Staying in a Traditional Santana House
One of the highlights of our Madeira itinerary was staying in a traditional Santana house. It was a really unique experience, they were in a gorgeous location and it gave us an insight into some of Madeira’s heritage and history.
In this guide, we’ll share with you the history behind the houses, where they are, their facilities, some of the best things to do in the area and our review. So, keep reading for everything you need to know to make your visit to Madeira truly memorable.
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The History of the Traditional Santana House
These vibrant and colourful traditional Santana houses date back to the discovery of Madeira and are a trace of primitive constructions.
The people that built and lived in these houses typically worked in agriculture and covered the houses in straw from cereals such as corn and rye which were turned into flour and then noodles, pasta or bread.
The steep slopes of the house force the rain to drain away, preventing it from soaking in and ensuring it doesn’t leak.
Wood was also used in the construction as it was cheap and abundant in the region at the time and balanced the temperature of the interior during both the summer and winter months.
Inside the houses were an attic, where the agricultural products were kept and a downstairs where the living area, kitchen and bathroom were. The attic was either accessed through a trapdoor inside the house or on the outside using a stepladder.
Some houses also had a basement known as a “loja”.
The houses you stay in, retain this traditional layout as you can see from the photo below of where we stayed. The downstairs is a studio with the bathroom off it and you can see the stairs to the attic on the right.
Where are the Traditional Santana Houses Located?
The traditional Santana houses are located a 12-minute drive outside of Santana Town Centre in the mountains as you can see from the map below.
They’re not signposted and can be easily missed, as we found out. Keep your eyes peeled for a narrow road on the right leading to a car park for “Un Caminho para todos. Queimadas – Pico das Pedras” and the entrance to the houses is opposite this on the left.
There’s no parking on site but we parked in the car park opposite and had no issues.
As you’re driving through Santana, we’d recommend stopping at the supermarket Continente Modelo Santana as the houses are self-catering and there’s nothing within walking distance. Alternatively, you can drive into Santana for your meals.
What Facilities are Included?
The houses are fairly basic but have everything you need for a comfortable and pleasant stay for a few days. Outlined below are the main facilities; there may have been others but nothing else that we used.
- Free WiFi
- Double bed with extra blankets
- Gas heater (the evenings can get chilly in the mountains)
- Fully equipped kitchen
- Dining area
- Flat-screen TV
- Beanbags in the attic with extra blankets
- Storage to unpack
- Outside dining area
What is there to do in the area?
Santana is full of amazing things to do and as Madeira is quite compact, it’s also a great area to base yourself to explore further afield if you don’t want to stay in Funchal.
One of the best things to do in Santana is hike Caldeirão Verde and Caldeirão do Inferno in the Queimadas Forestry park. This trail looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of a storybook with fairytale buildings, an enchanting forest and jaw-dropping scenery.
Some of the best viewpoints in Madeira are located on the island’s north coast and Santana is perfectly located for you to visit some of these. Miradouro do Guindaste and Miradouro das Cabanas are two of the most striking and both a short drive away.
Santana is also a short drive from the highest peak in Madeira; Pico Ruivo which is a fantastic spot for sunrise! From here, you can hike to Pico do Arieiro; Madeira’s third highest peak. We did this in reverse and it was the highlight of our Madeira itinerary!
If there’s no availability in the houses, or you’re short on time and basing yourself in Funchal for your Madeira trip, you can visit The Centre for Traditional Santana Houses in the centre of town.
This is a preservation area in memory of local heritage where you’ll find numerous traditional houses where you can buy a wide range of local products and traditional crafts.
Our Review of the Traditional Santana Houses
We loved our stay in the traditional Santana houses. They’re unique, a great base to explore the area and give you an insight into some of Madeira’s history.
Nowhere else on the island can you stay in these houses and as Santana is a bit of a tourist hub, staying slightly out of town in the mountains is a great way to escape the crowds.
It’s also an amazing place to watch the sunrise!
In our house, there was a little window in the attic that sat just above the clouds one morning. It had a beautiful view of the sun coming up, the sky lit up in various hues of reds and oranges and we sat there with our morning coffee soaking up the atmosphere.
Our Top Tip: not all of the houses would have this view as they don’t all face the same direction. If you can, request house 3, this is the one we stayed in.
The house had all of the facilities we needed for a couple of nights. It’s pretty basic but that’s fine for us and it was clean which is the most important thing!
The only slight complaint we had was that the shower was pretty small which wasn’t helped by the sloping roof. This meant that the shower curtain kept getting stuck to us while we washed.
There’s an outside picnic bench where we had our dinners and a couple of drinks in the evenings and once it cooled down we layered up, sat in the attic and read our books.
As mentioned earlier, they’re not the easiest to find. They’re located down a very narrow road opposite the car park for “Un Caminho para todos. Queimadas – Pico das Pedras” which you can’t drive down.
There aren’t any signposts but just keep walking and once you bear round to the right slightly you’ll see them on your left. It’s probably for the best they’re not signposted as there’d no doubt be a lot of tourists taking photos which would ruin the atmosphere.
We’d definitely recommend staying in the traditional Santana houses for 1 or 2 nights; 3 maximum. Don’t go expecting luxury and all the frills. They’re authentic and memorable and will absolutely add that little bit extra to your Madeira trip.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our review on the traditional Santana houses. Have a look at some of the other Madeira guides below and if you have any questions or want to get in touch, feel free to leave a comment 🙂