In particular, in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries the word “Santana” is very common, both as a surname, but mainly as part of the name or the name of towns and cities. It was created by combining two shorter words Santa and Ana, or St. Anne.
One of the many villages of this name is located in the northern part of the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is even one of the most visited places of the island that can not be missing in the round trip itinerary of any tour operator.
The village became known for its architecture, or better for its unusual houses called “Palheiros“. They are mostly built of stone and thatched with the sea grass, which extends almost to the ground. This gives the cottages a typical triangular shape.
Previously, those traditional houses, serving mainly as agricultural constructions, were used for habitation in many parts of the island. But today they are maintained only in Santana, forming a sort of open-air museum. Here you can see them in several types and variations, for example, houses built of wood instead of stone. The first mention of the houses comes from the 16th century, but most of the surviving buildings are not older than one hundred years. They are quite small, because thanks to the warm climate of Madeira were used only for sleep or like a shelter against the rain. People ate outside and toilets used to be far away from the house. Today, their interiors are often lined with wood, facade, doors and window frames are decorated in white, bright red with blue, or yellow. The result, however, is sometimes a bit corny.
Houses now serves almost exclusively as an attraction for tourists, who like such types of cottages. Only small part of the villagers are still living from agriculture or craft.
Another attraction for tourists is the theme park covering 17 acres, opened in 2004. It is divided into several sections and is dedicated to the history, traditions and culture of Madeira. Here you can find out several interesting things about the discovery of the island, traditional clothing, crafts, etc.
Another part of the village is focused on sport. Here you can try bungee jumping or wall climbing.
Each year in July, a big festival of traditional music and dance takes place here in Santana, known as “24 Horas and bailar”, ie “24 hours of dance”. The files and folklore groups from all over Madeira and other countries, attract many locals and tourists.
Santana is often used as a base for walks in the area. The closest hiking destination is Queimadas park from where you can go further for Levada Queimadas way leading through several short tunnels to the majestic waterfall Caldeirão Verde. It is recommended to bring a flashlight and a waterproof jacket or raincoat with you. Other trails lead to Cova da Roda, the fittest individuals will head to the top of the highest mountain of Madeira, which is Pico Ruivo with an altitude of 1861 metres above sea level. From there you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surroundings, assuming that the weather is nice.