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I visited Madeira in July 1990.

Madeira (main island)
Deserta Grande

The name “Madeira” stands both for the island of Madeira and for the archipelago of which Madeira Island is by far the largest member. The archipelago lies in the Atlantic Ocean, at about 32 degrees northern latitude, some 500 kilometers west of Morocco in Africa. Madeira Island has a maximum length of about 60 kilometers and a size of bout 750 square kilometers. The landscape is quite mountainous. Its population is about 270,000 of which about 100,000 live in the capital, Funchal. The only other inhabited island of the group is Porto Santo, with a size of about 45 square kilometers and a population of about 4,500. Politically, the Madeira Islands form an autonomous region inside Portugal.

Madeira has a pleasant subtropical climate, with most rainfall on its northern slopes. At sea level, average summer temperatures are about 22 degrees Centigrade and about 6 degrees lower in winter.

The beautiful landscapes of the main island consist of cliffs, mountains, valleys and forests. The satellite islands of Porto Santo and the Ilhas Desertas are much drier but have intriguing landscapes as well.

People, economy
Madeira has been inhabited since the middle of the 15th century. Export products include wine, flowers, bananas and other fruits. Around the islands there are some good fishing grounds and deep-water fishing is carried on as well. Both Madeira and Porto Santo have important tourist industries.

Travel and tourism
Madeira and Porto Santo have fantastic footpaths. Other attractions are historic towns and villages and some good museums. Both islands have excellent international flight connections. The official tourist website is and other useful websites are and .

Island list
Porto Santo
Ilhas Desertas (three small desert islands within view of the main island)
Selvagens Islands

(The Selvagens are a group of small desert islets between Madeira and the Canary Islands, politically belonging to Madeira)

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Photos and articles are © 2005-2020 Alex Ritsema