About Santo Antão
Santo Antão (Portuguese for “Saint Anthony”), or Sontonton in Cape Verdean Creole, is the westernmost and largest of the Barlavento islands of Cape Verde. It has precipitous peaks, jaw-dropping ravines and tiny villages clinging to its mountainsides.
With its prominently contrasting scenery Santo Antão is the most north-westerly of the island group with a size of 779 square kilometres. The northeast trade winds funnel up into the mountains creating a micro-climate rich with vegetation. The landscape changes from being bare and arid to mountainous with breathtaking views of fertile valleys with villages appearing deep below.
The tallest mountain is Topo de Coroa, reaching a height of 1,979 m. The island is divided into north and south by a mountain range, long considered impenetrable. Forests of fir and pine turn the Ribeira green. You will also see date and coconut palms, mango and carob trees, as well as citrus, almond, papaya and orange trees. Maize, pineapples, coffee and manioc are cultivated on terraced fields. The fragrance of eucalyptus, lavender and even lotus blossoms hangs in the air. Acacia, wild figs and dragon trees line the roads in many places.
There has been extensive tree planting since 1975 and as a result there are now pine trees, oaks and sweet chestnuts on the cool peaks of Santo Antao. Santo Antao exhibits some of the most impressive scenery that you will find anywhere in the world and that is still relatively untouched. A must for visitors to this beautiful island is a visit to the picturesque cliff-hugging village of Fontainhas, 2km southwest from Ponta do Sol. This tiny village is perched on a precipitous rock above a deep ribeira (riverside). Behind the houses that line the street of this unique village is sheer drop of several hundred metres.
The people of Santo Antao are mountain dwellers and exhibit all the joy of living that is evident in the Cape Verdeans. The western side of the island is so mountainous and arid that it is a surprise that anyone lives there, but with a 4×4 and some time to spare, it is possible to explore its rocky tracks, perhaps heading for the peaceful coastal village of Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. There are four main cities on the island – the capital is Ribeira Grande; then there is Porto Novo in the drier, south east part of the island; Paúl, which is south east of the capital; and Ponta do Sol, north west from the capital and possibly the most attractive of the towns.
There are four protected areas in Santo Antao – Moroços natural park; Cova/Ribeira Paúl/Torre natural park; Cruzinha natural reserve; Pombas protected landscape; and Tope de Coroa natural park. The north-west of the island has the most significant marine biodiversity in the whole of the Cape Verde islands. It also has good fishing, providing fish to the 50,000 inhabitants of Santo Antao; and in Cruzinha da Garça there is a programme of conservation for five species of turtle, an endangered species. The seas around the island are also home to whales and dolphins, also endangered species.
One easy and highly rewarding location to visit is the Vale do Paúl, a spectacularly lush valley that opens into the sea at the village of Vila das Pombas. Full of banana, mango and papaya trees, flame trees, poinsettias and vegetable plots. There is also the possibility to visit a traditional trapiche (sugar mill) to watch grogue being distilled and maybe to try a shot! Grogue is a Cape Verdean alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane. It has been produced in large quantities from locally grown sugar cane in the green valleys on the north coast of Santa Antao for centuries.
You can also take a road trip from Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande. This journey will start in the dry south east of the island, taking you through the tall rocky mountain peaks, past the forests near to Corda and Cova and the along narrow mountain ridges to the north coast. You will arrive at the foot of the Cova de Paúl volcano and you will get a stunning view of the north coast and of Ribeira do Paúl with it’s lush valley sloping dramatically down to the ocean. At the head of the Paul valley the northeast trade winds are funneled up and through the vertically towering rock peaks into the volcano, creating an almost permanent display of swirling mists and cloud.
Santo Antão is quite beautiful…
International flights: Cape Verde has four international airports with over 40 flights a week to the islands of; Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente and Praia. You can fly to any of them and still use the local flights to connect however it’s better to go direct to the island of Sao Vicente (unless you want to go island hopping). All the airlines on this page fly to Cesaria Evora airport in the city of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente. If you need any help with your flights please contact us with your preferred city of departure and we will try to find the best route for you. A visa is required, this can be bought on arrival for €25.
São Vicente International Airport (Cesária Évora) Live Arrivals and Departures
Latest News: For the latest travel news see the travel category of the news page
Airlines that fly to São Vicente International Airport
Ferry from São Vicente (Mindelo) to Santo Antão: The only way to Santo Antão is by boat from São Vicente. Two ferry services run between São Vicente (Mindelo) and Santo Antão (Porto Novo): Armas (ferry “Mar d’ Canal”) and PolarLda (ferry “Inter-Ilhas”). The crossing with takes about one hour and costs 800 esducos per person (children aged up to 6 years are free of charge, children aged from 7 up to 11 years are 430 escudos). More information, including timetables, can be found at www.aperegala.com.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
The turquoise seas of Santo Antão offer great opportunities for snorkelling and diving. The marine life off Santo Antão is plentiful and diving is rewarding. There are a number of diving centres on the island at places such as the picturesque harbour town Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. There are approximately 20 diving sites that offer diving depths of between 8m and 30m.
Walking and hiking with www.walksantoantao.com
Santo Antão is a great place for those who like walking and hiking holidays. There are challenging trails through breath-taking mountain scenery. The paths are not always well marked and although good, they can be overgrown. A guide is recommended, as villages are few and far between and sometimes relatively inaccessible. The northeast of the island provides some of the most attractive walking. The island is also popular with lovers of nature, with its flora and fauna.
Cycling tours are a great way to discover Santo Antão, either independently or with a guide. Also many of the walking trails are suitable for mountain biking and there are companies that provide the necessary equipment and guides, such as in Ponta do Sol.
Although Santo Antão does not have the long golden beaches found elsewhere in the Cape Verde islands, there are several beautiful places from which to swim such as Praia Formosa, a particularly beautiful spot or Tarrafal on the far south east tip (pictured here)
There are waterfalls and rivers on the island that provide some exciting canyoning. There are approximately 50 canyoning routes, amid lush vegetation centred mainly around the Vale do Paúl. For canyoning aficionados Santo Antão is one of the most exciting, yet undiscovered locations for this sport.
The subtropical climate will surprise you with its rich vegetation. You will see, almond, papaya, orange, coconut and date palms, mango, carob, maize, pineapples, coffee and forests of fir and pine. Jagged peaks, strange rock formations, craters, volcanoes and plunging ravines and valleys are filled with lush vegetation. You will find many micro climates that support interesting flora and fauna.
Two Bed Detached Villa Ocean Views (Sleeps 4)
Villa Oceanus & Villa Soleil are located in Lombo Branco Village, a development with magnificent ocean views and built on the side of a mountain. Located on the north of Santo Antão near to Sinagoga, between Ribeira Grande and Paúl. This is a peaceful elevated setting in which the visitor can relax and enjoy the sun and stunning sea views. The villa is not accessible for wheelchair users and there is a no smoking policy. The village has a gardener living on site and there is security.
The villa is of a modern design and is very well equipped, with a beautiful private garden, containing a variety of tropical plants including banana and papaya. Guests are welcome to use the fruit from the trees. There are two bedrooms; the master bedroom has a king size bed and benefits from an en-suite bathroom. The second bedroom has two single beds. There is a modern, well equipped kitchen; family bathroom; a dining area which benefits from those sea views; a comfortable lounge, also with lovely sea views and balcony; and if that isn’t sufficient, there is a roof terrace and a shared swimming pool.
Lombo Branco is approximately 1.5km from Sinagoga and the towns of Ribeira Grande and Paúl are not far away and offer more facilities such as banks, cash machines, petrol, supermarkets and medical services. Close to the villa there is a shop that can provide guests with the basics. The village is 39km from the nearest ferry at Porto Novo. Given the location of the house, a car is recommended. Santo Antão is a beautiful island and is the largest in Cape Verde, with mountains and verdant landscapes and provides amazing drives on roads along the coast and giving access to dramatic valleys and gorges. The nearest beach is at Sinagoga, just 1.5km from the house.
The nearest beach is about a 25-minute walk, located at Sinagoga. There are taxis that run up the mountain road. The cost to Ribeira Grande from the main road is approximately 1€ per passenger by using an aluguer. The spectacular Paúl Valley (Vale do Paúl) is fairly close, a spectacularly lush valley that opens to the sea at Vila das Pombas. There are many opportunities to go hiking, bird watching, deep-sea fishing, sailing, mountain climbing, surfing, swimming, mountain biking and sight seeing.
The furnishing and equipping of this villa is to a very high standard. The kitchen is fitted with oven and hob, and has plenty of cupboard and worktop space. The ensuite bathroom has a corner Jacuzzi bath with shower over. The living room is comfortably furnished with large sofas, flat screen TV and DVD player. The whole villa is light and airy and makes good use of its elevated position and the views that affords.
Facilities *Air conditioning * Heating * Internet * Linens * Iron and ironing board * Towels * Washing machine * Tumble drier * Oven * Hob * Fridge freezer * Microwave * Toaster * Crockery and utensils * Coffee maker * Toilets * Bath and shower * Jacuzzi * King size bed * Two single beds * Wardrobes * Dining table and chairs for four people * Television * DVD player * Video library * Shared pool * Four garden chairs *
Photos of Santo Antão island