Santiago, with the capital Praia, is the most populated island of the archipelago. Over centuries, Santiago was the most important reloading point in South Africa for slaves, and Ribeira Grande was the biggest slave market. Today, the town is called Cidade Velha, and is a dozy nest with a beautiful beach and a nice waterfront restaurant. Ruins of the huge cathedral, thick crumbling monastery walls, and the recently renovated fortress which towers over the town all still attest of the former importance of this place.
Still today, Santiago is in many respects the most African of the islands of Cape Verde. One can learn a lot about the often bitter history of the land while visiting the rebelado villages, where the descendants of slaves who once escaped still live according to their traditions and reject modern civilisation.
Twice a week, the whole island gets together in Assomada, a small town up in the mountains. Swine, donkeys and goats are sold at the market place. The women carry baskets filled with swordfishes and barracudas on their heads up from the ocean. A multitude of tropical fruit and spices infatuate the senses.
Praia Baixo, with its colourful fisher boats, or the white sand beach of Tarrafal, lined with coconut palms, are among Cape Verde’s most beautiful beaches.
One can take promising hikes along the green slopes of the Pico Antonio and in the Serra Malaguetta.