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Hiking in Porto Santo

Golden Island is not only the beach!

We’ve been told by a number of people that the best time to visit Porto Santo is early Autumn, when the weather is still great but as it’s no longer the high season, the place is more calm and relaxed. Peace and quiet was exactly what we needed, so in the middle of October, after months of waiting for the right moment, we finally got ourselves our tickets to the Golden Island.

I imagine most of the people head to Porto Santo with that spectacular 9 km long sandy beach in mind, but I was never too much of a beach person. All my attention and all my curiosity was with the hills that I spotted on the map on the eastern side of the island. We had arrived to Porto Santo’s major town and port, Vila Baleira, at night, but the next morning, when I first saw the peaks in the light of the day, I instantly knew I needed to give them a proper hike. Especially one of them, Pico Castelo (cone-shaped, slim, regular and seemingly the highest) was standing out, promising the best panoramic view of the entire island. We chose it to be our first destination.

Porto Santo is not a particularly big island, most of it’s points of interest are within walking distance – that does include Pico Castelo. Instead of taking any buses or taxis, we simply started our hike in the center of Vila Baleira and after some 20 minutes we were already at the feet of a 437 m peak, proceeding slowly up the steep path to the viewpoint on the top. The hike, even though a bit tiring, is fully compensated by the panorama it offers. The whole western part of Porto Santo is there for you to enjoy: from the houses of Vila Baleira, through island’s long airport lane, golf course and famous “Piano mountain”, until the distant islets off the shore – you can see it all.

Having rested for a while, we continued east, circumnavigating Porto Santo’s highest peak, Pico Facho, and following the path to the northeast of the island. That is were island’s second official trail begins. Vereda do Pico Branco e Terra Chã, as it’s called, leads you through the slopes of one of the most impressive peaks of Porto Santo, highlighted by very regular rock formations and beautifully green cedar trees one sees towards the end of the path. After some 2,5 km of a pleasant (yet demanding at times) hike we reached our destination – Terra Chã.

Located at the very tip of the island, some 400 meters above the see level, it is a magnificent, remote picnic place: there are benches, a table (had seen better days) and a fireplace. It’s a shame we didn’t know about it before, because we all agreed Terra Chã was the most beautiful place on Porto Santo and we would have loved to have a picnic there. Next time we’ll come prepared – and so can you now!

So, that’s it! This month’s hint for you – if you’re going to visit the Golden Island, keep in mind it has much more to offer than just a beach. Pack your trekking boots, too!

Short bio of the volunteer:

Maciej Śpiewakowski. Polish volunteer at AAUMa, passionate about journalism, photography, music and travels.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.