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The island of Porto Santo

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General presentationGeneral information
. Click to enlarge the image.To attract the States-uniens, one bets from now on on the island of Oporto Santo, which has what Madeira does not have, i.e. an immense sand beach fair, single in all the archipelago, which extends on 9 km, and an airport likely to accommodate the flights long mails.
. Click to enlarge the image.. Click to enlarge the image.
. Click to enlarge the image.This dry and arid plate, 12 km length and broad of 6, thus address to the followers bronzing and true idleness that nothing should disturb… Each year, the tourists thus flow increasingly more. There coming mainly from Madeira, continental Portugal or Scandinavia, they find an ocean at an astonishing temperature (23 °C on average in July, 18 °C in January) and funds lending itself marvelously to underwater fishing. It is useless to seek there monuments, cliffs in cliff or view-points surrounded by circuses of mountains.
Zarco named the island Oporto Santo (in French Holy Port) because it would have found refuge there after a storm at sea.

Oporto Santo is also called “the Dorée island” (in Portuguese: Ilha Dourada) because of the desert color of its landscapes and its long sand beach gilded.

In summer, it is especially burned and yellow, and its russet-red cliffs also made it call “the fawn-coloured island”.


The island of Oporto Santo is located at about forty kilometers in the North-East of Madeira.

The island is accessible by ferry from Madeira; at the end of the 20th century, an artificial harbor at the end is sand beach, Oporto de Abrigo succeeded the unloading dock exposed to the storms going back to 1928 which is him with broad capital of the island.

One reaches also Oporto Santo by plane, his airport (Airport of Oporto Santo) civil having a track of 3,000 m: from Madeira (in 15 min), Lisbon and Oporto in particular. The airport extends according to a North-South axis on the only true plain from the island: important cultivable ground surfaces and vineyards were sacrificed to him; it separates the two sites from hills of Oporto Santo.


Vila Baleira
The capital, and only urban area of the island, are at the same time the single port of the island, and the near total of the inhabitants of Oporto Santo live there. The city, which one calls sometimes the town of Oporto Santo, does not miss a charm with its paved lanes, its small church and its palm trees.

The center is the largo do Pelourinho, pretty planted triangular place of palm trees, around whose beautiful white buildings are drawn up, of which the church and an emblazoned building sheltering the town hall.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Piedade
The white church Our Lady of Pity was founded, at the origin, just after the discovery of the island, between the beginning and half of the 15th century. The current church was rebuilt at the 17th century after the pirates had destroyed the old one between 1567 and 1709. It is characterized by a simplicity that only the pyramidal roof of the tower of the north-western angle comes to contradict.

Only part of the building, the Gothic of the capela da Morgada, projecting vestiges the south of the church, survived the many incursions of the pirates. This vault dates from the 16th century: the scene in earthenware squares of the external wall is a modern addition.

The church shelters the only work of art of Oporto Santo: a Portuguese painting of the 17th century, “Holy Marie-madeleine and Christ”.

Municipal Câmara
The beautiful emblazoned frontage of the town hall draws up on the other side of the place, opposite the church.
Casa-Museu Cristóvão Colombo
. Click to enlarge the image.A lane on the right of the church leads to this house-museum, equipped with two simple parts where the famous navigator would have lived with his wife. In an additional building, one can see engravings and charts evoking his life and his various tours.

It is a masonry full with atmosphere, out of coarsely cut stone, and one can easily imagine Christophe Colomb living here. There is not any doubt that Colomb remained on the island since he married Felipa Moniz Perestrelo, girl of the first governor of Oporto Santo, Bartolomeu Perestrelo; but it is not at all obvious that it lived here. This House of Colomb did not exist such as it is at the time of the discoverer of America, but it is imagined that the house of the governor was about at this place.

The visitors of the museum find themselves plunged in the universe of Christophe Colomb, follow his routes on the charts or examine an astonishing collection of portraits of the heroes carried out well after the time of Colomb.

Largo do Pelourinho, broad the rua Infante D. Henrique, bordered of palm trees, leads to a garden where the statue of Christophe Colomb is drawn up. From there, one can also reach the pier, from where one discovers an overall picture on the city.

Miradouro de Portela
The view-point of the hill of Portela (163 m of altitude, to 2 km of Baleira Villa, on the south-eastern coast) offers a beautiful point of view on all the extent of the splendid gilded beach which extends to the peninsula fringed from rocks from basalt from Bridged da Calheta. East of this hill, the headlight of the small island of Cima looks at the blue vastness the ocean.

On the hill four restored windmills rise, pointing out the three dozen mills and the cereal cultures of formerly; only one mill still turns; it is built on a rotary base to collect the wind.

Pico do Facho
To approximately 1.5 km north of Portela, the Peak of the Torch (517 m) is the culminating point of the island. Its name “peak of the torch” points out fires of alarm lit here at the time where the French and Algerian pirates were a plague for the island. The population was informed that an incursion of the pirates was imminent by a fire lit at the top, and one realizes that it is indeed the culminating point of the island.
Fonte da Areia
West of Camacha, while continuing to the northern coast, one arrives at the site Fonte da Areia (“Fountain of sand”), a fountain located close to cliffs beaten by the floods. A source of clear water, filtering through the rocks, gives mineral water of the island to which one allots even healing virtues. One can taste it, quite fresh, with the fountain close to the café.

This “fountain of sand” is located near curious cliffs at the strange forms carved by erosion, which dominate a rock and wild coast. Instead of the usual dark volcanic rock, the slopes precipice dominating the coast raise here a beautiful yellow it is with this clear calcareous rock and the power of the erosion which the island owes its sand beach “gilded”.

Pico do Castelo
View-point located at top of Pico do Castelo (wooded cone volcanic a 434 height m, to approximately 3 km of Baleira Villa, by taking the road which climbs the sides of the retimbered peak), one sees the squaring of the cultures in checkerwork and, with far, the mountainous silhouette of Madeira.

Fortifications which formerly protected the island from the pirates, it remains only of old rusted guns. The airport of Oporto Santo extends just downwards.

Ponta da Calheta
The Eastern point of the island, just at the bottom of Pico das Flora, is known under the name of Ponta da Calheta. One finds there small bays with picturesque rock exposures.

The Point of Calheta is separated from the small island of Baixo (Ilheu de Baixo) by a dangerous master key strewn with shelves where the sea foams, this point forms a pleasant site with its roughcast beach of black basalt rocks.

. Click to enlarge the image.Road which, parallel with the beach, carries out to the forefront of Calheta, to take after the hotel Oporto Santo a track on the right. After approximately 2 km, one reaches the career (will pedreira).

On the side of the pico of Anna Ferreira, you will discover one surprising formation of basaltic organ springing towards the sky.

. Click to enlarge the image.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

. Click to enlarge the image.The island of Oporto Santo was discovered by the Portuguese navigator João Gonçalves Zarco in 1419, that is to say one year before Madeira. Little time after, Henri the Navigator conceded the harbor office of Oporto Santo with a gentleman, Bartolomeu Perestrelo, with load for him to populate it and colonize it. The chronicle reports that it had the annoying idea to release rabbits in nature to populate the island, but that those proliferated so much that they devastated the island… It however succeeds in giving to this territory devastated a certain prosperity.
But the island is given up a long time by the authorities of Portugal, and its inhabitants must fight against the Algerian pirates and French who, until the 18th century, save neither plunderings to them nor the massacres. Several periods of dryness cause, moreover, the famine.
Around 1470, Christophe Colomb, party to negotiate the purchase of a sugar cargo in Madeira, made stopover in Oporto Santo, where it met the captain-donee Bartolomeu Perestrelo. There, he married the girl of this notable, beautiful Filipa Moniz, with which he will have a son, Diego Colomb. It is probable that it lived in Oporto Santo, of 1478 to 1482, the trade of sugar and cereals between the islands and the continent. Then, they left for Funchal, where they remained some time in his/her friend João Esmeraldo; finally, it returned with it to Portugal.

In Funchal, Colomb had been put at the current various problems of navigation which will encourage it later to leave on a tour of world. In the borough of Baleira Villa, one still sees the house surrounded by palm trees where the large navigator would have remained.

. Click to enlarge the image.Oporto Santo is a volcanic small island of origin (42 km² only), formed several million years ago on an key issue, now inactive, which gave birth thereafter to Madeira and the Désertes islands.

When the sight is well released and that one is on the wet and green island of Madeira, one realizes of the desert aspect of Oporto Santo one distinguishes especially from the hills brown-gray and the arid regions. Except the winter, where its fields reverdissent under the effect of moisture, it oneself calcareous of Oporto Santo, completely deprived of vegetation, the ocher color of a desert gives him.

Its relief is rather flat: it consists of a large plain where draw up themselves, in the North-East and south-east, some “peaks” of which highest, the pico Fascist C (peak of the torch), culminates only to 517 m of altitude. When one scans the horizon in the North-East in clear weather, one distinguishes from north and the east as from the more high summits of Madeira the silhouette of the close small island there still, from abrupt cliffs emerge brutally from the sea and of the frayed summits draw up themselves with far.

The climate is soft - annual average: 19° - and drier than in Madeira.

Today, the inhabitants of Oporto Santo live fishing and of some cultures (cereals, tomatos, melons, water melons, figs); the vine however produces an excellent very sweetened white wine, less famous than bicarbonated mineral water, appreciated for their therapeutic value, exported in Madeira and in the metropolis.

The agricultural production is poor, partly because of chronic lack of water, and the fields, formerly maintained, are now left with the abandonment, in favor of tourism.

At the 16th century, a shepherd filled with imagination benefitted from insularity from Oporto Santo to propagate a strange and completely pagan worship. The Church, by learning the news, sent prelates to give a little order in the consciences. But it was too late and a large scandal burst: from there the nickname of profetas (prophets), which is still sometimes used to qualify the inhabitants of the island.

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Interactive chart of the island of Porto Santo
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