About São Nicolau
São Nicolau (Portuguese meaning Saint Nicholas) is one of the Barlavento (Windward) islands of Cape Verde with an area of 388 km². Tourism is in its infancy here so the island still retains a genuine unspoilt feel. It is a mountainous island with stunning scenery, one of the most impressive in the archipelago. São Nicolau is unadulterated nature. Precipitous mountain slopes with fantastic rock formations; little villages and fertile valleys are waiting to be discovered…
Ribeira Brava the capital hugs the fertile slopes of the mountainside. Its colonial style painted, colourful houses and delightfully presented gardens make it a noteworthy place to visit. The beaches at Tarrafal are said to have healing powers so don’t be alarmed to see locals burying themselves in the sand!
If you are looking for natural beauty and a walkers paradise that isn’t quite as steep as Santo Antão why not visit São Nicolau…
There are no international flights to São Nicolau, but the island can be reached by plane (operated by TACV and Binter CV) from other islands . São Nicolau Preguiça Airport is in the town of Preguiça on the south side of the island. This flight operates most, but not all days of the week and the flight takes 40 minutes.
Note: It has been announced that TACV will cease internal flights on 1 August 2017. Binter CV will then be the only airline operating between the Cape Verde islands.
There is also a ferry service between Praia and São Nicolau operated by CV Fast Ferry, but it does not operate every day.
There are also two ferry services between Mindelo on the island of São Vicente to Tarrafal on São Nicolau. One is operated by Polaris and one by CV Fast ferry. The Polaris crossing takes approximately four hours and the CV Fast Ferry approximately two hours. The Polaris ferry does not operate on regular days, so you would need to check with the company as it varies each week.
Tourism in São Nicolau is not as well developed as on some other of the Cape Verdean islands. The capital of Ribeira Brava is worth visiting with its attractive houses and lovely gardens. The town has a population of approximately 2,000 and is located in the valley of the Ribeira Brava river and east of the main mountain range. Ribeira Brava is Portuguese for ‘rough stream’ because in the rainy season it exhibits quite ‘violent’ characteristics.
Walking and horse riding
The mountains and the variety of terrain mean that this island offers great opportunities for horse riding and walking. There are wonderful walks along mountain ridges, and horse rides along mule tracks, with a variety of landscapes to enjoy. There are many mule tracks that criss-cross Monte Gordo. These tracks make walking a little easier than on some of the other Cape Verde islands. Both activities will allow the visitor to enjoy stunning scenery and views.
Fishing is a popular activity on this island and the best time for fishing is between April and August. Fishing trips can be arranged and can provide a worthwhile experience if you are into fishing. The trips will take you to deep water where there is a plentiful supply of Blue Marlin. Such trips are best arranged from Tarrafal de São Nicolau, which is in the south-west of the island.
Healing sands at Tarrafal
Tarrafal is rumoured to have healing properties. It is possible you will see people burying themselves in the sand on the beach in attempts to benefit from its healing properties. The sand, which is black, has high levels of titanium and iodine, which is what has given it the mysterious properties that bring people here to be healed of their illnesses.
Parque Natural do Monte Gordo
The Parque Natural do Monte Gordo is located at the highest part of the island, where you can enjoy stunning views. The park was created in order to protect the micro-climate of a humid mountain ecosystem. In the park there are dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and many trees are covered in lichen because of the humid conditions.
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Apart-hotel in Tarrafal (one and two bedroom apartments)
The apart-hotel Edificio Magico is located in Tarrafal in the south west of the island of São Nicolau. The building is only 50m from the beach and is surrounded by the mountains of São Nicolau, which are so attractive to walkers and hikers. They can also organise island tours. English, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are spoken. Edificio Magico seeks to offer its guests a magical stay on a magical island with a magical climate.
The accommodation provides the independence of an apartment but with the facilities and service of a hotel. All apartments are provided with television, kitchen (with microwave and a large fridge/freezer) and with either one or two bedrooms. Wi-Fi is available and there is a daily cleaning service and a laundry service is available. For those who prefer not to self-cater, breakfast is available.