Santana, the custodian of tradition
The isolated nature of Santana was the reason why, for much of its history, the town maintained its identity and its most authentic features. If you would like to learn about Madeira’s traditions, and you like walking, this is the perfect place for you. The municipality comprises six parishes, each with its own character: Santana, São Jorge, Arco de São Jorge, Faial, Ilha, and São Roque do Faial. However it is the town of Santana that you need to pick if your time in Madeira is limited.
If you are spending several days in Madeira, we recommend that you set aside time for the odd hike, as every municipality has itineraries to take you to the most incredible places. Santana has even been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO — in recognition of its superbly conserved biodiversity and its commitment to sustainability. This protected area covers both land and sea, and recognises the local commitment to the protection of the countryside and of the environment. In this area, you will find over 120 kilometres of paths, with outstanding itineraries such as the Levada do Rei, the Vereda do Pico Ruivo, and the Levada do Caldeirão Verde.
- Historia de Santana
- Casas tradicionales de Santana
- Parque Temático de Madeira
- Parque forestal de las Queimadas
- Rocha do Navio
- Dónde comer en Santana
- Dónde dormir cerca de Santana
History of Santana
Santana is the name of both the municipality and its more famous parish or town, and comes from the chapel of Santa Ana, its patron. A church was built later, between the late seventeenth century and the mid-eighteenth century, and dedicated to this particular Virgin. If you visit the church, you will recognise that it has assimilated a mish-mash of styles over the years; nevertheless its main altarpiece, with St. Joachim and St. Ana, is nothing short of magnificent.
The town of Santana, which dates from around 1550, retains certain features that recall the influence of the Portuguese settlers who arrived from Braga. You only have to notice the custom of spreading the maize plants on the roofs to dry them to be momentarily transported to northern Portugal. As we have already mentioned, its geographical isolation has meant that this town has remained particularly faithful to its traditions.
Santana’s traditional houses
The best place to see Santana’s traditional dwellings is the Núcleo de Casas Típicas, a museum area, where you can appreciate all their characteristic features as well as buy local products and crafts. These little houses with thatched roofs have become a tourist emblem of Madeira; they serve as a reminder of the way of life of the farmers here in years gone by. The thatched roofs of these humble dwellings were a by-product of the cultivation of cereals such as wheat and rye. Unsophisticated as they may appear, they provided insulation for the dwelling and guaranteed a comfortable temperature in both summer and winter. They normally had two storeys: a lower floor where the family lived, and an upper floor that was used for storage. Some that were built on sloping ground also had a small wine cellar.
Parque Temático da Madeira
Santana has one of the island’s best educational spaces, known as the “Parque Temático da Madeira”. This is a centre where learning and leisure go hand in hand. Here, you will find information on the history, science and traditions of the whole archipelago. The centre, the only one of its type in Portugal, occupies an area of 145,000 m2, and has four multimedia pavilions: “The Future of the Land”, “The Discovery of the Islands”, “Fantasy Journey in Madeira”, and “A World of Islands: Islands of the World”. The theme park boasts a replica of the Monte train, ox carts, a typical Santana house, a windmill, a labyrinth, and even a lake. Visitors can stroll along its paths and through its gardens which contain the island’s endemic flora.
Parque Florestal das Queimadas
Another of Santana’s essential attractions is the Parque Florestal das Queimadas, a two-kilometre walk from Pico das Pedras. This is a perfect place to relax and to admire a genuine laurel forest. Apart from the sight of the magnificent trees and the sound of the birdsong, visitors can enjoy a peaceful meal in the picnic areas and walk along the paths lined by the lush laurel growth. The Park contains the Casa de Abrigo das Queimadas, which has a remarkable thatched roof.
Rocha do Navio
Madeira has some breathtaking scenery, truly overwhelming in its magnificence. One place with a fabulous view of the scenery, including the rugged coastline and the islet of Viúva, is the Rocha do Navio viewing point. The island owes its unusual name to a nineteenth century Dutch ship that was wrecked off its coast. From here, you can access the Sítio da Rocha do Navio Nature Reserve by cable car or on foot.
Where to eat in Santana
In Santana you will find excellent restaurants — including some with spectacular views, such as the Quinta do Furão. The restaurant is not particularly cheap, but it’s worth paying for the thoughtfully-prepared dishes based on top-quality ingredients. Ask for a table on the terrace, so that you don’t miss the stunning views of the cliffs and the sea. Another interesting possibility is Cabo Aéreo, which serves delicious fish and chargrilled meats. Savouring an espetada (skewered beef) on its terrace, while admiring the delightful views, is a pleasure that no-one should miss. Lastly, it is also worth mentioning the Serra e Mar restaurant, an establishment where you can enjoy the island’s traditional cuisine at modest prices. While the presentation of the dishes may not be outstanding, the flavour more than makes up for it.
Where to stay near Santana
Santana is located around 40 kilometres from Funchal, so we recommend that you stay there, and visit the municipality on a one-day excursion. In Funchal, moreover, you can go out in the evening, have dinner in good restaurants, and visit the capital’s lively bars. Also in Funchal, you will find the Allegro Madeira, an excellent, four-star hotel, designed for an adult clientele, and which offers ideal facilities for rest and relaxation. The hotel’s 124 guest rooms, recently refurbished, and with a cheerful décor featuring touches of bright colour, are perfect for recharging your batteries. The hotel’s spacious public facilities include a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a Wellness Centre, two bars and, a restaurant serving traditional cuisine. One spot not to be missed is the Rooftop Bar 360, where, cocktail in hand, you can enjoy the most beautiful sunsets that Madeira has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the unmissable attractions of Santana?
The municipality of Santana offers visitors several places of interest, such as the famous “Santana cottages” with their thatched roofs. We would also encourage you to visit the Parque Temático da Madeira, the Parque Florestal das Queimadas, and the Rocha do Navio viewing point.
What is the history of Santana’s traditional houses?
Santana’s traditional houses, with their thatched roofs and colourful doors and windows, were the dwellings of ordinary people of the municipality. As agricultural workers, they used the waste straw from cereal production to thatch their roofs.
Where can I eat in Santana?
In Santana, you will find dozens of restaurants where you can eat fantastic food, and where you can enjoy spectacular views. Two of our favourites are the Quinta do Furão and the Cabo Aéreo Café. With outstanding traditional cuisine and good prices, you could also consider the Serra e Mar restaurant.