The Madeira Islands are located on the Atlantic Ocean some 850 km from Lisbon. Legend has it that the Madeira Islands were part of the lost kingdom of Atlantis.
The islands were known to the Phoenicians, and in time of King Juba II of Mauretania they were called the Insulae Purpuriae, after the purple dye produced there.
When they were rediscovered by the navigator Joao Glocalves Zarco in 1419 they were uninhabited and covered with dense forest.
After the Portuguese colonization Madeira prospered by the growing of sugar-cane and later also by the production of wine. Together with mainland Portugal and the Azores it was under Spanish rule from 1580 to 1640.
Between 1807 and 1814 it was occupied by Britain. The influx of tourists (at first mainly British) began on the middle of the 19th c. and has grown steadily since then.