The island of Madeira has a surface area of 459 square miles (741 km2), (35 miles long and 13 miles wide).
Thanks to their excellent geographical location and mountainous relief, these islands have surprisingly balmy weather, with moderate humidity and pleasant average temperatures of 25ºC in the summer and 17ºC in the winter.
The sea temperature is also very mild, thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream, averaging 22ºC in the summer and 18ºC in the winter.
The archipelago is located in the African Plate in the Atlantic Ocean between latitude 30 ° and 33 °N, basically at the same latitude as Casablanca, 978 km southwest of Lisbon, about 700 km west of the African coast, and 450 km north of the Canary Islands.
This archipelago is formed by the Madeira Island with an area of 741 km², Porto Santo with 42.5 km², the Desertas Islands with a total of 14.2 km² comprising the three uninhabited islands, and by the Selvagens Islands whose set of 3 islands and sixteen uninhabited islets make up an area of 3.6 km². Of the eight islands, only the two largest (Madeira and Porto Santo) are inhabited and can be accessed via the Madeira Airport in Funchal and Porto Santo Airport.
Funchal, the capital city of Madeira, has access by sea, through a port with a modern station that stands out on the national scene, with regard to cruising. More than half a million passengers disembark here per year. The remaining islands are nature reserves.
For hundreds of years, Funchal was the only city of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, until 5 other cities gained this status between the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next century: Câmara de Lobos, Caniço, Machico, Santana and Vila Baleira.
The island of Madeira has a very rugged terrain, with the highest point being Pico Ruivo (1,862 m), the Pico das Torres (1,851 m) and Pico do Arieiro (1,818 m), respectively the third, fourth and fifth highest points of Portugal. The northern coast is dominated by high cliffs and in the western part of the island you find a plateau region, the Paul da Serra with altitudes between 1,300 and 1,500 m.
The geological history of the archipelago of Madeira is closely related to the opening and expansion of the Atlantic Ocean, a process that began about 200 million years ago and continues to this day moving at a speed of about 2 cm/year. The archipelago is an example of intraplate volcanism- hot-spot - in an oceanic environment, resulting from the performance of two mantle plumes, one from which Porto Santo arose in mid Miocene, about 14 Ma, and later Madeira and the Desertas in the upper Miocene, about 7 Ma, and another that gave rise to the Selvagens Islands in the Oligocene, about 28 Ma.
The island of Madeira rises above a vast undersea plain, within the African plate, forming a volcanic massif over 5.5 km high, of which only one third is emerged.
The island has evolved through successive phases of intense volcanic activity separated by periods of very attenuated activity or inactivity, during which erosion reduced, sometimes dramatically, the size of the volcanic structure. During periods of intense erosion valleys were carved and rough reliefs were created destroying partially or totally volcanic forms, while the products of erosion were deposited on the immersed sides of the volcano or in the valleys. The resumption of activity during the following volcanic season led to fossilization of detrital sedimentary materials and of erosive reliefs. The most recent volcanic stratigraphy unit of Madeira, which occurred 6000-7000 years ago, represents the rejuvenation phase, characterized by volcanism implanted on an erosive topography on the shapes created in the previous stage. It is considered that the island of Madeira is still at this stage of evolution, and the volcanic activity is in a temporarily dormant state.
Currently, tourism is the main driver and the biggest source of revenue of Madeira’s economy. In agriculture, banana production directed primarily at regional and national consumption, the flowers and the famous Madeira wine, also constitute an important contribution toward the regional economy.
The Gross Domestic Product of Madeira Region in 2010 was EUR 5,224 million, representing 3% of the national total and an increase of 1.7% over 2009. The GDP per capita in the region is EUR 21.1 thousand, presenting itself as the 2nd largest next to Lisbon, and above average in Portugal and in the EU27.
Trade activities represent 11.9% of total employment in the region and the Hotel and Catering represent 12.9%.
Industrial activity in Madeira is dominated by small and medium-sized companies. In Manufacturing, which represents 4.2% of employment we have handicraft activities directed at export, such as embroidery, tapestries and wickerwork and other activities, particularly targeting the regional market, such as mills and bakery and pastry products, dairy products, beer, tobacco and wine.
Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal since 1976 that has the Legislative Assembly of Madeira and the Regional Government as government bodies.
The Autonomous Region of Madeira is an integral part of the European Union with the status of the outermost region of the Union territory.
The Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Madeira is the legislative body that also oversees the parliament which is the highest organ of self-government of the Autonomous Regions. The Legislative Assembly of Madeira is a unicameral parliament currently comprising 47 members. Members are elected for a four year term on lists submitted by the parties in a single constituency. The President of the Legislative Assembly of Madeira is Mr. José Manuel Rodrigues.
On 1st July we celebrate the Day of the Autonomous Region of Madeira and the Madeiran Communities, or simply Madeira Day. It is a holiday that celebrates the autonomy granted by Portugal to Madeira in the Portuguese Constitution of 1976. The Portuguese State is represented in the region by the Representative of the Republic for the Autonomous Region of Madeira, the position held by Ireneu Cabral Barreto.
The parties in the Autonomous Region of Madeira are linked to large parties of the Portuguese political spectrum. PSD-Madeira won the last regional elections, held on 29th of March 2015, with 44.36% of the votes. The President of the Regional Government of Madeira is currently Miguel Filipe Machado de Albuquerque.
The Autonomous Region of Madeira has about 270,000 inhabitants and a population density of 267,785 inhab./Km².
In spite of this population density being higher than the national average, 75% of the population of Madeira dwells in only 35% of the territory, mainly on the south coast. This is where Funchal, capital of Madeira, is located which includes 45% of the population (130,000 inhabitants), with a population of 1,500 inhab./Km². It is here that the majority of the hotels are located.
The population of the Autonomous Region of Madeira is traditionally follows Roman Catholicism.
The Diocese of Funchal was created on 12 June 1514 and its current bishop is D. Nuno Brás da Silva Martins.
In 1991, Pope John Paul II visited the island of Madeira and, to this day, he was the only Pope to visit the island.
Protestantism is practiced by few natural inhabitants and in small groups. To serve this cult, there is, in Funchal, a temple for the Anglican rite, the English Church, and another one for the Scottish rite, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Funchal.