The Nature

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About two thirds of Madeira are protected areas, nature reserves belonging to the Madeira Natural Park. The Laurissilva (“Laurel Forest”), declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, is set in one of these protected areas. A relic of an ancient vegetation cover which has survived five hundred years of human presence and activity, it is a type of humid subtropical forest dating back to the Tertiary Era. During this period, it occupied vast regions of the European continent. As a consequence of the last glaciations, it disappeared from Europe, surviving only in the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira Islands, Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands.
Today, the Madeira Laurissilva is the world’s largest and best preserved specimen of this type of forest.
Madeira Laurissilva covers about 37 000 acres, equivalent to 20% of the total surface area of the island. At an altitude between 300 and 1300 meters above sea level, the luxuriant green forest adorns steep hillsides and deep valleys in the northern part of Madeira.