Autonomous Region of Madeira Attractions Madeira (Archipélago da Madeira)
and many more.PopulationThe population, originally purely Portuguese and still exclusively Portuguese speaking, has in the course of the centuries received an admixture of Moorish, Jewish, Italian and African blood, particularly on the south coast.
The high population density (320 to the sq.km, or 829 to the sq.mi) and the predominance of large landholdings have long been reflected in a high emigration rate, particularly to South America (Brazil). Since Portugal joined the European Union a number of these emigrants have returned.HistoryAccording to legend Madeira was part of the lost kingdom of Atlantis. The islands were known to the Phoenicians, and in the time of King Juba II of Mauretania (first century B.C.) they were called the Insulae Purpuriae, after the purple dye produced there. When they were rediscovered by the Portu guese navigator Joao Gonçalves Zarco in 1419 they were uninhabited and covered with dense forest, hence the name Ilha da Madeira island of timber.After the Portuguese colonization Madeira prospered by the growing of sugar cane. Together with mainland Portugal and the Azores it was under Spanish rule from 1580 to 1640. Between 1807 and 1814 it was occupied by Britain. The influx of tourists (at first mainly British) began in the middle of the 19th century and has grown steadily since then.EconomyOnly about a third of the island's area can be cultivated. Soon after Madeira's rediscovery in the 16th century deforestation by burning was begun, leading to the almost total destruction of the natural forest. Thereafter centuries of effort went into building up thousands of terraces (poios) on the hillsides which now constitute the major part of the cultivable land and give the island its characteristic appearance from the sea.Since 1452 sugar cane was one of Madeira's most important products. In the 20th C., however it declined considerably in importance. Today the main crops include bananas, sweet potatoes, grain and early vegetables of all kinds. Much fruit is also grown, including, in addition to melons and grapefruit, such less usual species as the sugar apple or sweet sop (anona), passion fruit (maracuja) and loquat.The intensive use of even the smallest cultivable area is only possible because of the irrigation system that has been in place for centuries whereby countless canals (levadas) carry the water from the north of the island, where rain is plentiful, to the south which is drier but where the farming is more intense.Further contributions to the economy are made by cattle farming, and the dairy produce associated with it, and, along the coasts, fishing for tuna, mackerel, etc.Needlework has been an additional source of income since the mid 19th C. when the craft was introduced by an Englishwoman named Miss Phelps. Nowadays Madeira's internationally famous embroidery employs some 30,000 women, most of them working at home. Baskets made in the workshops at Camacha are mostly for export (mainly to South America and South Africa).TourismTourism nowadays is another more substantial factor in the economy. The first prosperous English visitors came to Madeira in the mid 19th C., and they still come in large numbers today, but the island is also a popular winter destination for Scandinavians and Germans. Madeira has around 20,000 hotel bedspaces altogether, many of them in the de luxe category. About 350,000 holidaymakers overnight here in a year, plus a further 60,000 or so cruise passengers.The attraction for most visitors to Madeira is the pleasant climate and the luxuriant vegetation, but many also come for the unique opportunities for walking that exist on the island because of the narrow paths installed for the repair of the levadas. These paths now function as a network of walks, many of them easy to use and lined with flowers, others only a foot's width and difficult for even the most experienced walker. As Madeira cannot boast much in the way of beaches it is not really a suitable holiday destination for families with children or for those who love to spend much of their time on the beach. The only good beaches are to be found on the neighboring island of Porto Santo.Excursions on MadeiraMadeira's roads are good, albeit often narrow and winding. Some byroads are paved rather than asphalted, making it advisable to keep average speeds down to about 30kmph/20mph.
Some 23 nautical miles northeast of Madeira (by boat, several times weekly, 3 hours; by air, several times daily, 20minutes) is the table shaped island of Porto Santo (pop. 3,000; highest point Pico do Facho, 517m/1,696ft), surrounded by five small rocky islets. Porto Santo, 12km/7.5mi long by 6km/4miles wide, covering 42sq.km/16sq.mi, is very different in character from the main island of Madeira. Its sandy uplands and aridity make farming very difficult for its inhabitants. Tourists seem little interested in the barren island, and there are only a few holiday bungalows and flats.
In the little port of Porto Santo, or Vila Baleira, on the southeast coast, the chief settlement on the island, is the house where Columbus, whose father in law was the first governor, lived in about 1479.
Porto Santo has the only long beach of fine sand in the whole of the Madeira archipelago. It extends right along the south coast, but the tourist facilities are still limited.
About 11miles southeast of Madeira are the Ilhas Desertas, the "deserted" islands, three waterless and uninhabited rocky islets: Deserta Grande (491m/1,611ft), Ilhéu do Bugio (411m/1,348ft) and the flat Ilhéu Chao (104m/341ft). They are the home of the reat wolf spider (geolycosa ingens), one of Europe's biggest spiders; seals live in the caves of Deserta Grande.
Madeira - North Coast
Madeira - South Coast
The southern coast of the Island of Madeira stretches from the Ponta do Pargo in the west to the Ponta de San Lourenzo in the east.
Beyond the Portela pass the main road descends the Machico valley to the coast and Machico itself (pop. 13,000), an important fishing port (boatyard) at the mouth of the Rio Machico, with a government school for Madeira embroidery. This was the landing place of the first settlers.The town is said to be named after an Englishman called Machin who was shipwrecked here about 1344 while eloping with his bride and who has been claimed as the discoverer of Madeira. The Capela dos Milagres (1420; rebuilt in the 19th C.) is said to have been erected over the graves of the two lovers. The late 15th C. parish church (originally Manueline but later much altered) has a painted wooden ceiling. In the Capela de Sao Roque there are fine azulejo paintings. Above the northern entrance to the bay stands a small 17th C. fort.
Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro
About 8km/5mi after Santo da Serra and before Funchal, to the left of the road, is the Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, a beautiful private park to which the public are admitted and which harmoniously combines French and English gardening skills.
Senhor dos Milagres
The feast of the Senhor dos Milagres is celebrated every year on the evenings of October 8 and 9 by the lighting of bonfires on the surrounding hills.