6 Top Hikes in Santo Antao, Cape Verde

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Santo Antão, the second largest island of the Capeverdean archipelago, is a paradise for hikers and trekkers. Breathtaking views, monumental valleys, houses built in almost vertical valley sides, vertiginous trekking trails... All of this surrounded by still intact nature and an agriculture nourishing entire Cape Verde. The trails are well maintained and often used on a daily basis by locals. Don't be surprised when a granny carrying a big basket full of vegetables will overtake you on your trek... Most trails connect several villages and are well indicated. In case you get lost, just ask locals mentioning the name of the village that you are heading to. Some of these 8 creole expressions might be very helpful as well. 

 

The number of hikes that you can do on Santo Antão, seems to be infinite. After staying 10 days, we've only seen half of the island and there were still some trails left that we wanted to explore. Here my selection of Santo Antão's most spectacular hikes and trails!

1. Valle de Paúl: Cova - Cidade das Pombas

Difficulty: Medium - Duration: est. 6 hrs
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The breathtaking view on Paúl Valley
If, for whatever reason, you choose to do only 1 hike on Santo Antão, then Valle de Paúl is the one! The trail leads you from Cova crater through the fertile Valle de Paúl to Cidade das Pombas. 
Get to Cova early in the morning by aluguer (~4€ departing from Ribeira Grande) and take up forces in "Amor do Dia". The hostel is run by an Italian guy and they serve breakfast with self-made bread, jam and natural juices. Only the views on neighbor island São Vicente are worth to step in for a bite. Cova crater is about 10 minutes away and at the beginning you'll be in company of some milk cows. The trail leads you out of the lush green crater. This is the only ascending inclination of the entire hike, just until you reach the crater's edge. From here you'll have the best, the most breathtaking view ever! The immense Paúl Valley is at your feet and you can already spot Cidade das Pombas next to the sea.
 
Now the dizzying part of the hike begins. This part of the trail is really not meant for those who are afraid of heights because it goes down steeply. The trail ends at a larger paved road that leads you through picturesque farmer villages until you reach Pombas. On your way, you'll pass along coffee plants, mango and avocado trees, countless banana plants and coco palms. Most of the island's fruit and vegetables exports come from this valley. It is particularly fertile due to its micro-climate.
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The path down to Cidade das Pombas is nothing for those who are afraid of heights.
As a short stopover I recommend "O Curral" in Cha de João Vaz. The place is owned by an Austrian couple producing their own sugar cane brandies (grogue) and food with ingredients grown in their garden. While you're enjoying a local fruit salad with natural yogurt, you can watch how the workers get the ingredients for today's lunch. Although the place is a bit pricey, with every bite you'll taste their freshness and savoir-faire.
When you keep walking on, you'll be surrounded by papaya and passion fruit trees. The only direction is downwards, it's impossible to get lost. For those who want to fill up their minibar at home, visit the grogue factory in Cidade das Pombas
 
If you are looking for a good lunch option in Cidade das Pombas, I recommend "Casa Maracuja". The restaurant located on a rooftop with gorgeous views to the valley serves fresh seasonal food. Many of their meals are based on passion fruit. You have to try the self made passion fruit ponche! It's delicious! I loved the restaurant's interior design using passion fruit plants to cover the terrace and the chill out area. All the furniture is "passion fruit-yellow". But the heart & soul of this place is Hetty, a cheerful woman who seems to speak any language.
 
After the descend if Paúl Valley, we'd feel the pain in our knees for several days. It's really a strong descend during several hours. But this trail is definitely worth it! In Cidade das Pombas you get aluguers to any other larger village on the island.

2. Ponta do Sol - Chã de Igreja

Difficulty: Medium - Difficult because very long - Duration: est. 6-7 hrs
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Running down Aranha Valley: Happy Hiking Paulina

 

 

Esta ruta es una de las más populares de la isla. Va a lo largo de la costa noreste y pasa por pueblos que no tienen acceso a calles asfaltadas. A veces no puede pasar ni un bus y los niños tienen que usar esta camino todos los días para ir al cole. Las vistas a los valles de Santo Antão son majestuosas y los acantilados son unos de los más impresionantes en toda la isla. Esta ruta es medium/difficult. No tiene muchas subidas, pero es bastante larga.

 

Durante la temporada de lluvia, el sendero se daño en varios lugares. Prepárate que va a ser duro de encontrar un aluguer en Chã de Igreja. Es mejor de organizar su transporte con antelación o tendrás que coger uno de los pocos taxis en Chã de Igreja. Otra posibilidad es de pasar la noche en Chã de Igreja o Cruzinha.

 

La ruta empieza en Ponta do Sol, el pueblo más turístico en Santo Antão y una bastión de turistas e emigrantes franceses. Para los que no quieren empezar su ruta con un estómago vacío, recomiendo el Residencial Sinanton Trekking, un hostal especializado en senderistas. Hay un gran mapa en su pared con todas las rutas más populares de la isla. El equipo del hostal se alegrará de compartir su conocimiento sobre estas rutas.

 

El camino pasa al lado de un cementerio y luego al lado de pocilgas. Tras una hora de ruta llegas a Fontainhas, el pueblo más pintoresco de Cabo Verde. Tras bajar las numerosas serpentinas, llegas a Corvo. Aquí hay un pequeño bar que sirve bebidas. Seguimos el sendero en dirección de Formiguinhas ("pequeñas hormigas"). En nuestro camino nos encontramos con fabricantes de adoquín y jovenes en companía de sus burros.

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All those serpentines... near Corvo

 

 

Llegamos a Formiguinhas y es lugar perfecto para almorzar con vistas al mar. Puedes elegir entre el bar de Sonia o de Isabel. Sonia sirve un almuerzo copioso (mejor reservar con antelación) y ofrece habitaciones muy pequeñas para los que no quieren seguir andando hasta Chã de Igreja. Los almuerzos de Sonia son auténticamente capverdianos y ella es un sol! No querríamos irnos! 

 

Calcula por lo menos 2-3 horas de Formiguinhas a Chã de Igreja. Desde Formiguinhas no habrá otro bar hasta Cruzinha (min. 2h). Asegúrate de llevar suficiente agua o comprar agua en Formiguinhas.

 

El camino te lleva a veces a unas alturas vertiginosas hasta el valle de Aranhas. Hoy en día es abandonado y sirve de dehesa para las vacas y burros. Me encantó el color verde saturado que contrastaba con las rocas que dominaban el paisaje hasta ahora.

 

De camino a Cruzinha, el siguiente pueblo, caminarás al lado de la playa. A pesar de que te podrían entrar ganas de bañarte, no deberías ni pisarla! Las mareas son extremamente fuertes y se subestiman muy rápido. Cada año mueren turistas ya que no podían resistir a un baño refrescante.

 

Tras 1 hora más de marcha, llegamos a Cruzinha, un pequeño pueblo de pescadores con vistas preciosas a la costa y al mar atlántico. Cruzinha tiene algunos albergues también. Justo antes de llegar a Cruzinha, los conductores de aluguer ya te esperaran al final del sendero para ofrecerte sus servicios. No dudes en negociarles el precio en el caso que quieres usar sus servicios.

 

Chã de Igreja es un pueblo ubicado en un valle fértil y es una buen sensación de estar de vuelta en la civilización tras 6 horas de caminata. El casco antiguo del pueblo está bien mantenido y tiene muchos rincones muy pintorescos. Me encantó el ambiente relajante de este lugar. Desde Chã de Igreja, volvemos a Ribeira Grande en aluguer (~25€). No dudes en pedir al conductor que pare durante el trayecto para que puedas disfrutas de las vistas fascinantes.

3. Ribeira Grande - Fontainhas

Dificultad: Fácil - Duración 3h

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No wonder that Fontainhas is for some Cape Verde's most picturesque village

 

 part of this hike is done on the asphalted road connecting Ribeira Grande to Ponta do Sol. The views on the rocky coast and the valleys are tremendous. Before reaching Ponta do Sol (1h30 from Ribeira Grande), you'll pass along a poor settlement of tile makers. As we were approaching, kids run to us, asking for pencils. Unfortunately we didn't have some, but I promised myself to get some at the next village. That's how I ended up buying 20 pencils in Ponta do Sol and handed them out on our way home to Ribeira Grande. I've never seen happier kids and we'd hear their jolly shouting even after leaving the settlement. Since then we always carried pencils in our backpack. In many more villages that we hiked through, kids approached us asking for pencils.

 

Como tuvimos nuestra base en Ribeira Grande, querríamos hacer por lo menos un hike que no incluye transporte público. Ribeira Grande es uno de los pueblos más grandes de Santo Antão. Es un punto de salida ideal para descubrir el resto de la isla. No es tan turístico como Ponta do Sol, hay muchos aluguers y hay varias opciones buenas de restaurantes.

 

La primera parte de esta ruta se hace por la carretera asfaltada que conecta Ribeira Grande a Ponta do Sol. Las vistas a la costa rocosa y sus valles que cortan el paisaje son tremendas.

 

Justo antes de llegar a Ponto do Sol (1h30 desde Ribeira Grande), pasarás al lado de una colonia de barracas de fabricantes de azulejos. Nos vamos acercando y viene un grupo de niños corriendo hacia nosotros, pidiendo lapices. Desafortunadamente no llevábamos lapices con nosotros, pero me prometí que iba comprarlos en el siguiente pueblo.

 

Así terminé comprando 20 lapices en Ponta do Sol y se los entregué a los niños al camino de vuelta a Ribeira Grande. Nunca he visto niños más felices y sus gritos alegres nos acompañaban durante un buen rato. Desde entonces siempre llevábamos lapices con nosotros. Y por cada pueblo que caminábamos, nos encontrábamos con niños pidiendo lapices.

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In awe... The Valleys of Santo Antao are Breathtaking!

 

 

The best place to forget about time is Bar Tchú. The owner makes this a uniquely welcoming place. With his big smile, you'll feel at home from the moment you step in. Tchú usually serves one daily menu made by ingredients of the surrounding gardens. I also recommend his self-made fruit juices. Every other ingredient that doesn't grow in the fertile valley, he gets it from Ribeira Grande. Consequently several days a week, he walks all the way to Ribeira Grande to get the beers and cokes he serves in his bar. At (too) cheap prices. With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Tchú and hike back home the same way we came from Ribeira Grande.

 

Para los que quieren descansar un poco en Ponta do Sol, recomiendo Residencial Sinanton Trekking. Usando el mismo camino que va de Ponta do Sol a Chã de Igreja, el sendero pasa al lado del cementerio. Tras 1h30 de marcha llegas a Fontainhas. Debido a su ubicación única, Fontainhas es un motivo de muchas postales. Para muchos, es el pueblo más pintoresco de Cabo Verde. Y si solamente quieres visitar 1 pueblo de Santo Antão, entonces Fontainhas. Es tan impresionante como las pequeñas casa coloreadas cuelgan en la roca majestuosa. Durante la temporada de lluvia, las cascadas hacen la escena todavía más dramática.

 

No encantó absorber el ambiente tranquilo del pueblo. Sus fachadas coloreadas, la gente trabajando en el campo situado en unos valles casi verticales, de vez en cuando el canto de un gallo y siempre el sonido de las olas... Fontainhas parece de otro mundo.

 

El mejor lugar para olvidarse del tiempo es el Bar Tchú. El propietario (Tchú) lo transforma en el lugar más cálido de todo el pueblo. Gracias a su gran sonrisa, te sentirás como en casa. Tchú suele preparar un menú de almuerzo hecho a base de los ingredientes de los jardines del pueblo. También recomiendo sus zumos de fruta.

 

Cada otro ingrediente que no crece en los jardines, viene de Ribeira Grande. O sea, en varios días de la semana, Tchú camina hasta Ribeira Grande para comprar la Coca-Cola y las cervezas que sirve en su bar. A unos precios tirados por el suelo. Con un peso en el corazón nos despedimos de él y volvemos por el mismo que camino que cogimos desde Ribeira Grande.

4. Corda - Coculi

Difficulty: Difficult - Duration: 6-7h

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View near Corda

We choose this trail upon the recommendation of a Swiss hiker, we met in our hostel. Although this is a very tough one, we never regretted our choice to hike from Corda to Coculi. The views on unsettled valleys and the blue ocean as background will leave you speechless for several moments. The trail leads you through villages that are not used to see tourists. On the fields, you'll see the authentic Capeverdean life of Santo Antão.

 

Get an aluguer to Corda (departing from Ribeira Grande). The trail starts at the school of Corda whose inhabitants will be glad to show you the direction. Following the trail, you'll walk along the fields of intensive terrace cultivation and small wooden huts. You'll see plenty of guayaba, papaya and bread fruit trees. 

 

Following the beaten track, you'll be all of a sudden in front of a gorgeous panorama view of a lush green valley. The trail goes along a wall and it's definitely nothing for those who are afraid of hights. Soon you'll catch sight of Coculi, down in the valley. But it is still a very long and steel way down. The path descends in sharp serpentines and after 2-3 hours, we finally reach a first village: Figueiral. This place is full of sugar cane and papaya trees. It's definitely one of the remotest places we've been so far. There's just one little shop selling water and fruit juices.

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Time to go to School near Coculi

We are impressed by the terrace cultivation and how people are not afraid to cultivate their fields or carry heavy baskets in dizzying heights. Finally we get on a paved road again! Here we met a 82-year old lady who tells us that in her youth she did the trail to Corda (ascending!) in 1-2 hours.We needed 3-4 hours to descend! In her flip-flops, she overtook us laughing out loud...

 

It's getting strenuous, but luckily we meet a lot of people during our hike. Capeverdeans use to greet everybody (Tud drett?). When we finally reach Coculi, surrounded by a myriad of palm trees, we're starving. The city has good infrastructures (hospitals, super markets etc.) We have a delicious lunch/dinner at one of the only restaurants in town. In those places, you usually can't choose from a menu card. You'll eat the "Prato do Dia" (Daily Menu) or nothing. From Coculi, you'll get back to Ribeira Grande by aluguer or by foot.

 

Corda - Coculi was definitely one of the longest hikes we had, but also one of those that marked us the most: remote village, sharp serpentines, plenty of fruit trees... Simply mind-blowing!

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View near Corda

5. Ribeira Grande - Xoxo

Difficulty: Easy - Duration: 3 hours

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Hello Xoxo!

If you're looking for a short hike with great views in a short distance from Ribeira Grande, then Xoxo village might be the right one for you. Although my main reason for this hike was the funny name of the village. By aluguer we got to Xoxo. It's set in the slope and the trail through the village takes about 1-2h until you're on the top.

 

Xoxo preserved its authentic charm and again, I was impressed by the elder ladies who carried their heavy baskets on their head. Or children carrying gas bottles. Obviously, the people of Santo Antão are used to steep hillsides. Whereas we foreigners are just watching them out of breath. 

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Me and the aluguer to Xoxo

From the top of Xoxo village you'll have an amazing view on the valley of Ribeira Grande. The trail goes further upwards, but we decided that we'd rather go back. Our feet were just hurting too much from our previous hikes... On the way back, on the right, just after leaving Xoxo, you'll be close to a gorgeous waterfall. If you walk for half an hour more, you'll be in front of a lovely tiny restaurant whose terrace has a stunning view on the mountains surrounding Xoxo

 

Again, there are no menu options, you'll just have one "prato do dia", daily menu. It was incredibly delicious and cheap. And again, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people of Santo Antao. In case you want to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings of Xoxo for a longer time, I recommend a stay in the lovely country house Kasa Xoxo.

 

From the centre of Xoxo, it's still about 1 hour to get back to Ribeira Grande. Which we did by hitch-hiking. Our feet just were hurting too much.

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Waterfall near Xoxo
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View from Xoxo

6. Ribeira Grande - Sinagoga

Difficulty: Easy - Duration 2 hours

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Beach near Sinagoga

Santo Antão is not particularly known for its beaches. Tides are very strong and waves often very high. You'll basically be always surrounded by the sea, but you can't swim in it. Despite hot temperatures. The greater was my joy, when I heard about the natural swimming pools in Sinagoga.

 

As usual, you get there by aluguer or you can walk along the road connecting Cidade das Pombas with Ribeira Grande. In Sinagoga you have a few bars and a little shop (mercearia in creole), where you can stock up on water and snacks. 

 

The name of the village come from a Jewish community that got ex-pulsed from Portugal and found a new home in Santo Antão. Nowadays you can still see the impressive ruins of the synagogue. After the Jewish community extinguished, the building was used as a sanatorium to help leprosy patients. Despite the macabre historical background, the ruins are a great photo motive.

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Former synagogue

The natural swimming pools are a bit hard to find. When you come from Ribeira Grande, you'll turn left after a huge rock, following the sign "Beach Bar", before you even enter the village. If you can't find the path, ask the locals, they'll be happy to help you out. The path leads you down towards the ruins of the synagogue and the swimming pools. If you continue on the same path, you'll get on a large beach which is very popular among (experienced!) surfers. Be careful! Here as well the tides are very strong and will just swallow you. 

 

That is why we just got into the water until our hips and contented ourselves by watching the surfers. Nevertheless the views on the cliffs are impressive and sunset was just amazing. In all, Sinagoga is the perfect place for a "take-it-easy" day. 

mindelo, cabo verde, cape verde,santo antao, hiking, trekking, hike, trail, what to do, sao vicente, food, restaurant, marina, boat, party, music, shopping, outdoor, ferry, africa, portugal, views, landscapes, ocean, paul, cap vert
Natural Swimming Pools

If you are looking for a nice place to stay I can recommend the eco-friendly resort Kasa Xoxo.

Have you visited Santo Antão? Can you recommend any hikes? I'd love to read about them in the comment form...


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