Santiago Cape Verde

Santiago Cape Verde is in the south of country. Santiago is Portuguese for ‘Saint James’ and it is home to half the nation’s population and to the capital city of Praia. The island was the first visited in 1460 and the original capital was called Ribeira Grande, but is now called Cidade Velha. Cidade Velha was the first city to be built by Europeans in West Africa. Sadly this former capital became very wealthy on the back of the slave trade. Praia is a transport hub with good links to all the islands in the Cape Verde archipelago. However, it has very few flight connections to other countries. Santiago has a bit of everything that you will find in Cape Verde. The busy city of Praia, lovely beaches, small towns and villages and majestic mountains. There are plenty of things to do on Santiago Cape Verde.


The beaches of Santiago are varied and include beautiful white sand, black beaches and pebbly coves. If you are staying on Santiago, then a trip through the mountains to Tarrafal is a rewarding trip. Tarrafal is a pleasant town with a superb beach and small harbour. Just 6km from Tarrafal is the lovely black beach of Ribeira da Preta. If you are staying in Praia, then Prainha Beach just to the south of the city would be a good choice. Another beach in Praia is Quebra Canela beach. The Portuguese word for beach is praia. This can lead to confusion as this is also the name of the capital city.


Being the capital city Praia has a good selection of entertainment. There are a lot of bars and restaurants and many of the bars will have live music some nights. If wanting something a little more exciting there is a go-carting centre (CaboTune Carting) at the national stadium. In common with all the Cape Verde islands, there are festivals on Santiago. These include the Gamboa Music Festival, the Kriol Jazz Festival and some religious festivals on saints days. In June/July there is a festival called Tabanka, which commemorates the liberation of slaves.

Places to visit

The old capital of Cidade Velha is a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth a visit. Here Forte Real de São Filipe, the main slave trading point between Europe, Africa and America, provides an interesting insight into the island’s past. It is a lovely village on the coast, and attracts many visitors. Praia is a busy African city, but with a clear Mediterranean flavour. Plateau is the main shopping area, with an attractive pedestrianised area and some interesting colonial buildings. The second largest town on the island is Assomada. On Wednesday and Saturday there is an African market here, which attracts a lot of visitors and locals. At this market you can buy anything from animals such as chickens to items of furniture.


Santiago is the largest of the islands that make up the Cape Verde archipelago. It is in the south of the country, in the Sotavento group of islands. Two jagged mountain ranges dominate the centre of the island. The highest mountain peak is Pico d’Antónia, which reaches an impressive 1,394m (4,573ft) and is situated in the Serra Malagueta National Park. The drive from Praia to Tarrafal takes you through some majestic mountain scenery.