The westernmost country in Europe, Portugal includes an area on the Iberian Peninsula and 2 island groups in the Atlantic Ocean, namely Madeira and the Azores. The largely rectangular continental territory is neatly bordered by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic to the west and south. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established a global empire and was probably the world’s major economic power at that time. The country's international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century, especially following the independence of Brazil, its largest colony. Madeira was discovered and settled by the Portuguese in 1420 at the start of the ‘Age of Discovery’. The main island of Madeira is wet in the north-west and dry in the south-east and as part of the development of the island’s agricultural base, a number of aqueducts (locally known as levadas) were constructed across the mountainous terrain. There are more than 2000 kilometres of these levadas which provide a remarkable network of pathways, adding considrably to the attraction of the island as a destination for hiking holidays. With its rugged interior, culminating at the summit of Pico Ruivo (1861m), enchanting laurel forest and stunning coastal scenery, Madeira is ideal for a week-long adventure.