck? In 1956, John Huston came here to shoot the opening scenes of Moby Dick, but its star, Gregory Peck, became so seasick that they had to shoot the rest in a studio. Nowadays the Museu da Baleia explains how conservation has replaced whaling.
Moby Dick
The island’s mild climate and a water temperature that never goes below 17ºC mean that you can be on the go all the time. Its traditions and customs, visible in its old buildings, museums and churches and even in regional products like its wine and embroidery, have lasted for centuries and deserve your very special attention.
These islands also have a nature reserve, where we can find some of the rarest flora on the planet. They are also considered a bird sanctuary because of their ideal nesting conditions for sea birds. The island of Madeira brings together so many elements that help make it the ideal destination for walking holidays.
The combination of mild weather, incredible scenery, and the abundant flora that humbles us into submission to Madeira’s magnificence. Every flower and colour breathing energy and life.Porto Santo is 40 km from Madeira and is quite simply heaven on earth! This island, with a 9‑kilometre beach of golden sand washed by warm, crystalline waters is the ideal refuge for a quiet, relaxing holiday. For more information on Porto Santo read further below on this webpage.As for the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens Islands, take a trip there and, in a few hours, you will get to know some of the rarest fauna and flora on the planet.The Desertas Islands are about 35 km southwest of Funchal and have been made a biogenetic reserve, which, today, is that last Atlantic refuge of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), the rarest seal in the world.
A rejuvenating experience not easily forgotten by anyone who has enjoyed the excitement of Levada walking. One of the defining holiday activities of Madeira is Levada walking. For most visitors to the subtropical island Levadas do not need any introduction. For many, however, it is an exciting new experience that adds an unusual twist to the common fare available at many other holiday destinations.The Levadas are public property and can be enjoyed by most people as a course to walk along by. More importantly, the Levadas are the systems of irrigation and supplies of potable water to most of the island.Their protection and status cannot be diminished. It is incumbent on the visitor to protect and not disturb the sensitive “lifeblood” of Madeira: to recognise the waterways as part of Madeira’s agricultural infrastructure, as part of its utility as a water supply, and as part of the Madeiran tourism economy.
Along with these important reminders the local government has made attempts to qualify the status of the Levadas internationally as a world wide heritage asset – a programme sponsored by the United Nations.
The Madeira Archipelago has four harbours that can cater to small, medium-sized or large vessels.
The ports in the capital, Funchal and Porto Moniz and Seixal on the north coast of Madeira and the one on neighbouring Porto Santo are all surrounded by delightful scenery.

Madeira International Airport in Santa Cruz is the main gateway to the region and is used regularly by the main European airlines. Its runway is an impressive feat of engineering.

Madeira Airport - Funchal - Santa Cruz

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