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I remember the first images I saw of Cape Verde: the white sand and the endless turquoise water. Those images seemed so beautiful to me. And I, who didn’t use to like the beach much back then, set my mind to go there someday. Cape Verde even made it to my top 3 countries to see at least once in my life. As I prepared for this trip, I found little information. That’s why I’m writing this article about Santiago island (Cape Verde), to make it a little easier for you.
What to do on Santiago island (Cape Verde)?
Useful information:

Santiago Island (Cape Verde) in a nutshell

The island of Santiago is the largest in the country, with 200,000 inhabitants, representing more than 50% of the national population. It is also home to Praia, the capital, and its predecessor, Cidade Velha. But above all, it is the ever-present fog, the city’s dust, Cape Verdean music, food stalls everywhere, the slow pace of service, which makes us aware that it is not always necessary to be in a hurry, and the kindness of the people we meet on every corner. Visiting the island of Santiago is to learn more about its history and enjoy its African charm.


For slow travel enthusiasts, this destination is perfect as it combines history, beach, and gastronomy.


The capital of the country seems to sprawl for kilometers. It’s hard to really grasp the extent of the city because it’s hilly. From the beautiful and tranquil center, you easily transition to bustling and lively markets before reaching the disadvantaged and dusty neighborhoods, and then to small, almost deserted beaches. Praia is a reflection of what I’ve seen in Cape Verde, a mixture of completely different worlds where we are foreigners, but feel particularly at home.
The Plateau neighborhood is the most touristy area of the city. It houses several monuments of interest, such as the Presidential Palace or the Military Barracks. Don’t hesitate to check out this article to get to know the city better.

Cidade Velha

A must-visit place to understand the country’s history. The best way to get there is by aluguer from Praia, a local mode of transportation: a van or minibus that fills up to the last seat. You feel like a local among the locals. Arid landscapes unfold on both sides of the road. Some sheep, some trees, some passersby… The colors are monotonous, and yet, you are dazzled. You feel out of place.
Cidade Velha is the former capital of the country. A history-laden past as it was the first colonial city built by Europeans in the tropics.
To get there: take the aluguer at Praça da Terra Branca in Praia. Check out this article to fully enjoy Cidade Velha!


The journey to reach Tarrafal, in the north of the country, is quite rough aboard the aluguer. The road constantly ascends and descends, the driver maneuvers extremely fast even on the curves. The landscape reveals tall mountains hidden by the fog. Occasionally, the sun manages to break through this gray sky. Small villages follow one another, as do groups of people gathering anywhere along the roads. In Assomada, we change aluguer. The journey is a bit calmer: fewer altitude changes to reach Tarrafal.
The main attraction of this small town is its beautiful beach. Shrouded in fog, even that day. Lovely and colorful fishing boats welcome visitors; a bit further away, several Cape Verdeans play soccer. Tourists, on the other hand, relax on the sand, trying to catch some rays of sunshine.
To get there: take the aluguer at the Sucupira Market. There’s a change in Assomada. Let yourself be guided by the drivers or the locals traveling with you. When returning, leave Tarrafal before 6:00 PM. After that, finding an aluguer to Assomada is quite complicated because it’s the end of the day. Barely, we managed to find a man who agreed to take us in his pick-up. We were lucky!






San Francisco Beach

The Praia de San Francisco is near Praia. A taxi takes us to this beach that we found on Google Maps. Once out of the city, the road we take is completely deserted. An arid and brown landscape stretches everywhere. Occasionally, some groups of people appear out of nowhere. To the sound of lively music, we arrive at the famous beach.
My photos don’t do it justice. A pristine and beautiful beach. The feeling of being lost in the middle of nowhere. An absolute calm, only interrupted by the sound of the waves.





Try the Local Cuisine

Traveling also involves trying new flavors and discovering new ingredients. Since you’re on an island, fresh fish is naturally a must and easy to find in almost every restaurant.
If you want to try a local dish, I recommend cachupa. It’s a stew made from corn, beans, yam, sweet potato, and fish or meat.

How to Get to the Island of Santiago?

Several airlines offer regular and direct flights to Santiago, such as Air France, Royal Air Maroc, and the Cape Verdean company TCAV, which allows you to reach from other islands.
You can also take the ferry to travel between each island. However, delays are common. Keep this in mind!

How to Get Around the Santiago Island?

To get around the island, you can opt for aluguers, vans that take you almost anywhere. Once they are full, they depart for their destination. It’s a very economical option. You can also opt for a taxi.

3 Excursions to Enjoy the Island

If you feel more comfortable exploring the island with guided tours, here’s a brief selection:

Travel responsibly on the island

Traveling responsibly not only helps the planet but also local populations. Here are some tips to become an eco-friendly tourist:
  • Briefly learn about the history of the place before going there.
  • Respect the customs and traditions of the locals.
  • Do not litter in nature.
  • Use eco-friendly sunscreen if you are going to the beach.
  • Eat at restaurants owned by locals.
I hope this article about the island of Santiago (Cape Verde) helps you prepare for your next trip!
Photo of Sucupira Market: Travel Aficionado
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santiago cape verde
santiago cape verde
santiago cape verde

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