Portugal’s Secret Island
Many tourists go to Madeira but the ‘Secret Island’ hiding behind the ‘skirt’ of the bigger island is Porto Santo. This beautiful, peaceful, sun drenched island is a ‘secret’ that is well worth knowing about, but don’t tell anyone! The hot sands have therapeutic healing substances, the spas at the hotels are there to give you a sense of well-being, the golf course designed by Seve Ballesteros entices many people to relax and unwind all year round. There is a safe, quiet peace about the island which is priceless, hardly any cars on the roads and not too many people about. Our hotel, the Vila Baleira was busy but not too full, some of the other hotels had closed down for the winter period and the boats would stop coming over for most of January so a flight would be the only way to access the island. In the summer season the tempo picks up as the locals from Madeira spend their Summer holidays there as do many people from Europe.
The island can be visited by ferry boat from Madeira or airplane, it is a 10 minute plane flight away. Many charter flights come direct to the island, from May to September from Great Britain. Our journey was by boat from Madeira and we set off on the early morning ferry that takes two and a half hours and costs 23 euros each way. My tip is to pay the extra 12 euros to go into First Class – it is upstairs and is not disabled friendly – but for others it is well worth climbing the two floors up. The view is excellent from the deck area and you can walk around and get fresh air. Hot drinks are provided and the small snacks are substantial for a light breakfast, which are all free. The journey passes quickly but for the ‘seasick’, like my husband, take the Quells early as it can be a rocky ride out in the Atlantic.
Buses and taxis are waiting for the boat to take you to the hotel or just to tour the island for the day trippers and bicycles can also be hired from the harbour. The all-inclusive Hotel Vila Baleira had lots of excellent facilities, an indoor pool, bar and very good restaurant, buffet style but lots of choices with good wine or beer to drink. The complex has a tunnel under the road to the spa area which is excellent, it is a thalassotherapy pool with a swimming area, jacuzzi jet pool and three rooms for sauna, steam and Turkish steam rooms. The tunnel also leads to the outdoor swimming pool and the beach – what a beach – 9 km of fine golden sand, hardly anyone on the beach and a long walk with sand between your toes on a sunny winter’s day – bliss.
We had a tour around the island and the views are wonderful and the rock formations interesting. It is only a short tour as the island is 11km long by 6 km wide. To make the most of your visit take some time to explore, visit the house where Christopher Columbus lived, cycle around the island or go horseback riding, play golf or go scuba diving or just sit and relax have a spa and put your aching joints in the therapeutic sand – which is rich in iodine, calcium and magnesium to help ease orthopedic and rheumatic illnesses.
Our journey home by boat was very pleasant – no sea sickness – but we did up upgrade to First Class again and drinks and a light meal were provided but we decided to pass an hour or so on by going to the boat’s restaurant which was very good and the ambience is lovely. The food was excellent, well presented and good service. The menu is limited but a good all round experience.
Our visit was too short but we did get a ‘feel’ of the peace and gentleness of the island, the stress of modern day living can disappear as you sit in this bubble of warmth in the Atlantic.
Porto.Santo. we will be going back!!