Tourist and resident information on Portugal, Madeira and The Azores

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Palheiros Houses in Madeira

Palheiros houses are a feature of the countryside in Madeira and can be found in many villages. They are most concentrated in Santana, a pretty village on the northern coast, however.

Simple A-frame structures with a thatched roof, the style came with the early settlers to Madeira.

Palheiros House
Palheiros house in Madeira

The walls are white-washed with the window frames, shutters and doors then painted in bright colors or pastel shades for a pleasing contrast.

Wheat was an important crop for the early 16th-century settlers on Madeira. Any surplus was exported to continental Portugal which had long endured a deficit of the grain. The leftover straw was then used as thatch. Nowadays, wheat is no longer much grown on the island so maintaining the cottages has become expensive as the thatch must be placed every five years on average.

In days gone by corn was often left to dry on the steeply-angled roofs.

Inside the top floor was usually used for drying and storing agricultural products (such as seeds) while the ground floor was the living space. The upper floor is accessed via an internal trap door or by a ladder on the outside. Kitchens were normally located in separate buildings.

Palheiros House
Often brightly-colored, thatched palheiros are a feature of the Madeiran landscape

The local municipality in Santana has attempted to preserve its palheiros houses by offering an annual prize for the best-maintained properties.

Several of the houses are now open to the public, though only a few are still permanently inhabited. The local Tourist Office in the village of 4,000 people is even housed in a palheiros.

Palheiros House
Palheiros are white-washed with the window frames and doors painted in bright colors or pastel shades

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