The Best Hiking Routes in Santo Antão, Cape Verde
Santo Antão, the second largest island in the Cape Verde archipelago, is a paradise for hikers. Breathtaking views, monumental valleys, houses built in almost vertically cut valleys, hiking trails that will give you vertigo. And all this surrounded by a still intact nature and an agriculture that feeds all Cape Verde. The routes are well maintained and used by local people almost every day as they serve as a connection between villages without asphalted access.
Don’t be surprised if a grandmother carrying a basket full of fruits and vegetables on her head overtakes you on your way… The people of Santo Antão have an amazing physical condition.
In case you get lost, don’t hesitate to ask the local people for the name of the village at the end of your route. Some of these 8 Creole expressions can be very useful to you.
The number of routes that can be done in Santo Antão seems to be almost infinite. After staying 10 days, we have seen only the eastern part of the island. We still have many trails to discover. Now I want to share with you my favorite and most spectacular routes of Santo Antão, Cape Verde.
Paul Valley: Cova – Cidade das Pombas
If for some reason, you decide to do only one route in Santo Antão, then it has to be that of the Paul Valley. The route takes you from the crater of Cova through the fertile valley of Valle de Paúl to Cidade das Pombas.
The best way to get to Cova is by aluguer (~4€ departing from Ribeira Grande) and start with a good breakfast at “Amor do Día”. The hostel run by an Italian serves a totally homemade breakfast: bread made in the wood oven, jam and fruit juices from the garden. Only the views of the neighboring island of São Vicente are worth entering the hostel. The crater of Cova is 10 minutes away and at the beginning, your only company will be the happy cows grazing in the crater. It is of an exuberant green color.
The ascent to the crater’s edge is the only ascent on the entire route. Everything else will be lowered. From the crater margin, you will have the best view! The immense Valley of Paul is at your feet and you will see, far away, the Cidade das Pombas next to the sea.
Now begins the dizzying part of the route. Watch out if you suffer from vertigo! In some parts, the road is very steep. As soon as the road ends, start the asphalted road that will take you to Cidade das Pombas along gardens and picturesque villages.
On your way, you will pass by coffee plantations, mango and avocado crops, countless banana and coconut palms. Most of the fruit and vegetable exports come from this valley. It is particularly fertile due to its micro-climate.
As a place of rest and refreshment, I recommend “O Corral” in Chã de João Vaz. The bar belongs to an Austrian couple who produce their own sugar cane brandy (grogue) and food based on the ingredients grown in their garden. While enjoying a fresh fruit salad with natural yogurt, you can watch how they work in the garden of the property to obtain the ingredients of the day’s lunch.
Despite the slightly higher prices, the savoir-faire and freshness of the products are savored in every bite.
Keep going down the same road and you will soon be surrounded by papaya and maracuja plantations. There’s only one way down! There is no way to get lost. If you want to fill your home’s minibar, I recommend stopping at the grogue distillery in Cidade de Pombas.
If you are looking for a good place to have lunch in Cidade das Pombas, I recommend “Casa Maracujá”. The restaurant is located on a rooftop overlooking the valley and serves fresh seasonal food. Many of its dishes use passion fruit. You have to try the punch of maracujá. It’s delicious!
I also loved the decoration of the restaurant: the terrace is covered with maracuja plants and its chill-out area. All the furniture is painted yellow, like the shell of the passion fruit. But the heart of the restaurant is Hetty, a cheerful woman who seems to speak all the languages of the world.
After the descent of the Valley of Paul, our knees hurt for several days. It’s an intense descent that lasts several hours. But it’s definitely worth it! In Cidade das Pombas you can find aluguers that take you to any other town on the island.
Ponta do Sol – Chã de Igreja
This route is one of the most popular on the island. It runs along the northeast coast and passes through villages that do not have access to asphalted streets. Sometimes not even a bus can pass and the children have to use this road every day to go to school. The views of the valleys of Santo Antão are majestic and the cliffs are some of the most impressive in the whole island. This route is medium/difficult. It does not have many climbs, but it is quite long.