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Porto Santo is the second largest island of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, with 42.48 km² and 5 483 people. The capital is the city of Vila Baleira. Porto Santo is also a Portuguese municipality. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, in the extreme south-west of Europe and just 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from Europe, you can fly in from Lisbon in a 1 ½ hour flight.
The early history of Porto Santo is still covered in the mists of time. The best known version involves a storm in 1418, catching off-guard the seafarers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz, sent by Henry the Navigator, who were sailing in another direction. After countless hard days at sea, they arrived at an island that they would name Porto Santo (”Holy Harbour”).
A prior version, backed up by historical arguments, suggests that a vessel found that the island was a safe port after a violent storm. According to this description, before the Portuguese settled on the island, it was already called Porto Santo. This fact is supported by the so-called “Medici-Laurentian Atlas”, document dating back to circa 1370.

The island is known for its large fine yellow sandy beach, stretching close to 9 km, running along the island’s entire southern coastline, between the harbour and Calheta. Above all, it offers peace and quiet and a catching charm, which doesn’t leave any visitor indifferent. A particular highlight is the island’s sea water temperature; it is really warm all year round. Porto Santo’s climate is dry and stable, with little variation in warmness from season to season, therefore is usual to go to the beach throughout the year.
In terms of economic activities, due to the natural features of Porto Santo, means that agriculture is poor and therefore, most of its economy is based on trading and services. Over recent years, there has been a boost in tourism, largely as a result of the new ferry connecting Madeira to Porto Santo, by the boat “Lobo Marinho”. This progress has led to the construction of new hotels and restaurants, of increasingly good quality.

Porto Santo’s major cultural icon is Christopher’s Columbus House Museum, indicating the presence of America’s discoverer on the island. The museum aims to recreate the primitive environment in which the explorer lived. Columbus’ house is, in fact, two buildings, the older of which dates back to the time when the navigator was on the island. Aside from portraits of Columbus spanning the 16th to the 20th centuries, the exhibition also contains maps showing the different routes travelled by him.
Porto Santo Golf offers unique sporting challenges and superb views. Surrounded by serene landscapes and enveloped by sea breeze, the Porto Santo golf course boasts perfect year-round golfing conditions.

Vila Baleira, the only urban centre in Porto Santo, was given the city status on August 6th, 1996. Porto Santo also gives name to the municipality and also to the only parish on the island.

Various points of interest from geomorphological, natural and scenic points of view can be found on the island of Porto Santo. They are all worth a visit, as they are perfect locations for photo sessions.
Fonte da Areia
Natural springs will always be of vital importance on any island with a limited quantity of water. In other times, this spring had the sweetest water on the island and was even used for medical purposes; perhaps, this is why island inhabitants considered it to be a sacred spring. Water no longer flows from the modern-day Fonte da Areia, but the wind makes sure it leaves its marks on the sandy rocks, giving visitors an incredible erosion vision. This spring can be reached by taking the road out westwards of the village of Camacha, in the sea direction.
To the north of the Ilhéu de Cima there is a vast concentration of limestone with irregular spherical shapes. The stone is golden on the outside and white on the inside, giving it the name of “Laranjas” (Oranges).
To the west, between Ana Ferreira Peak and Zimbralinho cove, there is an ideal spot for picnics.
Pico Ana Ferreira
On top of this peak can be found the Pedreira viewpoint, from where Ilhéu de Fora and the peaks of Facho and Castelo can be spotted. This quarry is surrounded by very irregular shaped prismatic columns, popularly known as the “Piano”. Magnificent panoramic views over the city can be enjoyed from here.
Pico do Castelo
A small fortress was built on this peak in the 16th century to battle frequent invasions by French and Algerian pirates. Nowadays, this viewpoint offers wonderful panoramic views over Porto Santo.
Pico do Facho
With a height of 517 metres, this is the highest peak on the island. In earlier times, beacons were lit here to warn the population of approaching enemy ships. Diversity and adventure lovers will enjoy exploring Serra de Fora and the long valley at Serra de Dentro, found on the eastern slopes of Pico do Facho, where unique landscapes, enchanting little bays and rough sea in the northern zone can all be enjoyed.
Ponta da Calheta
There is probably no greater way to enjoy the island of Porto Santo than going to Ponta da Calheta and return by walking along the beach. Allow yourself to be carried away by the magical sound of the waves and contemplate this powerful beauty. If you have time, wait until nightfall and you will witness an astonishing sunset.
Ponta da Canaveira
This is a viewpoint over the island’s rocky west coast and Ilhéu de Ferro.
This viewpoint, 1.6 km away from Vila Baleira, is drawn along a palm trees avenue, beside a windmill. Below this point, to the west, we can see Porto Santo beach, and to the east the conical shape of Pico de Baixo and Ilhéu de Cima. On the way up to this viewpoint, don’t forget to stop at the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça, built in 1851.
Porto dos Frades
“Porto dos Frades” is located in the north part of the island of Porto Santo. It is a quiet place, with a deserted beach with crystal clear waters.
It is an area endowed with a fantastic landscape, sculpted by erosion caused by the sea and wind.
Here you will find an old lime factory, with its oven, and old salt mines.
Anyone following the track here is rewarded by a view of a cove, where there is a drinking fountain. Visitors only have to climb down and reach the fantastic turquoise blue waters waiting for them.
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