Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Portugal. The capital of Madeira is Funchal, hometown of Cristiano Ronaldo, located on the main island’s south coast.
Atlantic islands, such as Madeira, were known before their formal discovery and settlement, as the islands were shown on maps as early as 1339. In 1418, two Portuguese captains under service to Prince Henry the Navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, were driven off course by a storm to an island which they named Porto Santo (English: holy harbour) in gratitude for divine deliverance from a shipwreck. The following year, an organized expedition, under the captaincy of Zarco, Vaz Teixeira, and Bartolomeu Perestrello, traveled to the island to claim it on behalf of the Portuguese Crown. Subsequently, the new settlers observed “a heavy black cloud suspended to the southwest. Their investigation revealed it to be the larger island they called Madeira.
The island was settled by farmers from the Minho region (north of Portugal) meaning that Madeirenses, as they are called, are ethnically Portuguese, though they have developed their own distinct regional identity and cultural traits. The region has a total population of just under 270,000, the majority of whom live on the main island of Madeira where the population density is 337/km²; meanwhile only around 5,000 live on the Porto Santo island where the population density is 112/km².
The archipelago is just under 400 kilometers (250 mi) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands. Since 1976, it has been one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being the Azores, located to the northwest). It includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas, administered together with the separate archipelago of the Savage Islands. The region has political and administrative autonomy and it is an integral part of the European Union.
Madeira has been classified as a Mediterranean climate. Based on differences in sun exposure, humidity, and annual mean temperature, there are clear variations between north- and south-facing regions, as well as between some islands. The islands are strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream and Canary Current, giving mild year-round temperatures.
Today, it is a popular year-round resort, being visited every year by about 1.4 million tourists, almost five times its population. The region is noted for its Madeira wine, gastronomy, historical and cultural value, flora and fauna, landscapes which are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and embroidery artisans. Its annual New Year celebrations feature the largest fireworks show in the world, as officially recognized by Guinness World Records in 2006.
Discovering Madeira is finding another side of Portugal.