Discover Madeira Island: A Dive into Its History & Culture

Exploring the Rich History and Vibrant Culture of Madeira Island


Islands of Ancient Volcanic Origin

The volcanic origin story of Madeira takes us back roughly 5 million years. Peaks and valleys of hardened lava, ash and rocks ended up forming the four islands of the archipelago-- Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas, and Selvagens,  now one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. 



Brief History of Madeira Island

The island of Madeira was discovered by a trio of adventurous Portuguese sea captains, João Gonçalves Zarco, Bartolomeu Perestrelo, and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, who named the island ‘Madeira’ for being a heavily wooded island, and its capital city Funchal for the abundance of fennel in the area. Though the island was discovered in 1419, colonization didn’t begin until 1425, once the Portuguese realized the island was chock full of natural resources and located in a strategically important area. 


Steeped in charm and history, the Historic Center of Funchal invites you to step back in time

Sugar, Honey & Rum: The History of Madeira's "White Gold" Era

Back in the 15th century, Madeira began planting sugar cane, a crop originally imported from Sicily by Dom Henrique (better known as "Prince Henry the Navigator.") Though the steep and hilly lands were very difficult to cultivate, Madeira eventually had great success and began producing sugar cane on farms and in mills around the island. Sugar was considered a luxury at the time, and as plantations and production expanded, the industry grew to rapidly become one of great importance to the local economy. Madeira Sugar became well known all over Europe, attracting merchants and traders to the port city of Funchal, many of whom eventually settled in the city and across the island.


Explore the ancient distillery of Porto da Cruz, Madeira Island Portugal and discover the production process of internationally acclaimed rums.

By 1472, Madeira Sugar began being exported directly to Flanders, opening a very important line of trade between Portugal and the country. Sugar was even traded for unique works of Flemish art, much of which can be found displayed at museums around Madeira. Works of gigantic proportions were imported, mostly paintings, ostentatious mixed altarpieces or triptychs, as well as major images from Bruges, Antwerp, and Malines. Silver and copper objects, and gravestones with metal inlays were imported from Flanders and Hainaut, such as those in the Funchal Cathedral and in Museums such as the one of Sacred Art.


If you have fallen in love with Madeira, take a look at our hassle-free packages that allow you to plan your dream trip to this beautiful destination. Our team of local experts has thoughtfully designed all our packages, ensuring that you don't have to worry about any arrangements. Simply sit back, unwind, and make the most of your vacation!



Madeira Island's sugar production reached its peak between 1500-1520, making the island the largest sugar exporter in the world. But, by the end of the century, sugar cane production fell due to over-production and disease that wiped out the crop fields around the island. Today, three sugar cane processing factories still exist and process the raw materials into honey, molasses, and rum. Though the factories are only running during the spring months, they are open for visitors year-round at their locations in Ribeiro Sêco in Funchal, Calheta, and Porto da Cruz.

Madeira Island Wine: A Timeless Treasure of Taste and Tradition


Cheers to the exquisite wines of Madeira, a taste of paradise in every sip

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Madeira’s economy was boosted by the emergence of its world-famous wine. In fact, Madeira’s fortified wine has not only accompanied many great meals but also some of the world’s most historically significant moments. That’s right, the founding fathers of the United States toasted to the signing of the Declaration of Independence with Madeira wine on July 4, 1776. Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying that drinking an aged Madeira wine is equivalent to “drinking liquid history.”

Click here to read all about Madeira's world-famous wine.


Discover the Hidden Gem of Seixal Beach on Madeira Island, Portugal

Madeira gained immense popularity as a European tourist hotspot throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, laying the groundwork for what would later become the islands’ largest economic sector in the present day.

(Photos courtesy of Visit Madeira)

Discover Madeira Island Your Way: Customizable, Tailor-Made Trips for Your Dream Adventure!

If you're eager to explore Madeira Island at your own pace, we have the perfect solution for you. Our team of specialists will collaborate with you to create a personalized trip that caters to your preferences and budget. Whether you wish to savor the delicious local cuisine, delve into the historic towns, or bask in the sunshine on magnificent beaches, our tailor-made packages provide the flexibility and autonomy to uncover the wonders of Madeira Island at your own rhythm. So, don't hesitate! Get in touch with us now and let us assist you in planning an unforgettable trip to Madeira Island!



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