The Principality of Pontinha is a micronation on an islet off of Madeira Island. The small fortress, which is roughly the size of a one-bedroom house, may seem foreboding, but don’t worry, this tiny entity is friendly to outsiders.
The Principality of Pontinha’s story started back in 2000, when an art teacher named Renato de Barros bought the islet from a wealthy British family. According to Barros, when the Portuguese king sold the islet to the British family in 1903, a royal charter had been issued granting the landowners both possession and “dominion”—which he interpreted as sovereignty—over the land.
And so, in 2007, Barros declared independence from Portugal. He even adopted the title of Prince Renato II of Pontinha.
Of course, Portugal’s government has yet to recognize his sovereignty, so you don’t need to worry about crossing international borders if you visit. From the fortress’ terrace, you’ll have prime views of Funchal’s port. There’s a good chance you’ll even meet the prince himself—unless he’s at his teaching job on the mainland—who may chat with you about his assortment of items related to the islet’s history.
Know Before You Go
You'll know the fortress is open to visitors if the stairs leading up to it are unlocked. If the gates are closed, it means the fortress is closed. Even if the stairs to the actual fort itself are blocked, it's still possible to view the micronation from the outside.