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.
Rain is a scarce commodity in Cape Verde. On some of the islands it sometimes only rains one or two days in the whole year. This makes it difficult for gardeners and farmers, who need the rain to grow crops. The rainy season is normally August and September. This year there has been very little rain, but even a small amount is better than nothing. Rain is welcomed in Cape Verde. Here is a field of maze growing on Santo Antão, which has benefitted from some rain. So there will be food to harvest, even if it is not on the scale most of us are used to.
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.
The forest fire on Santo Antão that we reported on last week has now been extinguished. However, the Cape Verdean Minister of Agriculture, Gilberto Silva, has stated that it will take a lot of hard work over more than five years for the area to recover from the fire damage.
Some 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) were damaged according to latest estimates. This area is some 13% of the whole forest area and equivalent to approximately 200 football pitches. The flames have destroyed trees, endemic plants and water pipelines. These pipelines were installed to provide water to the East Plateau (Planalto Leste).
The causes of the fire are as yet unknown.