Porto santo
  • A Short History of Madeira...

      The formation of this fabulous archipelago started many years before humans were knowledgeable of its beauty.  To learn more about the islands true origins, check out our page on volcanoes and be sure not to miss the island's Volcanism Centre.
  • The Discovery of the Madeira Archipelago

      The Island of Porto Santo was discovered in 1418 by João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira.  These two young navigators were sent to explore the African coast by Henry "the Navigator" of Portugal who is most famously known as the father of Portuguese exploration.

      It is said that the navigators were blown off course and shipwrecked on the island.   After returning to Portugal and reporting their find, Prince Henry ordered an immediate return and colonization of the island.  Madeira, being only 50 km away, was discovered shortly after and the colonization of present day Funchal began. 
  • Madeira through the century

        After the colonization, a period of prosperity and growth began in Madeira Island, that lasts to this day.   In the 16th century Madeira was Portugal's chief producer of wheat.  This ensured a steady growth of Madeira's economy and population.  When the production of wheat started to fall, Prince Henry ordered settlers to begin the growing of sugar cane. 

       The sugar cane trade kicked the expansion of Madeira into full speed.  Foreign traders and settlers began flocking to the island.   This cash crop ensured Madeira's economic future until the 17th century when that production moved to South America.  In the 17th century, the vineyards that produce the world famous Madeira Wine, arrived on the island.   Since then, Madeira wine has been the most exported product.
  • Recent History

      Over the centuries, Madeira gained more and more autonomy from Portugal.  Shortly after the Portuguese coup of 1974, Madeira was granted full autonomy but chose to stay a part of Portugal.   Madeira has enjoyed steady growth and development since Portugal joined the European Union in 1986.  Tourism is now one of the leading industries of Madeira.

      The first tourists came to Madeira in the 1850's.  Wealthier Europeans would come to the island to escape harsh winters or simply to enjoy Madeira's year round mild climate and beautiful landscape.  In the last century Madeira has become a much admired tourist destination frequented most often by Portuguese, English and German. 

    To learn more about the history and culture of Madeira,
    visit one of Madeira's many museums.