The island of Porto Santo is a small Portuguese island possession that sits directly north east from Madeira Island. It is actually 27 miles out from Madeira Island in the Atlantic, so it is easy to miss it, however you would not want to miss out on Porto Santo since it is known by many as a hidden jewel.
The discovery of Porto Santo came later than the discovery of Madeira Island, which was stumbled upon by accident when an exploration ship went off-course. The island became part of Portugal in 1418. Not wasting any time, brave Portuguese began to migrate to the island two years later and other Portuguese settlers continued to arrive throughout the 1420’s.
The island is really divided into two distinct areas. The first is the white sandy beach that stretches out leisurely for nine kilometres. A town has built up near this beach location. The other area has mountains, sharp cliff faces and foreboding rocky ledges. There are even a couple of indicators of past volcanic activity, which have left craters with Mugearite columns pointing downwards and away from the craters.
Compared to Madeira, Porto Santo is popular because it has the long stretch of beaches which Madeira is lacking. This is a godsend to those that discover the island for themselves before leaving the region altogether.
There is an international airport, the Porto Santo Airport, which offers connecting flights covering many parts of Portugal. There are also occasional charter flights to the UK, but in most cases you would be better off planning to take a connecting flight from Madeira Airport over to Porto Santo. It’s just a short 15-minute hop. Alternatively you could book a convenient complete package from various companies’ including Icelolly.com.
The island capital of Vila Baleira is a lovely little spot which looks just as attractive looking inwards as it does looking out to sea. With the volcanic peaks as the backdrop, small white buildings with light orange roofs are scattered about but none so tall as to obscure the overall view.
The town square, Largo do Pelourinho and also the Infante Gardens, are the main focus point in town. The Christopher Columbus Museum is also here as the great explorer resided in Porto Santo for a time.
From the main square, the beaches are situated to the west and if you’re a fan of boats, then the small port is off to the east.
For shopping, Rua João Gonçalves Zarco is a good bet. Here you can pick up the little things you need. There are also a number of fashion shops, so there is plenty to keep the ladies busy browsing too. There is a supermarket between the square and the coastline, and close to Hotel Porto Santo is a small shopping mall called Zarco Shopping that has a hypermarket if you really want some bulk discount goods.
For handicrafts, this is a bit of a dying industry here but the Centro de Artesanato does offer some locally-made clay figurines and other little items that might be of interest.
Luxury Treatments & Spas
If some luxury pampering is your thing, then there is a spa in the Vila Baleira Hotel within the Thalassotherapy Centre. Here you can get the usual spa treatments to relax you and soothe the aches and pains away.
There are plenty of quaint little cafes and bars to enjoy. Also the range of restaurants is surprisingly good. Many of them boast sea or harbour views to enjoy while dining on Portuguese dishes, with a seafood theme in a lot of cases.
During the summer months the nightlife heats up with plenty of beach bars frequented by travellers from Funchal and elsewhere. There are also nightclubs like the dockside-based Challenger with impressive DJs spinning tunes into the early hours.
For avid golfers, there is an 18-hole golf course that was created by Seve Ballesteros, with a second course under development. Once the second course is completed, there will be more golfing facilities here than in Madeira. So if golfing is your thing, head over to the Porto Santo Golfe to see how you fare.
Photo credits to virgilio_fnc on Flickr
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