"The North Coast" Santana by ghislain69

Santana Travel Guide: 31 reviews and 69 photos


Anyone wishing to experience Madeira's dramatic natural beauty at its purest and most untamed should head for the north coast for at least part of their holiday.

Slightly cooler than the island's southern half, Madeira's north is cloaked in a mantle of dense vegetation in every imaginable shade of green, from the emerald tones of the vineyards to the dark hues of the ancient laurisilva. The coastline itself is nothing short of spectacular, as an endless succession of imposing sea cliffs seems to gradually dissolve towards the horizon in the distant Atlantic mist.

But a stay in the north also grants visitors easy access to the island's mountainous interior, with the village of Santana particularly well placed for heading to Madeira's tallest peaks, Pico Ruivo and Pico do Arieiro, and into the protected laurel forests around Queimadas. Back on the coast, Santana itself is a quiet farming village set on a fertile plateau, and is famed for its unique thatched and brightly painted, A-framed cottages.

Heading west from here, the road follows the coast to the charming village of São Jorge, clustered around a baroque 18th-century church and surrounded by vineyards, before heading inland towards the hillside village of Boaventura, whose little cemetery must rank amongst the most scenically situated resting places in the world.

Continuing west, you return to the coast at the delightfully traditional and very peaceful fishing village of Ponta Delgada, which in addition to its old seafront church and charming backstreets has a natural seawater swimming pool and a small cultural centre where art exhibitions are regularly held.

6km further west, the village of São Vicente is situated at the turning for the valley road that links the north coast with Ribeira Brava and is thus well placed for those who wish to explore inland as well as along the coast. Just outside the village, visitors can seek out the volcanic underground caves of Grutas de São Vicente, whilst the pedestrianised old quarter is an immensely picturesque spot for just pottering around.

The western stretch of the north coast is perhaps the most dramatic, as the coast road clings to the side of the mountains, dipping in and out of tunnels before emerging at the island's northernmost point close to the former whaling port of Porto Moniz, popular with Madeirans in the summer for its natural rock pools and impressive mountain backdrop.

Wherever you choose to stay on Madeira's north coast, you are guaranteed to find sensational views, an abundance of memorable walks and a thoroughly laid-back atmosphere that feels far removed from the stresses of modern-day life.

  • Last visit to Santana: Jan 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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