Santiago – The Island of Many Delights
The beautiful island of Santiago has so many delights to offer that it’s hard to keep count. Not only is it the largest Island of Cape Verde and home to more than half of the country’s population, but it also has the most diverse topography of any of the Islands. Here, you can find majestic peaks and long sandy beaches, fertile valleys and brittle steppes – Santiago houses a world within its shores. Here is a list of places and activities to get you exploring the Island’s many delights.
Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiago
If you are looking to explore the Island’s cultural history, then head to Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiago (previously called Cidade Velha), the country’s oldest settlement. This settlement is now on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list and is an amazing insight into the Island’s historical architecture and culture. Visit the Portuguese fortress, Fortaleza Real de São Felipe, and wander around the quaint Rue Banana with its typical and romantic Portuguese houses. Nossa Senhora do Rosário, a church situated to the north of Rue Banana, is the oldest colonial church and is well worth a visit to admire its unique architecture.
Hiking on Santiago’s volcanic mountains
Santiago’s physical topography is defined by two volcanic mountain ranges. In the north, Serra Malagueta stretches from west to east and, in the centre of the Island, a mountain range boasts the Island’s highest peak, Pico d’Antónia. Assomada is a great place to start hikes on both mountain ranges and has colourful markets that allow you to fully experience the local culture. It’s also near the country’s oldest and largest kapok tree (500 years old and 40 metres tall). Steep yourself in Santiago’s lush fauna by spending the day at Serra Malagueta National Park.
If a more relaxed vibe is what you are looking for, head to Tarrafal Beach, a sandy cove on the north of the Island. Sheltered by generous palm trees, Tarrafal is the main attraction for many visitors seeking to simply lose themselves in nature and the Island’s calm waters. You can swim, snorkel, dive or simply lie in the sand and watch the boats go past – let time wash over you.
But if a more vibrant and thrumming urban landscape is what you are looking for, then Praia is the perfect city for you. Praia da Gamboa, a city beach, hosts Praia’s latest music festival. Head to the Achada de Santo António quarter for all the bars and restaurants, and explore the maze-like markets of Mercado de Sucupira to fulfil all your shopping needs.
Santiago, the Island of many delights, is about to add one more delight to its list.
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