ISLANDS - SANTIAGO
In the middle of the leeward group of islands with a surface area of 991 Km2, SANTIAGO is the biggest island in the archipelago. On the north/south axis, its longest distance is 55 Km and, from east to west, 29 Km. Of volcanic origin, the highest point of its mountainous peaks is called PICO da ANTÓNIA, with an altitude of 1392 m. The deep and beautiful valleys, the result of hundreds of years of erosion, offer good agricultural conditions and the view of these regions from above is truly picturesque. There is a great contrast between the vegetation and the mild and humid climate of the higher regions and that of some lower regions, which are very dry and arid.
SANTIAGO was the first island to be populated after the Portuguese discovery of Cabo Verde in the 15th century. The economy of the island was developed mainly through the use of African slave labor. As a result it became a commercial trading post with the African continent and naturally assimilated more of the African influence than the rest of the islands. Pirate attacks were frequent on the capital town of RIBEIRA GRANDE, the name given to CIDADE VELHA at that time. In 1583, it was also attacked by forces supporting the Prior of Crato, in the battle for the succession to the throne of Portugal. The French pirate J. Cassard finally devasted the town in 1712. It was from this point on that PRAIA assumed predominance and today remains the capital of the Republic.
SANTIAGO is an island full of beautiful scenery, charming beaches, and living examples of its historical past.
Pestana Tropico. 261.4200. Located in the Prainha area of Praia, it boasts a splendid ocean view. It is also near the city's historical centre (10 minute walk), the "Plateau", characterized by its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and gardens.
Perola. 260.1440. A recently-built and attractive modern hotel offering twin and double rooms and also suites (with Jacuzzi baths), each with mini-bar, air-conditioning, TV, hair dryers, Internet connection, and safe. Some rooms also have balconies. There is a large lounge/bar and an outside terrace. Parking is available. It is situated in the centre of town just a few metres from Gamboa Beach and adjacent to the Restaurant Cermar Gamboa.
Praia Mar. 261.4153. Located in the privileged residential area of Prainha, Praia Mar hotel is renowned among hotels in Cape Verde. The hotel is comprised of 56 rooms and 3 suites equipped with bathrooms, air-conditioning, hair-dryers, telephones, satellite television, mini-bars, and safes.
Recommended Restaurants (Praia):
Benfica, Palmarejo. A local “churrasqueiro” like Dragoeiro (below), but with a larger menu and better atmosphere near the sea. Typically has live music on the weekends.
Cockpit. This is the place to be late-night for the whole clubbing experience. The party doesn't get going until about 2 am, but they play fun music and the atmosphere is great for meeting and mingling with new people.
Dragoeiro. A famous local joint with delicious “churrasqueiro” (Brazilian-style grill) of barbecued pork skewers and half chickens. Very basic and cheap, but always great.
Expo Cafe. Lacking atmosphere, this is a good spot for breakfast to sample the local favorite “catxupa” which is a bean stew that has been refried with an egg on top. They also make excellent fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Lotus. Very classy place that serves decent Indian food in a beautiful atmosphere.
Recommended Places to See:
CIDADE VELHA. About 15 km away lies the so-called "Old City", Cidade Velha, formerly known as Ribeira Grande de Santiago, the first city built by Europeans outside of Europe. In 2009 it was bestowed the honor of "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO. Cidade Velha is a place of great historical importance, and to this day is defended by Fort St. Philip, an important example of military architecture of the 16th century.
SUCUPIRA MARKET. If markets are your thing, there are two main markets in Praia. One is Sucupira, where you can find anything from souvenirs to flip flops to electronics. It is a bit of a maze, but certainly an experience. There is a central market on the Plateau that sells fresh vegetables and fish.
SÃO FRANCISCO BEACH. This is the nicest white sand beach nearest to Praia, only about a 15-20 minute drive. A great place to bring a picnic, enjoy the water, and sunbathe. Bring your sunscreen!
RUI VAZ. Up in the mountains, this is a picturesque beautiful place to walk/hike and enjoy some chilly weather in Praia. About 45 minutes out and up, there is a great little inn where you can stay and/or have a huge brunch smorgasbord on Sunday.
FORA. The interior of the island. It is lush and green from October to December, and although dry the rest of the year, it always has a striking, bold landscape. Worth just a drive around, stopping at food stands, seeing how the true Cape Verdeans live or to make a visit to the Chinese-built dam.
ASSOMADA AND "THE BIG TREE". A huge baobab tree stands about an hour walk from Assomada, the second largest city on this island, which itself is home to a much more traditional Cape Verdean lifestyle than elsewhere in the archipelago. The tree is said to have been native to the island since its discovery. Assomada is about an hour and a half drive from Praia and also has a great African market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
SERRA MALAGUETA. A natural park between Assomada and Tarrafal (below), this is a beautiful place to hike and camp. Up in the mountains, and sometimes the clouds, Serra Malagueta is quite a bit colder than near the coast. Monkeys and birds make their home there, so there is a chance for minor wildlife sightings.
TARRAFAL. Home of the most beautiful white sand beach in Santiago, Tarrafal is on the other side of Santiago from Praia, about a 2 - 2 ½ hour drive away. There are small, basic bungalows on the beach to stay overnight and enjoy all the sun and fun that Tarrafal has to offer. The drive to and from Tarrafal is almost as nice as the beach itself, so bring your camera.