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World’s Smallest Desert?

The island of Porto Santo is generally quite sandy. I’m not talking about the elegant 9km beach edged by the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean. That really is quite spectacular! No, we’re talking about the entire island. Compared to the lush greenery of the main island, Porto Santo is quite arid. And I quite like it! It’s a nice change from Madeira and even if you come for two or three nights, you feel like you’ve had a nice change from your usual routine. The island is only 518m above sea level at its highest point, Pico do Facho, with most of the island only reaching 200meters.

Fonte da Areia, to the north of the island, is one of the smallest deserts on the planet. Surrounded amidst volcanic rocks, Fonte da Areia is a miniature desert formed by biogenic carbonated sandstone that has been sculpted by the wind for some 31 thousand years. Care needs to be taken as there are cliffside views and it’s a good idea is to take a guide to show you the area. From one spot, you get a great view of Gorrila Island. There is also what looks like a chapel or water fountain where one could presumably have bathed in the past.

David J. Whyte


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