Madeira island is 520 km (323.11 mi) from the African coast and 1,000 km (621.37 mi) from the European continent, which is the equivalent of a 1 hour 30 minute flight from Lisbon, and approx 3 hours and 30 minutes from London.
Madeira Island is the largest island of the group with an area of 741 km2 (286 sq mi), a length of 57 km (35 mi), a breadth of 22 km (14 mi) at its widest point, and a coastline of 150 km (93.21 mi). Its longer axis lies east and west, along which lies a mountain chain with a mean altitude of 4,000 feet (1,220 m), considered the backbone of the island from which many deep ravines radiate outward to the coast. Its most famous sea cliff, the Cabo Girão, is one of the highest in Europe. The highest point on the island is Pico Ruivo, at 1,862 metres (6,107 ft).
In the south, there is very little left of the indigenous laurisilva subtropical rainforest which once covered the whole island (the original settlers set fire to the island to clear the land for farming) and gave it the name it now bears (Madeira means "wood" in Portuguese). However, in the north, the valleys contain native trees of fine growth. These laurisilva forests, notably the forests on the northern slopes of Madeira Island, are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Madeira Island's geographical position and mountainous landscape result in a very pleasant climate which varies between the north side, south side, and smaller islands groups like Porto Santo and Savages. The mean annual temperature on the coastline can reach more than 20 °C (68 °F) in the south. With its mild humidity, the weather of the island is classified as oceanic subtropical and with its low rain level, desertic on the Savages. Influenced by the Gulf Stream, sea water temperature varies between 26 °C (79 °F) during the summer and 17 °C (63 °F) in the winter.