São Nicolau Cape Verde is one of the Barlavento (Windward) islands of the archipelago with an area of 388 km². São Nicolau is Portuguese for Saint Nicholas. Tourism is relatively undeveloped on this island and so it still retains a genuine unspoilt feel. It is a mountainous island with stunning scenery, some of the most impressive in the archipelago.
There are steep mountain slopes with fantastic rock formations; little villages and fertile valleys that are waiting to be discovered. The highest mountain is Monte Gordo at 1312m in the west of the island. This peaceful environment and the beauty of the landscape are good reasons for visiting this lovely island. The island has an airport at Preguiça.
The island capital is Ribeira Brava and hugs the fertile slopes of the mountainside. Its colonial style, colourful houses and delightfully presented gardens make it a noteworthy place to visit. This little town is bustling in the mornings, with busy shops. Between 1740 and 1943 it was the home to the Bishop of Cape Verde.
The beaches at Tarrafal are said to have healing powers, so don’t be too surprised if you see locals burying themselves in the sand! However, São Nicolau is probably not the first choice for people wishing for a beach holiday. Some of the coast is quite difficult to access. Tarrafal is one of the few places on the island where the beach is accessible for bathing.
En route to Tarrafal, you should make a detour into the Queimadas valley. The ‘Blue Hole’, which is a gap in the cliffs with the sea surging below is worth visiting. When you get to Tarrafal, you will find more residents there than in the Ribeira Brava, together with the biggest harbour on this island. Tarrafal also has a number of shops and restaurants. In the 19th Century, Tarrafal was an anchorage for whaling ships.
If you are looking for natural beauty and a walkers paradise that isn’t quite as challenging as Santo Antão, then why not visit São Nicolau. It is a great destination for hikers and mountain bikers.