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Travel Inspirations - Porto Santo

Known as the “Golden Island”, the tiny little rock with its year-round temperate climate, its nine kilometres of unspoilt beaches, its volcanic peaks and dramatic cliffs is the jewel of the north Atlantic. Located 40km off the island of Madeira and with just 42.17km2 of land area, the island is far more manageable and less touristy than it’s bigger sister Madeira . With its wild and rugged mountain peaks and landscapes, and 9km of virtually unbroken stretch of golden sand beaches,  Porto Santo is the perfect place to relax and unwind. The town of Vila Baleira is the island’s capital. Here, between the shady plazas and whitewashed colonial houses, visitors can indulge in everything from local cuisine such as grilled goat, octopus and local wines produced from the island’s vineyards. Local gastronomy is of major importance to the island, and the locals take it very seriously. There are many restaurants located in Vila Baleira which can be found by simply taking a stroll through the town. If it’s history or culture that you are looking for, the island is steeped in it. The onetime residence of Christopher Columbus has been preserved for all to see, as well as many of his original maps, letters and diary entries before setting sail to Genoa and onto the New World. There are a number of adventure activities to experience, such as jeep safaris, kiteboarding, sailing, or game fishing for the world-famous blue marlin in the seas off Porto Santo . The island is also home to the most prestigious golf course in the region. The north of the island will satisfy even the most hardened of wilderness hunters. Packed with jagged peaks and untamed rock formations, it offers a real chance to get away from it all, as civilisation gradually slips away from rural houses into wild scrubland and a vista of volcanic peaks. The island offers many different hikes – some signposted and easy, with well-maintained footpaths and picnic sites, some difficult scrambles over high ground that unfold out onto high mountainous landscapes. The south of the island is where to find Porto Santo ’s famous beaches. Over this beautiful 9 kilometre stretch, visitors can seek out beaches packed with every conceivable amenity such as refreshment bars, showers and locker rooms. They can also wander further along and come to beautiful, deserted sand dunes and virgin beaches that are hardly visited by the crowds. Whether it’s sunbathing and drinking cocktails, or watching a private sunset,  Porto Santo has it all. History and Culture The island of  Porto Santo was established as the first island in the  Madeira archipelago. Colonised around 600 years ago after a group of sailors from the Barbary Coast washed ashore, they then set sail back to Portugal to report on the island they had discovered. Some time later, they were sent back officially on a vessel to colonise the island, and the ship’s commander Bartolomeu Perestrelo, was appointed “Captain of Porto Santo .” During the second half of the 15th century, Christopher Columbus was given land to cultivate on  Porto Santo after his marriage to Filipa Moniz Perestrelo . While on the island, she died, and Columbus (so the story goes) began to spent his hours sitting on the beach and wondering about the odd artefact that washed up on the ocean’s shores from the Caribbean. It was then that he decided to set out on his voyage to find a trade route to India or discover some new, unknown continent.  And in 1480, Columbus presented his plan to set sail to the King or Portugal, and then to Isabella of Spain. In 1485 he set sail to the New World. Columbus, as well as other patrons and figures of importance to the island are celebrated here with traditional Latin vigour. All through the summer months, the fiesta of  Porto Santo set the island in motion with food, colour, music and dance. Economy During the early period of colonisation, the island’s colonists planted crops such as sugar cane, and grape vines. They also heavily exploited the island’s Drago forests, using the red dye and top leaves of the “Dragon Trees” to manufacture varnish, dye and medicine. Soon after that, the colonists set sail for the island of Madeira , which was itself much bigger and required more work to establish. The tiny island of  Porto Santo was, in subsequent years, completely overshadowed by the task of maintaining and cultivating Madeira and begin to sink under the radar. Today, the biggest industry on Porto Santo is tourism. The island’s beautiful beaches and temperate climate have seen a number of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops spring into being. The island’s golf course is also a major attraction. Built by Spanish champion Seve Ballesteros, the 18-hole course seamlessly merges the natural landscape with the artificial, and has been built in accordance with the highest environmental and ecological standards. A small percentage of the island’s income also comes from its vineyards, which export their local wine to Madeira and beyond.  
Vila Baleira The little town of Vila Baleira is Porto Santo ’s urban area. Its beautiful cobbled streets and relaxed pace of life are perfect for getting away from it all and unwinding in a traditional setting. The recent discovery of  Porto Santo as a tourist destination means that the town is dotted with amenities such as restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping areas. Although, it has not changed a great deal or become overbuilt and heavily modernised to accommodate the masses. This little town of shady plazas and green parks does begin to get going in summer evenings, with many trendy nightclubs and palm-shaded beach bars drawing in the hip young kids from Madeira . Largo do Pelourinho At the heart of Vila Baleira is the old quarter of Largo do Pelourinho. This picturesque area is the town’s main focus of activity. Filled with white stone churches, date palms and peaceful cafes, there are many pleasant corners to explore. All of the island’s original architecture is still standing. Buildings such as the church of El Nossa Senhora da Piedade, the regional government building and the church of El Capela de Misericórdia are cut from Porto Santo stone and have survived the countless years etched onto their surfaces. Visitors can also see several Dragos trees (Dragon trees) dotting the area, whose bizarrely shaped topleaves and blood-red sap was often used as medicine on account of its supposed magical properties. Jardim do Infante (garden) The town of Vila Baleria is very small, as is the entire island of Porto Santo . Five minutes south of Largo do Pelourinho are the tiny Infante Gardens. A peaceful green square with a children’s playground and several sculptures - one of Christopher Columbus and others to commemorate the sailors of Porto Santo , who, over the years, have ferried people through all weathers between Madiera and the island. The fountain at the Infante Gardens was built in the 19th century and (as with all the other water sources on the island) is rich in calcium and very good for the body. Rua João Gonçalves Zarco (street) This is the island’s oldest street and it’s packed full of things to do. On Rua João Gonçalves Zarco there are a host of shops and old cafes which are very popular with the islanders. Here you can shop for local independent or designer goods, drink coffee or simply people-watch. Fonte da Areia (north) The North side of Porto Santo plays host to the island’s jagged coastline. The area is extremely isolated and unreachable by road. It is also very strict about maintaining its heritage, and the building of new structures has been banned by local authorities. There are many beautiful sights to be seen in this rocky and rural area as well the opportunity to really escape. Why not hire a scooter and explore the rugged landscape Fonte da Areia Just past the village of Camacha are the soft sandstone cliffs of Fonte de Areia. Thousands of years of wind erosion have turned the cliffs into a sweeping set of curves and surreal bends. This is an absolute must for photographers. Here, you can also take a path down through the palm groves to the drinking fountain (currently unused) and a beautiful little stony beach at the foot of the cliffs. You can catch a bus to Camacha village and walk for about a mile to Fonte de Areia. Follow the road of Sitio de Camacha towards the airport then turn right on Estr. da Fonte da Areia. Do explore with care should you decided to head down to the beach. This area can get quite windy and the sea can get rough at times. Ilhéu da Fonte da Areia Just off the coast from Fonte da Areia is an iconic landmark of Porto Santo - the islet of the same name, which resembles the head of a gorilla. This 12.5km2 area with highest point of 79 metres boasts interesting Macronesia flora species and forms part of madeira’s Natural network.   The Serras and the northeast coast Porto Santo ’s eastern coast is the island’s most spectacular landscape. Its volcanic rock formations, sandstone rocks, basalt cliffs and secluded swimming coves are not easy to get to, but are definitely worth the trip. On the way visitors can see traditional farmhouses scattered about the landscape – some ruined and decayed, some still in use. Continue on the trail and eventually all traces of industry, agriculture and inhabitants will disappear. The Serras can be reached from Vila Baleira, along a beautiful path which rises high above sea level and skirts El Pico Branco. Also at Terra Chã (which is near the end of the path) there is a small shelter for any intrepid adventurers wanting to spend a night out under the stars. The walk along the path to Terra Chã will take roughly around 2hrs. It’s important that anyone wishing to use it brings plenty of water and food as there are no facilities available on the way and it can get very hot! Pico Castelo and viewpoint This 437 metre high peak is a tough ramble although it is possible to drive much of the way, arriving at a beautiful viewpoint on which to see the mountain’s conifer covered slopes and views over Porto Santo . There is also a picnic spot and a terrace here where visitors can eat their food and admire the scenery.                                       Miradouro da Portela viewpoint and windmills Driving northeast from Vila Baleira on Road 233/Estrada Regional 111, you will reach Miradouro da Portela viewpoint. This 163 metres high spot offers sweeping views of the ferry port on the east and the 9 kilometres stretch of golden sand beaches on the west of the island. Grabbing your attention just before you arrive at the viewpoint are three traditional windmills lining on the left of the road. Like many others which can be found dotted Porto Santo ’s landscape, these windmills were once built to used to grind grain into flour. West of the island Apart from Vila Baleira, the west of the island has many to see and do. Visitors can set out on their own and hike the trails of Pico de Ana Ferreira or Cabeço das Flores which both have stunning views over the entire island. Likewise, areas such as the working vineyard at Adega das Levadas and the lush green oasis at Quinta das Palmeiras has lots of beautiful flora and fauna as well as providing a shady retreat from the sun. But if that’s not for you, the western part of  Porto Santo also offers a lot of leisure activities such as horse riding and golf. Pico de Ana Ferreira Pico de Ana Ferreira is one of the highest points on west Porto Santo . Sitting 283 metres above sea level it is a surprisingly easy walk to the peak, given its height. At the bottom of the peak there are several interesting rock formations caused by the island’s volcanic activity, and the top also has fantastic views over the nearby beaches. Cabeço das Flores, Cabeço do Zimbralinho and viewpoint This impressive row of cliffs rise over 130 metres and 180 metres rspectively above sea level. The Miradouro das Flores viewpoint located on the southernmost point of island (Ponta da Calheta) offers walkers, nature lovers and photographers undisrupted view of the Ilhéu da Cal and the nearby Ilhéu de Ferro. Directly below, the turquoise sea, the unspoilt beaches and their golden sands stretch for mile after mile to the east. T o the southwest, the evening lights of Madeira island twinkle from afar. Museums: For culture and history lovers, there are a couple of museums worth visiting on Porto Santo island. Casa Museu Cristóvão Colombo (Christopher Columbus Museum) The explorer Christopher Columbus lived for a while on the island of Porto Santo . He married and had his child Diego Columbus and spent many years travelling back and fourth to Genoa and Lisbon to trade goods. It was in fact the discovery of ancient artefacts which washed up regularly on the beaches of  Porto Santo that prompted Christopher Columbus to set sail to discover the New World. The Casa Museu Cristóvão Colombo houses important historical artefacts, diaries and records which the explorer kept meticulously during his lifetime. Where: Travessa da Sacristia, n.º 2 e 4, 9400-176 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 983 405  Entrance fee: € 1.50 Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 - 12:30 noon and 14:00 - 17:30, Sunday: 10:00 - 13:00. Closed on Mondays and holidays. Summer hours (July, August and September): Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 - 12:30 noon and 14:00 - 19:00, Sunday: 10:00 - 13:00. Museu Cardina This is an important and curious attraction that visitors have been coming to see since it was first built. The Cardina Museum, constructed by José Cardina, is a tribute to the curious artefacts which have been manufactured on  Porto Santo ever since its development as a municipal island. Not only did Cardina collect items such as furniture, baskets, farm tools and metalwork, but he also began to make small scale replicas of them, thus preserving an antique way of life that has nearly vanished. Where: Estrada Domingos de Ornelas Estrade, Sítio da Camacha, 9400-101 Porto Santo island. Opening hours: Wednesday 14:30 - 18:30, Thursday to Saturday 10:30 - 12:30 and 14:30 - 18:30. Closed on Sunday, Tuesday and public holidays.
Many visitors come to Porto Santo for its impressive golden sand beaches - where you can spend hours sunbathing on the soft thick sands or swim in the clear blue sea. While some enjoys walking and hiking on this little island,  Porto Santo  has a great deal to offer in terms of leisure activities. From relaxing day spas to game fishing, wreck diving, horse riding and golf, this tiny island boasts an impressive array of ways to spend your time. The Magic Garden Spa The golden sand, calcified water and dark clay of  Porto Santo  are renowned for their medicinal properties and mineral rich content. For this reason several luxury health spas have begun to appear on this tiny little island, offering a range of relaxing seawater treatments and massages. The biggest and most luxurious of these is the Magic Garden Spa. Located in the 5 star Pestana Porto Santo Beach Resort & Spa, it offers everything from hot stone massages to full body exfoliation and  Porto Santo  mud wrap treatments. Where: Estrada Regional 120, Sitio do Campo de Baixo, 9400-242  Porto Santo Telephone: +351 291 144 000 Golf Designed by Serveriano Ballesteros, Porto Santo golf course is a major attraction on the island. This dramatically designed course stretches across the island and has been built and maintained to high and environmentally conscious standards. It seamlessly blends into the natural landscape and runs from the North to the South of the island, and its 18 holes are peppered with small natural lakes and cliffs. It also includes a pitch and putt range, a clubhouse with sauna and Jacuzzi, a prop golfing shop and a club bar and restaurant. Where: Porto Santo Golf Club, Sitio da Lapeira de Dentro, 9400-162  Porto Santo  island. Telephone: +351 291 983 778 Horse Riding Located at the foot of Pico de Ana Ferreira, the Centro H í pico do Porto Santo horse riding centre is the perfect place for beginners or seasoned horse riders to set out on treks all over the island. The centre offers beginners’ lessons, week long courses and has a multitude of information on the scenic destinations of Porto Santo  to explore on horseback. Where: S í tio da Ponta, 9400-085,  Porto Santo  island Telephone: +351 291 983 258 Big Game Fishing The island of  Porto Santo  is home to some of the best and most prestigious big game fishing in the world. The near-mythical Blue Marlin is extremely common in the deep waters off Madeira and  Porto Santo , as well as tuna and wahoo. The rich blue waters and temperate climate make big game fishing the perfect activity for anyone simply wanting to relax with a fishing rod on a boat in the middle of the sea or go head-to-head with a giant Blue Marlin. Also, fishing off  Porto Santo  is not seasonal and can be enjoyed all year round. Prices start at around 350 Euros for a half-day boat trip with the charter company Madeira Marlin. Madeira Marlin  Telephone: +351 7896 697 513 Sailing As well as the adrenalin surge of big game fishing, the seas around  Porto Santo  offers unparallel sailing opportunities. Many sailing clubs are located in the port area of  Porto Santo  Bay, but the best and most respected is the Club Naval do Porto Santo. The sailing club owns two vessels – one large and one small and offers sailing classes around the year. One of their boats – the Maria Cristina II is a replica of the ancient sailboats used to carry trade good around  Porto Santo  and is available for charter for a maximum of 15 people. Contact the Club Naval do Porto Santo’s owner directly for all enquiries. Where: Club Naval do Porto Santo, Porto do Abrigo, 9400-080  Porto Santo  island Telephone: +351 291 982 085 Diving The crystal clear waters of  Porto Santo  offer excellent visibility all year round, and subsequently, the island has become a major hotspot for diving. There are two major diving centres on the island, but Porto Santo Sub is the only one which offers beginners the chance to learn to dive and earn a PADI qualification. The course can be completed in a few days of intensive training, or over the course of a week. There are many dive sites on the island which range from a depth of 5 to 50 metres, meaning there is something for everyone from the beginners to the hardened professionals. The waters boast permanent visibility above 20 meters and also houses two shipwrecks. One of these is a purpose-sunk transport ship (for beginners) which is located five minutes away from the diving centre. The other is the wreck of the Madeirense which is roughly one mile off shore. This ghostly wreckage teams with sea-spiders, anemones and other marine life. There are also several offshore reefs where divers can see all manner of archaeological cast-offs such as cannons and ship parts which have been discarded over the centuries. Equipment, tuition and information on the island’s dive sights is all available at either of Porto Santo’s dive centres. Porto Santo Sub Where: Clube Naval do Porto Santo, 9400-080  Porto Santo  island Telephone: +351 291 983 259 Baleira Diving Centre Where: Hotel Vila Baleira - Sitio do Cabeço da Ponta, 9400  Porto Santo  island Telephone: +351 967 385 336   Hiking Pico de Facho The Pico de Facho mountain peak rises to 516 metres and is  Porto Santo ’s highest peak. A hiker’s delight, this beautiful and semi-isolated mountain allows for an extremely impressive vista over the island of  Porto Santo , the golden stretches of sand and the ocean. It obtained its name (translated as “peak of the torch”) on account of the giant chain of warning fires which were lit on the highest peaks of  Porto Santo  and Madeira to warn the islanders of incoming pirates. The hike up Pico de Facho is a tough one as there is no road. This does mean that although it is a popular destination on the island, it is not over saturated by visitors. There is also a two-hour trail which trekkers can walk to the peak, beginning at Pico Castelo, which takes a route through several of the island’s other peaks. Both food and water are essential when setting out, as this mountainous and untamed destination has no refreshment facilities either en route or at the peak. Camping Located on the coastline of Fontinha, west of the island’s ferry terminal, is Parque de Campismo do Porto Santo camping site. This spacious and green camping area can fit up to 800 campers and offers direct access to the beautiful golden sand beach of Fontinha. Amongst the facilities offered on site are shower (cold water), TV lounge, Internet, bar and electricity. Sociedade de Desenvolvimento do Porto Santo ( Society for the Development of Porto Santo) Where: Fontinha beach,  Porto Santo  island (from ferry terminal or Vila Baleira, head west on ER-111 coastal road). Telephone: +351 291 982 160 Charges: Rates per person (per day): €1.70 (3- 25 years old), €2.80 (over 25 years old) Rates for tent space (per day): €3.00 (up to 4 m²), € 3.60 (4 m² and over) Note: Please inquire in advance for the opening times of the year and latest charges    
The pearl of Porto Santo is without a doubt, its beaches. The tropical golden sands extend for over 9 kilometres from the town of Vila Baleira to the Ponta de Calheta. With such an unbroken stretch of beaches, there is something for everyone. Some of them are filled with sunbathers and offer every convenience such as showers, lockers, toilets and refreshments facilities. While other sandy spots are less inhabited and allow visitors the chance to really get away from it all - watching the sun fall and the lights of Madeira twinkle in the distance.                         Praia da Fontinha beach Fontinha beach is the most famous on the island of Porto Santo . At 720 metres long it begins at the Cais Velho (Old Pier) and ends next to the hotel Torre Praia. This beach, although crowded at times offers exquisite golden sand and calm clear waters. It has also, like many other beaches on the island been awarded a blue flag for its waters. Alongside such beautiful swimming and sun bathing conditions, this huge stretch of beach also offers parasols hires, changing rooms, lockers, a carpark and a nearby restaurant. Praia do Penedo beach This beach, located in the southeast of the island is one of the most beautiful and least crowded beaches of Porto Santo . It’s beautiful clear waters, sand and rock formations offer the visitor a chance to truly unwind and escape the bustle of Vila Beleira. The water has been awarded a blue flag award for its quality and the area also boasts a lifeguard service and a car park for easy access, located next to the Porto de Abrigo. Praia do Cabeço beach This beach is located within the hotel zone, just 4km from the centre of Vila Baleira and is locally praised for the therapeutic qualities to be found in its sand as well as its beautiful sand dunes. Although it doesn’t have a car park it is a beautiful walk from the centre of town. It is also located next to several large hotels which contain a great deal of facilities such as restaurants and cocktail bars and accommodation.
Restaurants:                               As well as its world-renowned beaches, Porto Santo has a plethora of restaurants to choose from. With most located in Vila Baleira, visitors can sample anything from traditional cuisine in local eateries to exciting fusion dishes, served in the island’s biggest luxury hotels. Many of the larger restaurants also offer a free taxi service between your hotel and the restaurant, which is perfect for those wanting to over-indulge while on holiday! Restaurant Pé na Água Trendy retro design and funky fusion dishes from around the world. This restaurant’s table stretch right out onto the sandy beach. Perfect for snacks, drinks or watching the sunset. It also serves fantastic locally caught seafood. Where: Pedras Pretas,  Porto Santo Beach, 9400-075 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 983 114 Restaurant Solar do Infante The amazing terraces and window boxes of this restaurant offer unparalleled views over the port and the surrounding area. This place can get a little crowded as many people come here from Madeira island. It is renowned not only for its amazing seafood dishes, but also for its value for money. Where: Av. Dr. Manuel Gregório Pestana Júnior  9400-171 Porto Santo island. ( Vila Baleira seafront, behind the Centro de Artesanato) Telephone: +351 291 985 270 Restaurant O Calhetas This amazing restaurant is located at the end of the coast road and provides absolutely stunning views of the islands. It serves fresh seafood, pasta and other international dishes. It also has an impressive cocktail list. Where: Sítio Ponta, Ponto de Calheta, 9400-001 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 984 380 Restaurant Mar e Sol Located right on the beach, this fun and friendly family run restaurant serves fresh fish and traditional meat dishes. Where: Estrada do Forno da Cal, Campo de Baixo, 9400-015 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 982 269 Restaurant Adega das Levadas Traditional meat dishes and rich stews are served here. Perfect for anyone wanting a true taste of Porto Santo . This restaurant bakes its own bread and is joined onto a vineyard whose wines are available with dinner or to take home. Where: Estrada Comendador José de Castro Vasconcelos, 9400 Campo de Baixo, Porto Santo island. ( near Mirador das Flores) Telephone: +351 291 982 721 Restaurant Baiana Located in the main square of Vila Baleira. This restaurant is a big hit with the locals and can get a little crowded at times, but serves a variety of dishes to suite any palate. Where: R Doutor Nuno S V Teixeira 7 ( Largo do Pelhourinho) , 9400-162 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 984 649 Restaurant Teodorico A little gem of a restaurant which is much frequented by local islanders. Located on the East of the island and serving traditional cuisine and fresh fish, the restaurant may be difficult to find (many of the restaurants on  Porto Santo have no street addresses) but is worth checking out as it has been in the same family for many generations. Where: Serra de Fora, 9400-105 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 982 257 Restaurant Quinta do Serrado A rural restaurant with beautiful exposed stone walls and a roaring fire. This serves amazing grilled octopus and traditional dishes such as grilled meats and stewed goat! Where: Sítio do Pedregal, 9400-010 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 980 270 Restaurant Hipicenter Located near to the beach and overlooking a working horse stable, this homely little places serves light meals such as soups, breads and salads and also has an open fire. Where: Sítio da Ponta (just of the beach), 9400-085 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 291 983 258 Nightlife: In the months before and after summer,  Porto Santo can get extremely sleepy and sedated, with many tourists preferring to stay in their hotels instead of hitting the bars and clubs. But on summer weekends, the town is completely rammed with visitors from overseas as well as from the Madeira . Pinning down nightlife in  Porto Santo is difficult as many of the streets do not have names, but most of the activity takes place in the Boca neighbourhood of Vila Baleira. There are several late-night clubs such as Taski and Cine-café which are located off of the main square in the cultural centre and projects old European movies onto the walls. Both places run from 5pm to midnight and neither has a phone! There are also several beach bars such as the hip Tia Maria where residents from  Madeira go to party. The biggest nightclub in the area however is Challenger. Challenger Night Club Playing a heady mix of rock pop, RnB and House, Challenger is the biggest and trendiest club on  Porto Santo and many big name DJs headline there. It’s the place to be for young residents and tourists, and the music goes on all night! Where: Rua D Estevão de Alencastre, 9400-161 Porto Santo island. Telephone: +351 962 879 177 For practical necessities as well as traditional souvenirs and modest shops, head towards Rua João Gonçalves Zarco in Vila Baleira for everything from sunscreen and shampoo to the latest independent fashion trends. Shopping: Zarco Shopping This complex is located a little further down Rua João Gonçalves Zarco (towards the beach). As well as a fashionable shopping malls complex where visitors can walk through independent and high street fashion outlets, the complex also has a big supermarket for those who want to save a little money and cook for themselves every once in a while. Where: Rua João Gonçalves Zarco, 9400-166  Porto Santo island. Centro de Artesanato (Handicraft Centre) Located near to the old pier in Vila Baleira, this fascinating centre provides visitors with ample opportunities to pick up traditional souvenirs. Here, you can see the multitude of crafts and goods that helped to establish Porto Santo as a trading centre. You can also watch craftsmen working with raw materials such as wool, metal and wicker as you wander through the centre. Where: Av. Dr. Manuel Gregório Pestana Junior, 9400-171 Porto Santo island.
Festivals: As with many other island destinations in the area such as the Canary Islands and Madeira ,  Porto Santo celebrates its religious festivals with intense vigour and colour. Days of importance are attended by locals and tourists alike and are often feasts of colour, music and dance that go on late into the night. Whatever the occasion, expect a massive turnout, fantastic food, local music and most importantly, be prepared to dance until you drop. The island itself is so small that if by chance there is a festival going on, all you need do is follow the music. Most of these take place in Vila Baleira. Twelfth Night Celebration The festival of the Twelfth Night is celebrated from dawn until the following day on  Porto Santo island. An enormous festival that draws in crowds from the entire island as well as from  Madeira and the Canary Islands . Here, people dress in formal island attire, sing popular  Porto Santo songs and play out nativity scenes. Date: 6th January The Festival of Saint Amaro Another huge festival which is similar in style to the Twelfth Night. Here islanders dress in similar outfits and bring musical instruments with them on a procession across the entire town of Vila Baleira. Traditional songs on local stringed instruments such as braguinhas, rajões and mandolins are played and only cease at daybreak! Date: 15th January Festivities of Saint John Saint John is the patron saint of  Porto Santo and it is the most important event of the island’s calendar. The festival move through many phases such as a mass procession, fireworks, local sports competitions between locals, and of course, music and dancing. This summertime fiesta is perhaps the most indicative of the population of  Porto Santo and for anyone keen on sampling authentic local culture, this one should not be missed. Date: 23rd - 24th June Our Lady of Grace Festival This festival is celebrated just over two weeks after the fiesta of Saint John and gathers hundreds of islanders into a giant procession around Vila Baleira after a religious liturgy. Both of these events are followed by a huge street party serving local food and drink. Date: 14th – 15th August Our Lady of Mercy Festival This festival is a standard (although very loud and colourful!) celebration of the Virgin Mary, which attracts religious worshippers and local partygoers wanting to hear traditional music, eat, drink and dance around the island. Date: 30th – 31st August Vineyards Festival More of a local institution than a fiesta, the vineyards festival offers an amazing opportunity for visitors to sample all of the different wines that are produced in Porto Santo and Madeira . Expect fierce competition from the local producers and make sure that you eat some of the many traditional culinary dishes that are served across the festival’s food stalls in the centre of Vila Baleira. Date: The last three days of August Columbus Festival Porto Santo ’s most illustrious resident is celebrated for an entire week in September. Here, the life of Christopher Columbus is re-played in street theatre, exhibitions and medieval scenes. The most spectacular of these is a re-enactment of Columbus’ departure from the port, which is followed by a giant procession to mark the event in which he left the island for Spain, before departing to the Americas. Date: 15th September