Porto Santo

Porto  © Raul Lieberwirth
Porto © Raul Lieberwirth

Madeira's sister island, Porto Santo, lies 24 miles (39km) northeast of its larger sibling and was actually discovered before Madeira itself. In 1418 Portuguese mariners Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira stumbled across it while running from a storm.

Unlike Madeira, Porto Santo is rather bleak and barren, but its southern coast is bordered by a lovely five-mile (eight km) stretch of beach fringed with soft golden sand, which, together with its temperate climate, has turned it into a popular holiday resort.

The main town on the island is Vila Baleira, which was visited by Christopher Columbus. There is a scenic park in the town, some cafes and pretty cobblestone streets lined with stucco houses. Visitors can catch one of several regular daily flights to and from Madeira, or ferry from Funchal harbour to reach Porto Santo.