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Review: Santana

City/Town/Region/Island

Madeira, Portugal

A waste of time and a real tourist trap

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2223 reviews

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  • May 2019
  • Solo

17 people found this review helpful

Santana with its traditional houses features in all the guide books and is on all the tourist itineraries. The traditional A frame thatched houses were first mentioned in the C16th although most of the surviving examples are less than 100 years old. They typically had bright red doors and blue frames.

Containing one or two rooms, with a sleeping platform in the loft, they housed a single family. Their low squat shape was ideally suited to withstand storms that lash the north coast. Cooking was done outside to avoid fires. Traditionally they sat in their own patch of land which was used to grow fruit and vegetables. No longer used, some survive as storage or barns for cattle. Many houses have tiny models in their gardens.

A small group of houses is now preserved as a tourist attraction. The houses do get very busy, especially when a coach load of tourists arrive. Plan a visit for lunchtime, when they are quieter.

One contains the Tourist Office with maps and some information. Another has a lady doing some drawn thread work along with a loom and flax winder. There are large notices asking you NOT to take pictures and the only time she interacted with visitors was to tell someone off for taking a picture… The rest are tourist shops selling the usual offerings found everywhere on the island (and often a lot cheaper…) If you are wanting tourist souvenirs then go into one of the tourist shops in the town centre!

I had hoped there might be a traditionally furnished house giving some idea what they were like when live in. No such luck.

This is just an artificial tourist experience. To be honest it wasn’t worth the stop unless you need to take a picture of yourself to show you have been…

There isn’t much else to see or do in Santana. The plain rather simple church has a baroque altar. There is a stylish city hall and a small market in the square. This was the only place we visited that I was disappointed by and felt we had too long in!

All my pictures of Madeira are here.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    5 months ago
    That sounds wonderful yorkshirecat and great fun. I'm sad we didn't have an experience like that. I suppose it is always possible that our guide didn't know about the place. I felt the traditional houses were very much into making money out of the (gullable) tourists which was so different to elsewhere on the island.
  • yorkshirecat
    5 months ago
    Oh that is such a shame @ESW. I can only presume the lovely owner of the traditionally furnished house has either passed away or been forbidden from inviting visitors into his house and garden. He was absolutely delightful and plied us with local liquor. He also welcomed photos. Here's my article frommy visit in 2014 https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/blog/destination-features-europe-portugal/madeira-island-day-5-jeep-tour-into-the-mountains
  • ESW
    5 months ago
    We stopped here during a full day trip of Eastern Madeira (review to follow). We had 90 minutes to kill which gave time for a leisurely lunch and was in fact the longest time allocated during the holiday. At least on the other days there was plenty to do and see at the lunch spots for those who didn't want to spend all the time over lunch. Given the choice I would have spent less time here and added an extra half hour to one of the other places we visited - however you can't please everyone!
  • HMJ
    5 months ago
    I agree ESW, I think it's one of those places you feel you have to go, but then when you get there, you wonder what all the fuss is about!