Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Cape Verde Islands are The Caribbean Islands on the wrong side of the Atlantic and as undeveloped as Lanzarote was 25 years ago.

Cape Verde is an archipelago comprising ten islands - some mountainous, some flat and sandy - in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They are the next group of Islands below the Canary Islands,



Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde




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Sal Island Cape Verde

Sal is a great place to visit if you like a relaxing beach holiday, sunbathing and watersports such as Diving, windsurfing, surfing and fishing.
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Tarrafal, Santiago, Cape Verde.  I flew back to the island of Santiago, where the capital is located, for my flight back to Dakar and, eventually, New York.  Tarrafal beach, to the north of the capital, is a nice spot to relax.

Santo Antao is one of the most beautiful islands of the archipelago of Cape Verde. The mountain forests and valleys of Santo Antao are truly great for hiking.
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Bravo Island Cape Verde
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Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Sao Nicolau Island,
meaning Saint Nicholas in Portuguese is one of the Barlavento islands of Cape Verde. Sao Nicolau Island is located between the major islands of Sal and Sao Vicente. Sao Nicolau is mountainous and is mostly agricultural. In the past there was a lot of Volcanic activity and it is very visible in the way Sao Nicolau Island looks today, and much the same as Santo Antao. The coast and the central part are mainly flat with some small hills. The peninsula covers the eastern part of the island. The biggest mountain on Sao Nicolau is Monte Gordo which is 1312 metres tall. Sao Nicolau’s main town is Ribeira Brava and Tarrafal which hosts Sao Nicolau’s ferry and the fishing port. The people of Sao Nicolau  Cape Verde mainly work in agriculture, fishing and tourism which is mainly takes place around the beach locations of Sao Nicolau. Sao Nicolau has an airport which is located towards the south and sits between Vila da Ribeira Brava and Campo.

Sao Nicolau Map Sao Nicolau Port
Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

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Cachaço - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Located on the eastern side of Monte Gordo, Cachaço acts as the main entrance point to the park and is also home to the parks offices.  Boasting some of the most fertile land in Cape Verde and blessed with a great abundance of water, Cachaço's lush vegetation makes it a glimmering jewel set in the mountains of Såo Nicolau.

Ribeira Brava - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

A sleepy little town nestled between two mountains, Ribeira Brava has a rustic old world elegance and charm.  Historically a great center of learning in Cape Verde, Ribeira Brava was once home to a seminary as well the Catholic Arch-Bishop of all western Africa, and is still home to the largest church in Cape Verde.  As a result, many of the most celebrated Cape Verdean poets, artists, and thinkers have come from Sao Nicolau.  Sitting within sight of Monte Gordo, it is possible to hike up to the park from Ribeira Brava using an old cobblestone footpath banked on each side by high stone walls.

Ribeira Brava stands out as probably the prettiest town in the archipelago with its lovely colonial architecture, colourful fertile gardens and quiet dignity having been home to Africa’s first university and a focal point for the Portuguese intellectual elite.

  Ribeira BravaRibeira-Brava
Tarrafal - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

From ocean side town of Tarrafal it is possible to watch as the clouds come pouring down the western face of the Monte Gordo.  As home to the port of Sao Nicolau, Tarrafal is also home to Sao Nicolau’s vibrant fishing industry.  The waters around Tarrafal are teeming with blue marlin, tuna, and swordfish, as well as several other marine animals such as lobster and octopus.  The black sand beaches of Tarrafal are rumored to have medicinal properties, and it is not uncommon to see people burying themselves in hopes of curing aches and pains. Diving and fishing are understandably, the most popular activities here, with leisure fishing enthusiasts mostly searching out the much sought after Blue Marlin. Small dolphin schools also regularly follow vessels.


Fragata - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Inaccessible by vehicle, Fragata is a small village located on the other side of a mountain pass from Faja. The path through the mountains from Faja to Fragata is is one of the more beautiful trails on Såo Nicolau and the town of Fragata, with it's homes built on the sides of cliffs, is also a spectacular sight. Fragata is also home to one of the three trapiche's on Såo Nicolau, the machinery used to make grogue out of sugarcane.

  Fragata donkey

Baixo da Rocha - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde
Located approximately 5km south of Tarrafal, Baixo da Rocha is a pristine white sand beach that can only be reached by footpath or by hiring a truck driver to navigate the very bumpy road. This limited accesibiltiy means that the beach is very isolated and does not receive many visitors, helping keep it clean and ideal hiking destination.   Baixo da Rocha

Baixo da Rocha
Carbeirinho - Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde
Located north of Tarrafal is the breathtaking cliffs and tranquil tide pools of Carbeirinho. It is the perfect destination for a hiking excursion and an ideal location for a picnic. While less remote than Baixo da Rocha, there is no regular traffic to Carbeirinho. A truck can be hired to provide transportation both one way and round trip,   Carbeirinho


Visitors, however, are mostly drawn to the island mainly for its incomparable hiking. One of its main attractions is the enchanting and tropical Monte Gordo, which stands imperiously at 1,304m and has a stunning, fertile plant life.

A short trek from the capital you will find a stunning gorge with lush plantations of maize, banana and papaya.

Long since a motif not for just Sao Nicolau but Cape Verde, the island is also the home of the fairytale dragon trees (Dragoeiro), which is now officially an endangered species.

The nearby island of Raso, which is accessed from the port of Tarrafal is home to the Cape Verdian Lark - one of the rarest birds in the world. Visitors, however, should note that there is no shelter on the uninhabited Raso island and must bring their own water and food.

Activities in Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Sao Nicolau offers excellent hiking at all levels. Hill and valley walks are along well-kept paths used daily by the locals along the interior of Sao Nicolau and from its centre to the village of Tarrafal. You can go out on a local fishing boat, visit in October andyou are quite likely to see dolphins and flying fish.

Bird Watching in Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

Sao Nicolau is popular with bird watchers.  From Tarrafal you can set sail for Rosa and Blanca, two uninhabited islands a couple of hours voyage away and amongst other birds is the home of the rare Cape Verdean Lark, one of the rarest birds in the world. Please note these islands are served only by local fishing boat from Tarrafal on the island of Sao Nicolau. There is nowhere to shelter on these islands, therefore it is essential that you take food and water for your visit. All boat journeys are subject to weather conditions and at the discretion of the Captain. A permit will be required (only available at certain times of the year).

Festivals of Sao Nicolau Island - Cape Verde
Festivals are very important to the people of Sao Nicolau. Every town on the island has a patron saint. On the feast day for that saint the town will hold a festival that lasts for days. People will come from all over the island to attend. By far the biggest festival on Sao Nicolau is Carnival, a four day festival that celebrates Fat Tuesday before the beginning of Lent.

Grogue Terra of Sao Nicolau Sao Nicolau Island Cape Verde

The grogue made on Sao Nicolau, known locally as grogue terra, is widely considered to be some of the best grogue made in Cape Verde. Only a small amount of grogue is made to meet the demands of the islands inhabitants and none is shipped off island. There are three locations where grogue is made on Sao Nicolau: Fragata, Queimadas, and Aguas das Patas. Sometimes the sap of a Dragoeiro is added to make Dragons Blood grogue.

Sea Turtles of Cape Verde
Sao Nicolau is also the nesting ground for many different types of sea turtles including Hawkbills, Loggerheads, and Leatherbacks. Unfortunately hunting and the destruction of nesting areas has made many of these majestic creatures endangered species. Efforts are being made to protect the sea turtles of Sao Nicolau by banning hunting, protecting nesting areas, and by collecting infant turtles to assist with their release.

Although Sao Nicolau was discovered on the 6th of December 1461, it was only during the middle of the 17th century, when the first village was built in Porto da Lapa, that people began to settle there. However, because of the constant attacks by pirates, the inhabitants moved inland and settled in Ribeira Brava.

Access to the sea was obtained through the Port of Preguiça in the Bay of S.Jorge and in 1818 a fortress was built there to defend the local inhabitants from pirate attacks and potential invaders.

Sao Nicolau is located between the major islands of Sal and Sao Vicente Cape Verde Islands