Go for walks in Porto Santo to refresh your spirit. To the north, you can breathe the pure mountain air of the pine forest.
Today, the recently restored footpaths are ideal for walking tours, thanks to their safety and the beauty of the landscapes to which they take us.
Walking through the wonderful countryside and enjoying its rough beauty in truly idyllic surroundings is certainly an excellent way of discovering nature’s charms, relaxing and recovering the energy spent during the year. Porto Santo is an island of paradisiacal serenity, rough beauty and silence.
We suggest an interesting walk up the peaks of the Northeast, extracted from the book Levadas e Veredas da Madeira (Madeira’s Paths and Levadas), by Raimundo Quintal.
Porto Santo/Northeast Peaks
Climb to Pico do Castelo and circular route including Facho, Gandaia and Juliana/Vila peaks - 11 km - 5 hours
To get a better sense of orientation we will start by climbing up Castelo, which might appear to be the island’s tallest peak but in fact is only 437 metres high. Nearby Facho peak, 517 metres above sea level, takes the honours.
From the top of Castelo peak hikers can take in a wide view that allows us to understand the island’s shape and layout. It is really composed of two volcanic groups separated by a low area on which the airport is built. Castelo peak is part of the main volcanic group occupying the east and northeast of the island. From the top of this peak one can easily notice the huge contrast between the rugged, cliff-strewn coastal strip to the north and east, and the long beach that spreads along most of the South coast. From the top one can also see some islets scattered in the sea as in they were protecting Porto Santo.
We leave Castelo peak and go down the path on the northern side, reaching a point where the road ends. Near the end of the road the El-Rei path starts, circling Facho peak from the South. At the start one has to be careful not to take a wrong turning; the path divides but hikers should always try to take the higher of the tracks. As it runs along the side of Facho peak with its antenna on the top, this path offers a series of fantastic views over the island’s central and west parts.
From Gandaia peak we can glimpse the village of Serra de Fora between Graça and Concelho peak. A little further along we can see the rocky formation of Serra de Fora itself, between Maçarico and Concelho peaks. Heading southward again, the slopes of Gandaia peak are very exposed to the north winds. From this vantage point called Matos de Dentro one can already see the little hamlet of Serra de Dentro. Visible, too, is the little stream that flows down the steep hanging valley between Branco and Concelho peaks. Little by little the hiker approaches Juliana peak, where the attention is drawn to prismatic columns of basalt.
On reaching the pass that separates the Gandaia-Facho and Juliana ranges, the path itself divides. One route completes a circuit of Gandaia and Facho peaks, ending at the departure point. The other route leads down to the foot of Juliana peak. If you choose to take the lower route, do be aware that there is no proper path between Juliana peak and the road, so one has to scramble through the vegetation. The terrain, however, is not particularly challenging.
From here it is simply a matter of following the road back to Vila Baleira. It leads through the hamlets of Serra de Dentro and Serra de Fora, which you will already have seen from above. There is no better way to complete this ramble than to climb to the Portela viewpoint and there stop to admire the fantastic view over the town and the beach.
Features: The path circling Facho and Gandaia peaks is mainly flat and with no great cliffs. The main challenge offered by this circular route is the descent from Juliana peak to the Serra de Dentro road. This descent cuts through the scrub without benefit of a path. However, it is not too strenuous.
Persons using, or promoting the use of the recommended footpaths shall remain liable for all property damage or personal injury incurred in the course of such usage.
Hang gliding and paragliding
Porto Santo and its mild climate make this island a very attractive place for open-air sports throughout the year. There are modern sports facilities for professionals and amateurs alike.