Madeira Islands are an archipelago in Atlantic Ocean and the archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal. Madeira Islands consist of Madeira, Desertas, Selvagem and Porto Santo Islands. The capital of Madeira Islands is Funchal. The fireworks of the annual New Year celebrations in Madeira Islands are considered as the largest in the world based on Guinness Book of World Records. The islands appeared on the maps during 1339, but the islands existed even before the discovery of it. The Portuguese re-discovered the islands in 1418 and colonized the islands somewhere around 1420-1425.
Because of the democratic revolution happened in 1974, Portuguese provided political autonomy to Madeira Islands in 1976. The island now has its own government as well as legislative assembly. The autonomous region is headed by the President. Madeira is the second wealthiest region of Portugal after Lisbon. Free trade zone has been set which led to the installation of infrastructure, essential services and production shops for small as well as the medium-sized industrial enterprises. About 20% economy of the region is contributed by tourism. Tourists are coming mainly from European Union along with Scandinavian, Portuguese, British and Germans.
The total population of Madeira Islands is 250,000 and majority of the population lives in the main land of Madeira. When the Portuguese discovered the islands, it was not inhabited by human beings without any aboriginal population. Portuguese people settled in the island mainly farmers coming from Minho region. So Mandeirans are ethnic Portuguese who have developed their own cultural traits and religious identity. About 97% of the Mandeirans are Catholics, 2% of the population is Protestants and 1% f the total population is from other religions. The official language of Madeira Islands is Portuguese and the mother tongue of almost all people in the islands is Portuguese.
Funchal, the capital of Madeira Islands is a beautiful city and the city lures several tourists from other parts of the world. Sao Lourenco Palace is the first fortress built by Portuguese in Funchal served as the residence of several governors and captains. You can see the permanent exhibition of history and development of fortress and the highlights of the palace are Audience Hall, palace gardens and Noble Salon. Madeira Botanical Gardens located on the hillside is an important attraction and the gardens consist of over 2000 various plants. Madeira Islands are famous for beaches such as Machico and Calheto. Beaches of Madeira Islands are famous for surfing, diving, swimming, skiing and whale watching.
There are several must see attractions such as information centers, museums and historical sites in Madeira. Madeira Story Centre is an interactive museum that shows the origin of the island, from the days of its volcanic origin which was about fourteen million years back to present day. The Contemporary Art Museum located in old town and Sacred Art Museum displays religious sculptures of 16th-18th centuries as well as sacred jewelry or 17th – 18th centuries. Sao Vincente Caves are another popular attraction of Madeira. Levadas also can be visited by the tourists and Levadas are the irrigation systems running around the mountains which are constructed by the first inhabitants of the islands to transport water to remote farms.