The natural forest of Madeira (the ‘Laurissilva’) occupies more than 20% of the surface of the island, situated at an altitude between 300 and 1300 m, essentially on the northern coast. In the south coast this type of forest is present in less accessible areas, between 700 to 1200 metres of altitude. This is the biggest concentration of ‘Laurissilva’ forest in the world and it is said to be also the best preserved. Here you will find a great biological diversity of species unique to Madeira and Macaronesia Region.
Its origins are to be found in the Tertiary Period, when the Laurissilva forest covered an extensive area of the Mediterranean. Now it is limited to the bio-geographical region of ‘Macaronesia’ that consists of Madeira, the Azores, the Canaries and Cape Verde.
The word ‘Laurissilva’ comes from the Latin 'silva', which means forest and from 'Laurus' (lauraceous - laurel), family of the arboreal species that inhabits the forest.
Apart from its dazzling beauty this natural puzzle of shapes and shades of green reveals all the dynamism that is typical of a balanced ecological system.
Today the ‘Laurissilva’ forest of Madeira Island is classified as 'UNESCO World Heritage Site’ and was classified as such in 1999.