The island of Santiago is the largest island in the archipelago of Cabo Verde and where the capital, the city of Praia, is located.
Santiago is of volcanic origin, has several mountainous areas, being the Pico de António, with 1392 meters high, the highest point in the territory. The island is covered with deep valleys and the coast is populated by reefs, interspersed with black sand beaches, with the exception of Tarrafal, which has white sand. The climate is wetter in the highlands and more arid in the intermediate zones.
This island has great landscape and cultural diversity, so to know it you must visit the coast and the interior – agricultural fields, traditional markets, forest and also desert and also the heritage left by the Portuguese, namely the Old Town.
The coastal landscape of this mountainous island is covered by agricultural plantations, which are only interrupted by the rocky peaks that appear on the horizon. Although the coast is green, the interior is desert. The population lives off agriculture and fishing, tourism has an increasing weight in the island's economy (the offer of beds, restaurants and entertainment venues is growing).
In the far north of the island is the village of Tarrafal, where there is the only white sand beach on the island and where the waters are calm and crystal blue. However, this village is best known for having operated there a Portuguese penal colony, built in 1936, which served as a concentration camp for political prisoners and which operated for 40 years – in what remains of this camp a museum was built – the Museum of Resistance .
The Old Town is a must-visit – given its historical and cultural importance, not only for Santiago, but for the entire Cape Verdean archipelago. The City of Ribeira Grande this was the first city that the Portuguese founded in Cape Verde (1462) and when they settled it, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a European settlement in the tropics – the City of Ribeira Grande – today known as the City Velha – was the first Portuguese city built in sub-Saharan Africa and also the seat of the first bishopric on the West African coast, it was also where the first cobbled street in Africa was built – Rua da Banana.
The city was abandoned for over two centuries, leading to degradation and ruin and even disappearance of much of its buildings, with the exception of the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário.
In the 20th century, it was reoccupied by populations from the interior of the island. On the foundations of the missing buildings, these new inhabitants built their modest houses of simple dwellings, in stone masonry and covered in coconut leaves, with extensive use of masonry collected from the ruins of the monuments.
On June 10, 2009 it was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World. Due to its history, manifested by a valuable architectural heritage, on June 26 of the same year it was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Among the mandatory visits is also the Serra da Malagueta Natural Park, located in the north of the island (with a maximum altitude of 1064 meters), which invites you to try the pedestrian trails – where you can live a unique experience for the opportunity to see many species endemic flora and fauna (some in danger of extinction). It also has areas for camping and picnics.
There is a lot to visit and discover on this island that was home to the first European settlement in the tropics.