Sao Nicolau is a very quiet, peaceful island with some stunning scenery. The island 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 tranquil, mountainous island with some of the most impressive scenery in the archipelago. Settled since the 15th century, the island’s main economic activities are agriculture (coffee, oranges, beans, corn [maize]) and horse raising. The island has an airport at Preguiça.
Tarrafal is one of the few places on the island where the beach is accessible for bathing. 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. The rock formations at Carbeirinho are unusual and should not be missed.
The low-key tourism on Sao Nicolau, is one of the attractions. There are bars and restaurants and most of the nightlife is centred on these. Festivals are celebrated on the island, these will include carnival just before the start of Lent and the Festa de São João in June. It is a great destination for hikers and mountain bikers. There are many walking trails around the island. Diving is available and give the opportunity to explore the abundance of marine life.
Places to visit
This peaceful environment and the beauty of the landscape are good reasons for visiting this lovely island. The island capital is Ribeira Brava. 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 and traders. Between 1740 and 1943 it was the home to the Bishop of Cape Verde. The town was established away from the coast to protect it from pirates. In Tarrafal, you will find more residents than in the Ribeira Brava, together with the biggest harbour on this island. 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. The highest peak is Monte Gorda, the 952 hectares around the mountain is biodiverse and was confirmed as a national park in 2007.
São Nicolau is within the northern part of Cape Verde. There are steep mountain slopes with fantastic rock formations; small villages and fertile valleys that are just waiting to be discovered. The highest mountain is Monte Gordo at 1312m and is in the west of the island. 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.