A busy taxi driver, a lot of activity on the streets and a panorama view of rugged mountains, lush valleys and volcanic rocks in the background: our first impression of Santiago felt
overwhelming, chaotic and adventurous!
Arrival in Santiago: let’s get to know Praia!
When we arrived in Praia late in the afternoon, we had to find our budget hostel where we would be staying for the night, located in an area that was built on a level plain, named Achada de Santo Antonio. Achadas (elevated plains) are an important distinctive feature of praia’s landscape and different districts of the city are built on achadas. Immediately, we were captivated by the energy of this bustling capital city! And as it turned out, finding a place to have a quick bite, was challenging here!
Whilst we were walking around in Achada de Santo Antonio, we realized that this is a popular place for Cape Verdean people to meet in the evening for a meal and a Strela beer. The meal that one can buy is usually grilled chicken or fish with grilled vegetables, sold for a good price on the streets. Seemingly lost we ended up in one of the local dinner places where Lia enjoyed a juicy chicken and batatas (fries). I, on the other hand, waited too long to buy the grilled fish on the street, so I had to eat two eggs for dinner instead at a local bar where guys were watching soccer on television. After this experience, we realized that this island is completely different than Boa Vista, or any other Cape Verdean island we visited before!
During our visit to Praia, we discovered another interesting area, known as the ‘Plateau’, which is the historic centre and the central nerve of the city of Praia. It was built on a basaltic platform, overlooking the harbour, where there is a small island: Ilheu Santa Maria (see picture above). Also shown on this picture is Praia da Gamboa which is the largest city beach. On May 19, an important Music Festival takes place here, lasting for 3 days, during the celebration if the Municipality Day.
During the day the Plateau is bustling and hectic and is the most cosmopolitan area of the city. The main artery of the plateau is the Amilcar Cabral Avenue, with a wide range of offer in terms of shops, cafes and restaurants, bars and museums. Walk through this energetic city, stop for a coffee, order a lovely soup and lemon grass tea (see picture below) at one of the pleasant esplanades or just relax in the gardens. This area breaths a very artistic vibe and we met a couple of talented Cape Verdean artists here!
At night, however, we found out that the Plateau is completely empty and this area is certainly not our favourite to walk around after sunset as it can feel quite unsafe. Keep this in mind if you are planning to go to the famous Quintal da Musica bar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89tU0e4z8UU) which is located at the end of the Amilcar Cabral Avenue! we. In the end we decided not to visit this bar, because it felt too dodgy for us, unfortunately.
In the hostel we met the most adventurous traveler: Erik from Belgium. He has been travelling for years and he has been visiting multiple beautiful countries by his bespoke bike. What an interesting person!
The next day we started our journey to Assomada and Tarrafal.
Watch the video about Praia with a beautiful view from the Plateau!
Welcome to Assomada!
Colorful, chaotic and unique: that is how we would describe the atmosphere of Assomada. The city is an ancient town and it was often more highly populated than Cidade Velha. Remarkably there were not many tourists in this city when we arrived. Markets are always busy places but the market of Assomada is especially lively. The island is the principal agricultural producer of Cabo Verde and a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables gathered from the gardens of the interior of the island, are sold in the Mercado Municipal (the main market). This market is held in the town center every day but it is especially busy on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is a very colorful market indeed: the smell of fresh cooked food combined with the sounds of animals and the ladies that try to sell vegetables and fruits. What a fantastic experience!
Tarrafal: a peaceful and beautiful place!
After a pleasant journey into the interior of the island, in which we could enjoy the magnificent scenery along the route, we arrived at a bay surrounded by coconut trees. The atmosphere in this town is calm, people are relaxed and friendly. Tarrafal is a very tranquil (peaceful) place with a stunning white-sand beach that is located beyond the main square. Like agriculture, fishing is still one of the main industries of Santiago. In Tarrafal, the fishermen show their sailor skills when they go fishing on one of their colorful boats.
We spent a couple of days in Tarrafal and we decided to visit the Campo da Morta Lenta (slow death camp), used as a concentration camp in the past. It was very sad and impressive to see this place and to learn more about the tragic history of this place in the Museum of Resistance.
Watch the video about Tarrafal and the roof chicken farm!
Parque Natural de Serra Malagueta
On the way back from Tarrafal to Praia, we took a taxi from Assomada to visit Parque Natural de Serra Malagueta, the natural park. Instead of a taxi, you can also take an aluguer and ask the driver to drop you off at the Centro Ambiental. Serra Malagueta is one of protected areas in the archipelago and one of the last remaining forest resources on Santiago. The area is home to a large number of endemic plant and bird species and therefore it is an important area. More information: www.areasprotegidas.gov.cv. Next time we visit Santiago, we want to go to Serra Malagueta again and hike in the area and try to spot the vervet monkeys and the rare endemic purple heron, which can be seen here in the trees near the Centro Ambiental!
During our second, short visit to Santiago (on our way back from Fogo to Boa Vista), we visited one of the great treasures of this archipelago: Cidade Velha (‘Old City’), the most important historic site in the archipelago. Unfortunately we only visited this place briefly. A real pity because there is just so much to explore! We would love to go back to Cidade Velha next year and explore the ruins much better (e.g. the Fort, the cathedral and the Igrejas) and to provide more in depth information on this fascinating and historically important place!
Jardim Botanico Nacional
Another beautiful place you shouldn’t skip is Jardim Botanico Nacional, the National Botanical Garden in Sao Jorge das Orgaos. The environment is breathtakingly beautiful: lush vegetation and a variety of plants in all different shapes and sizes.
Watch the video about the Botanical garden in Santiago!
What to bring to Santiago!
Cidade Velha:UNESCO World Heritage Site
Our visit to Campo da morta lenta
Guia Turistico, Tourist Guide 2016