First in line for… Porto Santo
Word to the wise: check out this little pocket rocket before the world and his wife discovers its appeal…
If your reaction when we say ‘Porto Santo’ is ‘where now?’ you won’t be alone. It may be pint-sized – just keep zooming in on Google maps… yep, it’s that tiny dot just above Madeira – but it’s been steadily climbing up the tourist charts and, for the time being at least, remains blissfully undeveloped. In short, get it while it’s hot, people. This Portuguese island has unspoilt beaches by the bucket-load, is a mere 4-hour flight away, and was once home to travel’s big cheese himself, Christopher Columbus. Madeira-native Cristiano Ronaldo is also a fan. But don’t let that put you off.
Without a doubt, the endless beaches are Porto Santo’s calling card. They go on longer than re-runs of Friends. In fact, there’s 9 kilometres of the sandy stuff on the south coast – more than enough acreage to set down your towel, without the risk of noisy neighbours. You might come across some folks from Madeira, who have no beach to call their own, so tend to pop across to their en-suite island. But they won’t be any trouble. As for the soft grains you park yourselves on, they have actual healing qualities… and we don’t just mean they relax you. They’re said to aid complaints such as rheumatism and varicose veins. So you’ll come away with a cheeky suntan and a miracle cure. Can’t say fairer than that.
Madeira’s sandy sister does have its other assets, however. Head to Vila Baleira – Porto Santo’s only town – and you’ll find a classically Portuguese little dwelling… a maze of whitewashed villas, and pavement cafes where you can bond with a glass of famous Madeira wine. For some local history, check out the Largo de Pelourinho – or town square – which plays host to a 16th-century town hall and the pretty parish church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade. It also goes without saying you should call in on Columbus’ house, now a museum filled with keepsakes from his travels, to transport yourselves back to a time when planes were the stuff of sci-fi novels. For the more energetically-minded, you can tee off at the island’s golf course – designed by golfing god, Seve Ballesteros, no less – or trek around Pico da Facho, the highest peak at over 500 metres, to get a bird’s eye view of Porto Santo.
Stay at the beachside Vila Baleira Resort Hotel and Spa if you’re looking to completely switch off and be pampered, with treatments like seaweed wraps and balneo therapy on offer. Or for a rustic yet chic retreat in the hills, the Hotel Quinta do Serrado couldn’t be more tranquil if it tried – how about exposed beams and hearty Portuguese stews? Our passports are already packed…
Does Porto Santo sound like your kind of destination? Or have you already paid a visit?