top of page

St. Nicholas Island

The island of São Nicolau (in Cape Verdean Creole: Son Niclau, Saniclau) was discovered in 1461, it is a mountainous island and one of the islands with the most fresh water available, but still subject to drought. The symbol of the island is the dragon tree, a botanical species that produces red resin, which is very rare and very old – a real living dinosaur – which is typical of the Macaronesian islands (and which is on the list of flora species about to extinction). 

First populated in the 16th century, it is known for its mountains for its varied landscape. The main urban center is Ribeira Brava or Stancha (in Creole) and whose name comes from the rushing torrents of the stream during the rainy season.

The narrow streets, alleys and squares maintain the unmistakable colonial architecture, a sign of identity in the journey of history. There are buildings that must be visited, such as the Igreja Matriz and Sé, or the Seminary-Liceu de São José (this was the first important secondary school in Cape Verde and in the Western Region of Africa).

To the west, as if watching the city, we find the area of Cachaço, involved in frequent fogs, on clear days you can admire the pleasant landscape over the Ribeira Brava. On clear days, it is possible to see the entire Cape Verde archipelago from São Nicolau, from the top of Monte Gordo, the highest point on the island (1312m), thanks to its position in relation to all the other islands of the Cape Verde archipelago. Monte Gordo has to be visited on foot. The exuberance of its conifer and eucalyptus vegetation, under which a diverse flora develops, determined its classification as a Natural Park. Inside the crater, located 500 meters from the top, coffee is cultivated.

Other mandatory places in the northeast of the island are Juncalinho and Figueira do Coxo. After these villages there is a splendid natural pool of greenish waters, contrasting with the aridity of this eastern part of the island, in the shape of a “prehistoric ax handle”.

In the old building of the Orphanage of the Sisters of the Love of God, awaiting adaptation works, a Museum of Sacred Art will be created.

To the southwest is the seaside village of Tarrafal. It is mainly a fishing village made famous for its beaches – Praia do Francês and Praia da Luz – with medicinal sands rich in titanium and iodine, a true open-air SPA. The place is recommended for relief from ailments of bones and joints and sought after for that reason.


Fishing is the main activity of the inhabitants of São Nicolau, the island is known for its rich sea, sought after as a means of subsistence and also for sporting purposes. SPORT FISHING lovers arrive on the island of São Vicente, who get involved in the search for blue marlin and swordfish, very common species in these waters, especially in the months of May to October.

On the way between Tarrafal and Ribeira da Prata, past Barril beach, it's worth stopping at Praia Branca, a gentle village overlooking the beach with the same name, where, in June, São João was celebrated, with parades and drums. As well as with the traditional “lumnária” (bonfire) jump.  This lends mystery to the traditional dance of the “coladera”, in which the pair approaches and clashes in a gesture suggestive of courtship, in keeping with the rising heat of the summer that begins. Catchupa, watered with grogue (considered the best quality in Cape Verde), will not be missing at these parties. A cultural event not to be missed, if you are in São Nicolau.

As Cape Verdean people are by nature happy people, music is essential. And on the island of São Nicolau, music is present in every moment of the island's life, highlighting Mazurca, which, like contradanza, is a European heritage. Everyone here knows how to dance it, in its bouncy modulation, starring the violin.


Gastronomy, of course, is a very important cultural trait.  There is even a dish that bears its name: the modje de São Nicolau, or “modje de capóde” or even “modje de Manel Antone” – a delicious goat stew, which you can taste in the few restaurants in Ribeira Brava or Tarrafal.

If you want to spend a different and emotional holiday, come and discover the island of São Nicolau.

bottom of page