The Cape Verde islands have become a very popular beach destination, with thousands of tourists enjoying the beautiful beaches of Sal and Boa Vista each year. The beaches are a very good reason to visit Cape Verde, but the country is about so much more.
Cape Verde also is a fantastic destination for nature lovers and hikers. Most people traveling to the country for hiking and trekking choose to visit Santo Antão. This island is often seen as the most beautiful of all the islands of the archipelago. Santo Antão is reached by ferry from Mindelo on the island of São Vicente. Maybe you will need some accommodation in Mindelo on your way to or from Santo Antão.
Santo Antão is one of the world’s best kept secrets, with a huge number of routes, trails and paths. The island is also known for its spectacular valleys, small villages and local gastronomy.
Here are three of the best hiking routes of Santo Antão:
Cruzinha – Ponta do Sol
This route is special for a number of reasons. Almost the entire trail leads along the northeastern coastline of Santo Antão. The hike can either start in Chã de Igreja or Cruzinha. Finishing the hike takes around 5 hours, depending on where you start or finish.
The villages along this route are tiny, but unforgettable places. Coming from Chã de Igreja/Cruzinha you’ll reach Forminginhas first. This villages seems to exist of no more than 10 houses. The elementary school of the village was recently closed because of a very low number of ‘students’.
About an hour later it’s time to reach Corvo. Another tiny village, located at the end of an incredible valley. The beauty of Corvo becomes even clearer once the climb towards Fontainhas starts. This climb alone will take about half an hour, but is well worth it. Not only because of the view of Corvo, but also for what you’ll find on the other side.
Fontainhas became ‘world news’ back in 2015, when the Spanish edition of National Geographic named it in a list of Villages with the most beautiful views in the World. It truly is one of the most interesting places in Cape Verde.
Cova – Cabo De Ribeira
Cova, Santo Antão’s ‘volcanic caldera’ is one of the most impressive places on the island. The drive up to Cova from Porto Novo takes you up the old mountain road. On the way to Cova, climbing almost 1.200 meters, you have an incredible view of a part of Santo Antão and also the island of São Vicente in the background.
The trail first leads down into the crater. Here, a few families live and use the fertile land. The trail then leads up a hill, where the path down to the valley of Paúl starts. The view of the valley from Cova is breathtaking.
As you reach Cabo de Ribeira there are basically two options: take a ‘Aluger’/Collectivo’ to Cidade das Pombas at the coast, or continue hiking through the valley of Paúl. The hike from Cova all the way to the coast takes up to 5 hours.
Tarrafal de Monte Trigo – Monte Trigo
These two very special villages are located in a very secluded part of the island. The eastern part of Santo Antão, where the cities of Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande are located, is much more populated. It’s also the part of the island that receives the biggest proportion of visitors.
Tarrafal de Monte Trigo can be reached from Porto Novo in an hour and a half. It’s a beautiful drive with different types of landscapes. The two villages are home to a little more than 1000 people, and many of them make a living in the fishing industry.
The hike from Tarrafal de Monte Trigo to Monte Trigo is one of the most exiting routes on the island. This trail is only for experienced hikers, and can even be dangerous in some places due to a lack of maintenance.
It takes about 5 hours to finish the hike. Reaching Monte Trigo is a special feeling. This mysterious village can only be reached by two different trails, or by boat. On your way back, ask a fisherman for a spot on a fishing boat. Another unique experience, especially if you’re lucky enough to see dolphins playing around the boat.
If you plan to visit Santo Antão and would like to walk with a good local guide, we can recommend Lima Tours.
Written by Freddy Gomes.
Freddy is the blogger behind MindeloCaboVerde.com. He loves to write about ‘the other side of Cape Verde’. He also works on Community Development projects through his foundation called Sonvela.
If you are visiting Fogo, or passing through on the way to Brava, a visit to the caldera is a must. The landscape is extraordinary, more like a moonscape. Pico do Fogo, the highest mountain in Cape Verde towers over you. There are people living in the caldera, there are restaurants and hotels too and vineyards. The lovely Chã wine is produced from here. The road through the caldera was blocked by a lava flow from the eruption in 2014, but there is a new track around the blockage.
Cape Verdean Minister Fernando Elísio Freire announced recently that from 1 January 2019, European visitors to Cape Verde no longer require a visitor’s visa. The exemption is for 32 countries, also including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.
The Cape Verde government first announced the intention to introduce this exemption for European visitors in the Spring of 2018. At that point, the intention was for it to come into force in May 2018. The government, however, delayed the implementation a few times, partly to give tour operators time to update their computer systems.
The Minister said that the reason for this exemption was to increase tourism to Cape Verde. The policy has caused controversy within Cape Verde, because Cape Verdean visitors to Europe don’t have a similar dispensation.
Whilst we trust the sources of this information, we are waiting for confirmation from European visitors entering Cape Verde.
For more information on travel to Cape Verde, visit our International Travel page.
Hermínia Ribeiro the deputy director of the Instituto Marquês de Valle Flôr (IMVF) has been on the island of Maio this month. The IMVF became a Non-Governmental Development Organisation (NGDO) in 1988 in São Tomé and Principe. The IMVF is an organisation for development and cooporation and in the 1990’s extended its work to other countries that are Portuguese speaking. The organisation has been supporting initiatives on the island of Maio.
During her visit Ms Ribeiro visited several recipients of the support to monitor progress. She reported that renewal element of the project to promote and renew tourism on Maio was nearly completed. The creation of craft-making enterprises had already resulted in more handmade goods being sold in the shop adjacent to the Forte de São José.
Also the Salt Interpretation Centre is nearing completion and it is expected that this will be a useful addition for the people of Maio and visitors to the island.
Other projects on the island such as the Projeto de Turismo Solidário e Comunitário, which was started 12 months ago, has the aim to improve the living conditions of the people of Maio. It is intended to strengthen and diversify the tourism offer on Maio. Increasing tourism will increase those activities that generate income and are connected with sustainability. This will run for a further two years.
The projects are financed by the European Union, the IMVF and the Portuguese Co-operation and the Society of Tourist Development of the Boa Vista and Maio Islands (SDTIBM).
A tender will be launched shortly for the construction of a new Mindelo cruise terminal. Mindelo is on the island of São Vicente, which is in the west of Cape Verde. It is hoped that the work will commence in 2019 and a budget of €30m has been identified for the project. Jorge Mauricio, the chairman of Enapor – Portos de Cabo Verde made this announcement recently.
It is anticipated that this will help Cape Verde to improve its service cruise ships and passengers. At present those that call into Cape Verde tend to be the smaller ships. Furthermore, the existing facilities are rather basic, so cruise passengers will have a more pleasant experience in future.
More improvements for transportation and travel within Cape Verde are on the horizon. The government of Cape Verde has initiated a tender for a study on the port facilities at Porto Novo on the island of Santo Antão. The study will look into to the feasibility of expanding the port and improving navigation. It will also consider the costs of any works it identifies.
The port was constructed in 1962 and expanded and modernised in 2010. It can currently accommodate cruise ships of medium size. The existing terminal can accommodate up to 250,000 passengers each year. There are also two ramps for roll-on and roll-off ferries.
The authorities on Santo Antão have been asking for a further phase of expansion so that larger cruise ships are able to dock there.
It has been reported that from January 2019 there will be an Airport Security Fee introduced for all arrivals at Cape Verde’s airports. It appears that this fee will be applied to all flights, both domestic and international, although the amount varies. The fee is understood will be from 150 Escudos (€1.36) to 3,400 Escudos (€30.8) based on where the flight is from (domestic or international).
Children under the age of 2, Cape Verdean passport holders and diplomats arriving on international flights will be exempt from this new fee.
Once again figures for tourism in Cape Verde have shown an increase for the first half of 2018. During the period from January to June there were 383,500 guests recorded in hotels and more than 2.2m overnight stays. The figures represent an increase of about 10% compared with the same period in 2017.
Within those figures it was confirmed that visitors from the United Kingdom formed the majority representing over 25% of the total visitors. Portugal, Germany, France, Belgium and The Netherlands being the next largest in that order. Not only were the highest proportion of visitors from the UK, but they also tended to stay in he country the longest.
Of all the Cape Verde islands, Sal continued to be the most popular island, with Boa Vista second and Santiago coming third. This is perhaps not surprising given that these are the easiest islands to get to from Europe. It is however, a shame that visitors don’t aim to be a little more adventurous and explore some of the other islands, which are all so different in character.
If you are visiting the island of Maio this summer, you may be interested in a programme of beach games being organised by the Câmara Municipal do Maio. During July and August the local authority will be organising a series of activities including football, volleyball and swimming.
The events will commence on 16 July with a beach football tournament. These beach games have become a regular event and are intended to create a series of fun activities for the young people of Maio. It will give them something to do during the summer and at the same time help the young people develop.
The activities will take place on the main beach (Bitxe Rotxa) in Vila do Maio.