Santo Antão – the tropical island

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Santo Antão or ‘Sontonton’ in Cape Verdean Creole, is the westernmost and largest of the Barlavento islands. The nearest main island is São Vicente to the southeast, separated by a channel named Canal de São Vicente.

 

Geography

The island is entirely made up of volcanic material. The tallest mountain is Topo de Coroa, reaching a height of 1,979 m:

 

The second tallest is Pico da Cruz at 1,585 m. The island is divided into north and south by a mountain range long considered impenetrable but now crossed by a road.

 

The island’s main town is Ponta do Sol on the north coast.

 

Its ferry port is Porto Novo on the south coast. A part of the island in the southeast has an arid climate, while the northwest receives relatively normal precipitation. Its valleys are suffering heavy erosion.

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Water bodies

Bathing beaches and fishing areas are found in  Tarrafal de Monte Trigo (only accessible by private boats or a rocky road on which a 4×4 is requiered):

 

Streams

  • Ribeira do Passo, near Passo

  • Ribeira das Bras, near Ribeira das Bras

Mountains and volcanoes

The island is considered one of the most mountainous of Cape Verde. Its mountains are composed of basalt. Many of its volcanoes are young, especially its calderas. Since 1999, vulcanologists have observed continuous rising of the water temperature of the sea in the area of Ponta do Sol which may indicate the risk of a new eruption in the area.

 

How to get to Santo Antão?

To get to Santo Antão you have to fly to the neighbour island São Vicente.

Flying to Cape Verde isn’t always expensive. In low season you can fly from Brussels to the island Sal for €150 one way (www.jetairfly.com).  An additional 1 hour- flight with TACV airlines takes you to São Vicente (VXE).

Several German airports fly to Sal (www.tuifly.com).

Also check www.transavia.com for direct flights to São Vicente.

 

TACV organises direct flights to São Vicente from Amsterdam – Paris – Lisbon – Boston.

TACV- flights can’t be booked on the internet yet, however don’t hesitate to ask for more information about the time schedules and (local!) prices of the flight tickets: info@cabocontact.com.

 

From São Vicente several ferry boats leave to Porto Novo (the port of Santo Antão) mornings 08:00/09:30 and afternoons 15:00/16:30.  They head back to São Vicente mornings 09:00 and 10:00 and afternoons 17:00 and 18:30.  There are two ferry boats: ARMAS and TUNINHA.  The price one-way is €7 or 770CVE.

More information on this website: ‘Ferries’ and ‘flights’.

 

TIP:

The first time you go to the massive island Santo Antão, it is advised to go with an experienced tourist guide, because organising the trip (public transport with drivers who only speak creole, to find the best and safest hiking tracks and the spots you ‘must’ see, calculate the time of your sightseeing, where to find a decent meal…) can be quite stressful.  And of course it’s always interesting to get some background information about the island.

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There is no Tourist Information office in Santo Antão!  So before you leave for Santo Antão, you can come to our office at Pont d’Agua Mindelo for all the info you need. 

Or e-mail us: info@cabocontact.com

In Porto Novo you will find a kiosk where they sell detailled hiking maps (kiosk Lucete Fortes).

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‘Stressless’ tours in Santo Antão (English, Dutch, German) **

 Bela Vista tours in São Vicente and Santo Antão (Français) 

Taxi Tour in Santo Antão (Portuguese, French) 

Safari Tour in São Vicente and Santo Antão (Português, English, Français, Español)

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Where to stay?

There are hotels in Ponta do Sol and Paúl, as well as boarding-houses of good quality with different prices in Porto Novo, Ribeira Grande, Tarrafal and other communities.

In the more isolated villages, lodging is possible in the supplementary buildings of the houses of the local residents aimed at lodging the visitors who decide to venture themselves in long walks that take more than one day. 

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The tourist season starts in November and ends in May.  Make sure you book your guesthouse on time when you plan to come during that period.

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Tell us what kind of accommodation you are looking for and we book it for you at walk-in price (the same price as you would pay there at arrival):

info@cabocontact.com or tel. (+238) 911 00 16 or come to the Tourist Information point at Pont d’Agua Mindelo.

 

Tip: Holiday house Casa Chã de Arroz near Ribeira Grande, the former capital: an idyllic and peaceful place for you and your family or friends.

 

 

Transports

There are regular public transports available between Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande, and their schedules coincide preferentially with the departing and arriving schedules of the ferry boats.

The public transports or ‘colectivos’ take the new road where there is not much to see…but it’s the cheapest transport.

 

The private transports show you the old road that goes through the green interior of the island. 

Another advantage is that you don’t have to share with (sometimes 25!) other passengers, squeezed in a hot minivan.

You can book a private transport in our office in Mindelo.

You may also want to rent a car in Porto Novo.  We can help you with that.

Irregular public transport assure the connection between the main communities of the island, namely Ribeira Grande, Porto Novo, Ponta do Sol, Tarrafal (uncomfortable trip), Ribeira de Paúl and Chã de Igreja.

Any questions about transport in Santo Antão? 

You’re welcome in our Tourist Information point at Pont d’Agua in Mindelo or e-mail us: info@cabocontact.com.

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Sports

Being an island of remarkable hills and peaks, levadas and valleys, Santo Antão offers endless sports activities, namely hiking, trekking and cycling.  Be carried away by the existing tracks and get involved in the beautiful and panoramic landscapes of the island.  In Ponta do Sol diving equipment and bikes can be rented and you can do rock climbing with professional help.

 

Places to visit

Porto Novo

Make sure you visit the small beach of the city and accompany the fishermen trawling the net loaded with tuna fish.  Very close, women sell fresh fish.  If you walk towards the east, for about 25 minutes, you will arrive at praia de Escurralete.  It takes you 5 min. by car, by taking the new road.

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Farol de Boi

It’s the biggest and oldest lighthouse of the archipelago, inaugurated in 1886 to sign the channel of São Vicente.  It’s located in Pontinha de Janela.

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Statue of Santo António

Located close to the Vila das Pombas on a place that offers a view of 180° of the valley of Paúl and the ocean.  If you go along the valley towards Eito and Rocha Grande, you’ll suddenly be surprised by huge walls of exuberant vegetation.  Passagem is on top, with a municipal park encrusted in the midst of almond trees and bougainvilles.

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Chã de Igreja

It’s a charming village built on a rocky cape, with a whitewashed church and a row of houses.

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Cova

Formed by the crater of an extinct volcano, located between Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande.

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Natural park of Moroços

24 out of the 44 species identified in the area of Moroços are currently considered endemic to Cape Verde.  Nine of these endemic species are included in the Cape Verde First Red List.

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Ponta do Sol

A very small, quiet village on the northeast coast of the island.  The local residents dedicate themselves almost exclusively to fishing.  There are few but good restaurants where you can eat fresh lobster.

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Ribeira Grande

The capital of Santo Antão.  It’s a small village that can be easily toured on foot.  Next to the village you find two green valleys – Ribeira Grande and Ribeira da Torre (tip: visit the traditional grogue factory)- very rich in water.

Visit also the Casa de Roberto Duarte Silva: it’s one of the oldest colonial buildings in Provoação (Ribeira Grande), and the house where the scientist Robert Duarte Silva was born.

The church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário:

Located in the centre of the village of Ribeira Grande. Typical colonial architecture, dating back to the 19th century.

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Tarrafal de Monte Trigo

Located on the extreme southeast point of the island, this place is visited for the beauty and majesty of its aggressive mountains.  You’ll also find the longest beach of Santo Antão.  On Tarrafal there are only two guesthouses who must be booked in front.  We can provide you their details.

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The valley of Pául

This valley is one of the greenest and beautiful places of Cape Verde.  Streams of water running down the valleys can be seen all year round.  There are many routes that can be crossed on foot or by car; the road that connects Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande is full of wonderful surprises.

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Festivals in Santo Antão

Jan 17. – Municipality Day in Ribeira Grande

May 3 – Santa Cruz in Ribeira Grande

May 13- N. Sra. de Fátima in Lombinho

June 13 – Municipality Day in Paúl / Sto. António in Vila das Pombas

June 24 – São João in Porto Novo

June 29 – São Pedro in Ribeira Grande

August 15 – N. Sra. de Piedade in Janela

August/September – Festival de Escorraleto in Porto Novo

September 2 – Municipality Day in Porto Novo

September 24 – N. Sra. do Livramento in Ribeira Grande

October 7 – N. Sra. do Rosário in Ribeira Grande

November – music festival ‘Sete sois sete luas’ (seven suns and seven moons) in Ribeira Grande

November 30 – Santo André in Porto Novo

 

Nightlife

There are a few night clubs in Ponta do Sol, Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande, as well as bars and restaurants full of liveliness and joy.  Tocatina or live music is very frequent.

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Hospitals and health centers

Delegaçia de Saúde de Paúl tel. 223 11 30

Delegaçia de Saúde de Porto Novo tel. 222 11 30

Delegaçia de Saúde de Ribeira Grande tel. 221 13 76

Hospital de Ribeira Grande tel. 221 13 37

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Cuisine

Perhaps this is the ideal place to experience the best grogue made in Cape Verde, a rhum high in alcohol, produced by fermentation of sugar cane.   On the way from Porto Novo to Ribeira das Patas, you can visit a farm that is today a unique experience of a tourist self-sustaining village in Cape Verde.

The islands gastronomy  is very rich and based on a great variety of fish and meat dishes.  One of the most traditional an appreciated dishes is caldeirada de cabrito, goat meat stew and beans.

The traditional confitures and pastry are also very rich and tasty.  In Paúl and Vila das Pombas you can try special recipes such as sugar-cane syrup cake, banana pudding etc.

There is a reasonable offer of restaurants, but you may also take your meals in the lodging places.  Fresh and tasty goat milk cheese is sold in Porto Novo, very close to the Port, during the departure and arrival hours of the boats.

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History

The island was discovered in 1462 by Diogo Afonso, but was not given its current name until around the 16th century. First inhabited in 1548, in the 17th century, people from the other islands of Santiago and Fogo along with people from northern Portugal arrived in today’s Vila da Ribeira Grande in the northern part of the island. Later, rum and coffee became the most important exports on the island.

Vila da Ribeira Grande:

 

 

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Economy

Fishing and agriculture are the main industries on the island.

The island’s agriculture products include sugar cane, yams, cassava, bananas, mangoes, and grain. The main product on the island is a kind of rum known as grogue.

 

 

 

The exportation of many of the island’s agriculture products to other islands has been prohibited for nearly two decades because of the millipede (Spinotarsus caboverdus) blight, but the government has announced it is going to lift the quarantine.

 

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Tourism

Tourism is becoming one of the most dominant industries on the island. There has been some investment in rural tourism infrastructures.

 

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Administrative divisions

The island is divided in three municipalities:

  • Paul

  • Porto Novo

  • Ribeira Grande

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Language

Other than Portuguese (official language), the majority of the population speaks Cape Verdean Creole.

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Persons

  • Jorge Ferreira Chaves, Portuguese architect

  • Domingos Lima Costa, violinist

  • Gabriel Costa (Nho Kzick), violinist

  • Gabriel Mariano, essayist, novelist and poet

  • Luís Romano de Madeira Melo, composer

  • Manuel de Novas, songwriter

  • Antoninho Travadinha, violinist