Anyone who visits Madeira is immediately touched by the beauty and ferocity of nature. While wandering around, experience the differences between the misty north with its unexpected views, the cool rugged mountains that show an abundance of wildflowers in the centre, and the palm trees in the warm sunny south. Every time you turn a corner you will be surprised by yet a different panorama. The whole of Madeira is one large volcanic mountain range, and that is where this story starts.
28 million years: Ilhas Selvagens (the wild islands)
The oldest islands in the archipelago are the Ilhas Selvagens. It consists of two islands that are situated between Madeira and the Canary Islands: Selvagem Grande and Selvagem Pequena, together with fourteen more rocky points
14 million years: Porto Santo
The island of Porto Santo was created by volcanic eruptions that started around 14.5 million years ago, the last of which was a little over 10 million years ago. Ever since its beginning, parts of the island were at times below sea level, thus creating a fantastic sandy beach, where many Madeirans spend their summer holidays.
7 million years: the rise of Madeira
There was no tectonic activity for a very long time, until the ocean floor started to rise 7 million years ago. That was the beginning of the forming of Madeira. In total, seven volcanic eruptions around three main volcanic complexes built the island.
3 million years: Ilhas Desertas (the deserted islands)
Ilhas Desertas was created around 3.6 million years ago. This is a group of three small islands 30 km to the south-east of Madeira. These islands form a protected nature reserve, Deserta Grande can be visited on a guided tour.
Nature in Madeira is overwhelmingly rich and green and because all kinds of lush flowers are to be admired year-round Madeira is called the ‘flower island.’
Laurissilva, UNESCO World Heritage
The northwestern part of Madeira, between São Vicente and Porto Moniz, is home to the largest ‘laurissilva’ in the world.
Millions of years ago, this type of forest existed all over Northern Europe, but the ice age put an end to most of them. The laurissilva is a fairytale wood of evergreen, laurel-like trees, with a wide variety of ferns and many types of moss, some of which are suspended from branches and live off the air.
The very even climate of Madeira
A climate consists of the average weather conditions measured over a period of 30 years. The climate in Madeira is divided into three regions. What this classification signifies is that the higher you go, the amount of rainfall will increase. It is therefore rather evident that most hotels are located on the flat south around Funchal and have an ocean view. The largest wine region, Câmara de Lobos, is also close to Funchal.
Even the highest mountain peaks of Madeira can be reached on foot, they are fantastic lookouts, but the routes heading towards them are just as rewarding. Follow the path up and encounter an incredibly rich and varied natural scenery.
Levadas – (water carriers) irrigation channels
Levadas are created on the mountain’s slopes. These are long narrow channels used to transport water from the humid north to the dry south of Madeira. Paths have been constructed next to the levadas for repairs and maintenance. As they serve long-distance water transport the gradient is minimal, so when wandering these lanes virtually no climbing is involved. Here, magnificent nature walks can be made through the spectacular nature along waterfalls and ever-green eucalyptus forests, sometimes overlooking terraces, made of small plots.
Cabo Girão skywalk
One of the highest cliffs in Europe is Cabo Girão, in Câmara de Lobos. True daredevils walk on the glass plate that protrudes from this cliff, to see the landscape 580 metres below, or to feel some inner peace whilst enjoying the panoramic view over the Atlantic Ocean.
Fajã dos Padres
A special experience is the funicular from Fajã dos Padres, which descends approximately 300 metres perpendicular ending at a beach, with a banana plantation and a restaurant, having a wide view over the ocean.
“Madeira Wine Today is a large, handsome hardback book, with an elegant, minimalist cover that starts with stunning photography. It is the the vivid, beautifully composed pictures that bring Madeira to live in a way that text simply cannot.
This book is a delight from start to finish. It’s full of little crazy gems. Beautifully conceived, designed, written and edited, gorgeous to look at, hold and read, this would be the book on Madeira that I would choose to give to someone.”
Tamlyn Currin | Jancis Robinson.com