Santiago Island, Cape Verde - Guide
When I planned my trip to Cape Verde I knew that I wanted to experience the nightlife in Praia. I love funana, both music and the dance and I couldn't wait to enjoy in the best place possible so in Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde.
The plan for Friday and Saturday night was prepared (it's best to go out on these nights, other nights are much calmer) but what about weekdays? As much as I enjoy lying on the beach and doing nothing I thought it would be a good idea to explore the island and learn about it a bit more.
Here is what I did in around 10 days.
Wander around Praia
Praia is not a big city, so perfect for walking around. At night I would advise taking a taxi as it's not safe to walk everywhere and some places that are okay during the day, at night aren't (advice from locals).
There are a few beaches where you can chill (Prainha and Quebra Canela are my favourite ones). They are safe to swim and sometimes you can do some sports (surfing, SUP). If you are interested in that, talk to surf schools there who can help you with renting the equipment or give some lessons.
If you'd like to feel more of a historic Praia, then a walk in Plateau is a must. Plateau is the oldest part of the city, where the most important buildings in Praia are (City Hall, Presidential Palace, Ethnographic Museum and more). I enjoyed this area because of its restaurants and cafes where I could sit, relax and listen to some good live music.
If you're on a hunt for some African prints, clothes or accessories then a market in Fazenda is a good place to go. There is so much interesting stuff not only from Cape Verde but also from Senegal and probably other African countries too.
A day trip to Cidade Velha
I would strongly advise getting to know Cidade Velha if you like learning about history and culture of a country you visit. Cidade Velha is the settlement in Cape Verde (dating XV century), the first European colonial settlement in the tropics. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wandering around is probably the best way to get the feeling of the city. We decided to go to the church and castle, which I would encourage you to do that. It's 5 EUR but lets you see more of the town and you climb the hills with the best views.
Don't forget to walk at Rua da Banana, which is to be believed the first Sub-Saharan road. You'll see a lot of traditional old houses and get to feel what it was like in the XVI century.
If you feel like having lunch in Cidade Velha, there are a few nice restaurants by the ocean. It's a great place to refresh and get some food (although I didn't have any as being plant-based my options were quite limited).
I went to Cidade Velha by Yas (collective transport) from Praia and paid around 2-4 EUR. You can also take a taxi but it will be much more ;).
This is an interesting city. It is quite different from Praia, Cidade Velha or Tarrafal (will write about it later) as it is not by the coast. As in other cities, I noticed that the centre of life is by the ocean, it is where everything happens and where people spend most of their time, here it was a food market. And the food market was great. Thanks to being in the centre of the island, Assomada had pretty much good access to food from all sides of the island.
We took a Yas (collective transport) from Praia to Tarrafal and decided to get off in Assomada, get some food, rest and then continue our trip. It was a great idea in theory but we didn't predict that it may be difficult to get a collective transport to Tarrafal. We ended up waiting 3 hours for a car to fill up (it leaves once it's full) and left for Tarrafal.
Tarrafal is so much different to Praia. It's a place to chill, Praia is a place to party. It's very small so you walk everywhere. There is a beach where you can surf, although it's definitely for more advanced surfers. The current is strong and there is a lot of rocks that cut terribly (saw some local surfers' scars). There's also a beach where the water is pretty much like in a swimming pool.
In Tarrafal I stayed in a Meeting Point Hostel. It is just in front of the local food market. There are a few food stalls next to the market where you can get some nice food and they cater to plant-based eaters. I always had beans stew, French fries, salad and cooked veggies (it's also served with rice but I just don't like rice).
Serra Malagueta National Park
It's a short ride from Tarrafal so I would strongly advice combining your trip to Tarrafal with a visit to the National Park. I was really keen on seeing this park because of Mayra Andrade's video "Ilha de Santiago". Unfortunately, Santiago Island hasn't had rain for 2 years so it's nowhere green as it was shown in the video. The views are still beautiful though and walking in the mountains is always relaxing.
If you decide to rent a car, you can see so much more as you can't get everywhere using public transit. Renting a car is expensive though so that's why we decided to opt for travelling using collective transport which was fun, definitely gave us a feeling of an authentic trip and made our trip much less expensive.
Have you been to Santiago Island yet? Would you add anything? I'd love to see what you think of this island :)