Santiago Island

 The most fertile and largest island of Cape Verde

Santiago, the most African island of Cape Verde

The island of Santiago is the largest island in Cape Verde and the main agricultural centre of the country. More than half of the Cape Verdean population lives on this island. It is part of the southern archipelago of Cape Verde, also called the Sotavento Islands and lies between the islands of Maio and Fogo. It was the first of the Cape Verdean islands to be settled: Cidade Velha is still a visible witness to this today. This city, founded in 1462 as Ribeira Grande, was the first Cape Verdean city and is on the Unesco list of World Heritage. Furthermore, Santiago is also home to the capital of Cabo Verde, Praia. A former centre of slave trade, Santiago is also considered the most African island in Cape Verde.

A natural jewel in the Atlantic Ocean

Santiago is dominated by two volcanic mountain ranges, which are responsible for Santiago's fertility. In the middle of the island rises the Pico d'Antónia, with almost 1400 meters the highest mountain on the island. In the north, the Serra Maiagueta stretches from the east to the west coast, reaching an altitude of 1064 meters and is crossed by the rather dry "Ribeiras"-valleys.

In between are the so-called "Achadas", plateaus, which have produced a lush vegetation with acacias and fig trees on relatively moist soils. They make Santiago the most productive island in Cape Verde in terms of agriculture. Sugar cane, bananas, coffee, fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and corn thrive in Santiago's humid climate much better than on other Cape Verde islands.

A rich historical past

Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiago, today known as Cidade Velha (Old Town), was founded in 1462 as the first settlement in Cape Verde and was also the first European colonial town in the tropics. The city has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009. Located on the south coast of the island, Cidade Velha is a must-see historic landmark in Santiago.

Praia, capital and international trade centre of Cape Verde

The country's capital, Praia, is also located on the island of Santiago. It is reminiscent of a typical European city with its bustle and noise. With 100,000 inhabitants, Praia is the political and economic centre of Cape Verde. It is the seat of government and has the largest hospital in the archipelago. Praia is hectic and noisy. Residential areas and slums coexist.

While not a typical tourist destination, the old town and the Cha d'Areia district are well worth a visit.

Assomada, the African soul of Cape Verde

Assomada is the largest settlement in the interior of Santiago and is located about halfway through Praia in the south towards Tarrafal on the north coast. Amid the table mountains in the heart of Santiago, Assomada nestles in his Achada (plateau) like a moss-green hammock.

At the colourful market, you can experience the African soul of Cape Verde up close with all your senses. In the maze of the dark bazaar, cows, goats, fruits, vegetables, fish, pottery, baskets, fabrics, furniture, shoes and Chinese textiles are offered.

In the historic city centre of Assomada you will find partly renovated colonial-style houses, the town hall and a museum.

The idyllic beach of Tarrafal

The town of Tarrafal gets busy on summer weekends, with even guests from the capital Praia making a pilgrimage to the north of the island to enjoy the clear, calm waters. The dreamlike mountain landscape around Tarrafal is criss-crossed with a network of inviting hiking trails. The 650-meter-high Monte Graciosa looks down on Tarrafal from above.

The sheltered bay at Tarrafal in the north of Santiago is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. The white, fine sandy beach is considered the most beautiful on the island and is well worth a trip to the north of Santiago. It is also lined with palm trees that provide pleasant shade - a rather rare phenomenon on Cape Verde beaches.

The cute village is grouped around a central square with an enchanting baroque church. This is where the weekly market takes place, where local products are sold.