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Madeira Holidays

Made up of four separate islands off the coast of North Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago of Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its capital is the coastal city of Funchal which is the sixth largest city in Portugal and one of Portugal's most visited destinations.

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Exploring Madeira with Rail Discoveries

Bearing an interesting and colourful history, it is said that the Madeira was first visited by a pair of eloped lovers who discovered the island after being blown off course in a voyage from England to France. While evidence suggests that the archipelago was known of long before this legend, as far back as the Roman Empire, Madeira was officially claimed in 1419 by two Portuguese sailors, operating under the banner of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal. The archipelago flourished in the following centuries, mainly thanks to its production of sugarcane and wine. Following the Portuguese revolution in 1974, Madeira was granted political autonomy by Portugal on the 1st of July 1976; This is celebrated every year on what is now known as 'Madeira Day.'

As an Atlantic island near Africa, Madeira enjoys an excellent climate benefitting from cool Atlantic summers and mild winters. The main island is made up of various microclimates with Funchal and the southern coast being the warmest and the islands mountainous core being slightly cooler.

One of Madeira's most famous exports is a fortified wine known simply as Madeira. This wine, relatively unchanged since its creation over 200 years ago, is characterised by its deep flavour which is obtained through the constant reheating and cooling of the liquid. This was discovered by traders in the 17th and 18th centuries, who, upon picking up wine in Madeira to take to the Americas, noticed how the flavour of the wine would be improved as it was taken through the varying temperatures of the tropics. Madeira wine varies from dry styles served with starter courses to sweeter varieties which are consumed after the meal.

A particular highlight in the Madeira calendar is the magical Madeira flower festival. Taking place in spring, this festival is a smorgasbord of flora and colour. As the name suggests, the celebration celebrates the astonishing variety of flowers which grow all over the islands and features among its events, a parade made up of flower floats, incredible dresses of sewn flowers and colourful dance performances. It also includes an extensive flower market and a flower show. Originating in the 1950s, the festival traces its roots back to a flower exhibition which incorporated a number of other smaller festivals and grew into a multi-coloured extravaganza.