Paradise in Gold and Blue Tones
The climate is stable and dry and generally warm enough to enjoy the beach all year. Temperatures range between 18º C and 22º C, and in winter, during the day, rarely descend from 17ºC, and in summer usually do not exceed 25ºC.
Porto Santo is the perfect place for a family vacation or to get away from the large urban centres and bustle of everyday life. Here, tranquillity is the keyword. Even during the summer months, when there are more visitors on the island, it is possible to enjoy your own space on the beach, because the sand is so vast that everyone can enjoy all the desired privacy.
The historical origin of Porto Santo is not clear and there are two versions of its discovery. The best-known version tells a story of a storm in 1418, which surprised the sailors of infant D. Henrique, Bartolomeu Perestrelo, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz. The sailors went toward a different destination when they were surprised by the storm that made them deviate from the established path. After days drifting in the sea, they finally reached an island that they named Porto Santo.
Another version points to the previous century, when after a violent storm, a ship would have found a safe haven on the island. According to this version, before the Portuguese had begun its population, the island was already called Porto Santo. This is reported in "Atlas Medicis", around year 1370.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean, Porto Santo is the second largest island of Madeira. Just over 5000 people currently inhabit it. It has only one town, called Vila Baleira, which was entitled to this category in 1996.
Another feature that makes Porto Santo a unique place is the fact that there is such a varied landscape in a very small area. There is sea and mountains side by side, in an approximate area of 42km2, spread over 11,4Km long and 6km wide.
As we head north, we can breathe the fresh air in the mountain and enjoy the natural beauty in a truly bucolic setting.
You will be easily able to explore the entire interior of the island, discovering the sights and surprising corners that it has to offer. One of the best ways to do this is through the available walking trails. You can also venture yourself to make your own walks or even rent a bike.
If you choose to explore the island on foot, there are predefined routes that you can do: Vereda do Pico Branco e Terra Chã route, which has 2.7km and lasts 1h30 to be walked.
During this journey, you will find different natural viewpoints that will allow you to observe much of the island of Porto Santo: Calhau da Serra de Dentro, Pico do Concelho, Ilhéu de Cima, Pico do Maçarico, Portela, Rocha de Nossa Senhora, Pico Ana Ferreira, Espigão dos Morenos, Calheta and Ilhéu de Baixo.
You can also choose the path Vereda do Pico Castelo that, depending on the choice of paths, is 3.2km or 4.6km long, taking 1h30 or 2h15 to be walked. This route also gives you the possibility to contact closely with the island's fauna by watching various kinds of birds.
In the south part of the island, across the golden sand of the beach, challenge yourself on a hike from Vila Baleira to Ponta da Calheta, one of the mandatory crossing points located at the southern tip of the island. In addition to the stunning scenery made up by clear blue sea and warm colours of sand, on a clear day it is possible to watch Madeira island from this point.
It's hard to think of a better way to enjoy the late afternoon in Porto Santo than walking along the beach to Ponta da Calheta and enjoy all the beauty of the landscape, with the sound of the waves guiding you.
One of Europe's best golf courses
Among this absolutely idyllic setting, the golf lovers find their piece of paradise. Opened in October 2004, the Porto Santo Golfe was designed by the Spanish golf champion Severiano Ballesteros and quickly became a reference. The course ranks in the Top 100 Best Golf Courses in Europe for several years now.
Planned to the smallest detail, the Porto Santo Golfe stretches over two areas known for their beauty and unique features: the northern area is distinguished by different cliffs that compose it and the southern area is known for the presence of several lakes along its path.
The course was structured to integrate harmoniously into the landscape and respect the ecosystems, thus able to incorporate the plants and the different lakes.
The northern route is valued by high cliffs and has the best ingredients of the British links with amazing scenarios. It offers the player an unrepeatable challenge. Among the most striking holes are the 13, 14 and 15, located along the cliff. This allows the players to contemplate magnificent views up the sea and enjoy the cut of the coast.
The combination between stunning landscapes with a demanding route turns the Porto Santo Golfe in a field able to attract both professional and less experienced players.
Christopher Columbus lived here
Between sunbathing and walking, we suggest you to make a visit to the Casa Colombo - Museu Porto Santo, in the city of Vila Baleira. This museum was born due to a curious historical fact: Christopher Columbus lived in Porto Santo while planning one of the most important discoveries in history, America.
In the late 15th Century, historical records show that an explorer has come to Porto Santo as representative of the sugar merchants of his native city, Genoa. This explorer was nothing less than Christopher Columbus, who lived on the island between 1479 and 1481. At this time, he met his future wife, Filipa Moniz, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrello, explorer and captain donee of the island.
It was in Porto Santo that Christopher Columbus increased his knowledge of cartography and navigation and planned the trip of the discovery of America. The house where he lived was transformed into Casa Colombo - Museu Porto Santo, which is worth visiting.
The museum opened in 1989 and here you can find out more about the Portuguese maritime expansion and about Christopher Columbus, his family ties with Porto Santo, as well as some reference notes to his travel to America. The Dutch colonial empire and the Company's galleon of the Dutch Indies "Slot ter Hooge", which sank in 1724 in the north of the island of Porto Santo, are also issues that you can apprehend in detail in this museum.
The Porto Santo gastronomy is based on the rural customs of the population. Usually, it is said that the more the traditional cooking methods are used, the tastier it gets.
As in the rest of Madeira Island, here you will find the very typical and unique Caco Cake (Bolo do Caco) and Honey Cake (Bolo de Mel).
Although the name of Caco Cake may suggest that is a dessert, this is actually a typical wheat bread for the Madeira region, which can be consumed as an appetizer, side dish or as a main dish.
Once in Porto Santo, it will not be difficult to taste this bread, because it is included in the menus of all the restaurants and is served in all popular fairs and festivals.
The Honey Cake is made from sugarcane honey, dried fruit and spices. It is traditionally linked to Christmas and usually made only at this time, preserved until the following year, as one of its special features is the ability to conserve for a long time.
Its origin dates back to the times when the region of Madeira was a major sugar producer, but its production still remains very common these days.