Fontainhas

Musical Cape Verde – Green Hills to Arid Flats

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Cape Verde is an archipelago full of surprises. In this trip we explored the lush green hills of Santo Antão, wondered through the musical streets of Mindelo and relaxed at the beaches of the arid island of Sal. It covers very different experiences of Cape Verde landscape. And for the first time we traveled with our little baby, giving it a rather different perspective when looking for relaxation at faraway places.


The Trip

Geography

  • Region: Africa
    • Country: Cape Verde (Cabo Verde)
  • Trip duration: 14 days
  • Time of the year: November 2019

Each of the islands in Cape Verde archipelago is unique. Although it is possible to island hop around the country, for a trip of less than one month or less you should select a group of 2 or 3 islands that you are most interested to visit. In such way, you will ease the transfers planning and allow for a more in-depth experience.

We have started this trip in Mindelo which is the capital of the island of São Vincente. You can fly into São Vincente from abroad from just a few airports like Lisbon, Portugal, otherwise you will have to switch international to regional flights in the island of Sal or Praia. From Mindelo, it is easy to cross over to the island of Santo Antão which is where I start the description of this trip.

Arriving to Santo Antão

Porto Novo – Ponta do Sol

Santo Antão trekking

Ponta do Sol – Fontainhas – Cova do Paul

Mindelo

Mindelo, a musical city.

Island of Sal

Santa Maria, Salt mine, Buracona

Highlights – Part 1

Island of Santo Antão

Ponta do Sol

Fontainhas

Cova do Paúl

Highlights – Part 2

Mindelo (island of São Vincente)

Island of Sal

Santa Maria

Salt mine

Photos

All photos are available in the gallery post: Musical Cape Verde – Gallery.


Musical Cape Verde – Part 1

Arriving to Island of Santo Antão

To get to the island of Santo Antão, we took the ferry boat from Mindelo (in island of São Vincente). We arrive to Porto Novo town which is in the southern part of the island in a very arid land. Other than a nice looking small coastal walking area, Porto Novo does not seem to have so much to offer for tourism.

Once you leave Porto Novo harbor, if you have not previously arranged transportation, you will be greeted by plenty of taxi drivers offering to take you further into to the island.


Ponta do Sol

The sleepy town of Ponta do Sol, at the northern end of Santo Antão island, is an ideal base to explore the treks of the hilly surrounding area. The buildings are colorful, the streets clean, and the gardens well arranged. There are a few nice restaurants with excellent local fish. From our accommodation we planned our treks and exploration of the area with excellent island maps, a glass of grogue and a great view to the small harbor.

There is usually not so many people on the streets in Ponta do Sol. In fact, the other towns that we passed in Santo Antão before getting here were much more busy.

The best place in town to see some live local action is at the fishing harbor. It is delightful throughout the day since there is always local people socializing but it is even more colorful and interesting in the mornings when the boats arrive with fish and the activities start to take care of it. Note that this does not happen every day as it is very dependent on the weather, when the sea is rough there is no fresh fish here.

Wondering beyond the center of Ponta do Sol allows to see more modest living and activities. With a very fine view from the higher parts of the town, we have found an unlikely structure, a very well maintained Jew cemetery. It has a nice cobble stone drawing just in front of the entrance.

Highlights: Santo Antão

Ponta do Sol – Ponta do Sol is the best place for a quiet base to explore the region. Find little gems in the town such as the Jew cemetery. And staying at the eco-conscious guesthouse Kasa Tambla is a very fine choice, especially the rooms facing the harbor.

Fontainhas walk – The walking paths along the northern coast from Ponta do Sol to Cruzinha passing by Fontainhas is highly recommended. If (like us) you only do a part of it, do make sure to include time to walk beyond Fontainhas when the path gets more rough.

Drink – do not miss the local produced grogue for better inspirations 🙂 also many other local vegetables which are not found in other islands of Cape Verde.


Fontainhas

This is one of highlights of the island and unique experience to feel isolated from large cities. Fontainhas is a beautiful tiny village set in the mountains with an amazing scenery.

One of the best walking paths that can be explored in Santo Antão starts in Ponta do Sol and goes along the northern coast until Cruzinha. It is a day long trek including taking a taxi to come back from Cruzinha back to Ponta do Sol. Since we had a small baby with us and were not confident that he would be comfortable under the heat of the strong sun for a long period of time, we took a shorter part which is still very enjoyable and gets most of the views. We walked from Ponta do Sol to the village of Fontainhas and further up the hill until we reached the northern coast where we turned around and headed back.

The path from Ponta do Sol to Fontainhas is in good condition for cars, though there is almost no traffic passing. It does allow to go one direction with taxi and the other walking. To continue further than Fontainhas it is possible only walking or with a mule :). The views of the mountain and the green areas are wonderful and the village of Fontainhas is set in an extremely picturesque position.

If you are looking to reduce the physical effort, you can easily negotiate for a taxi to take to Fontainhas in the early morning. Then take some time to walk around the tiny village and take a grogue drink in the local cafe. There is not much else to do here, as there are only two cafes that have closed doors most of the time and are simply waiting for a tourist to pass by (hence, do ask or knock on the door).

When you are ready to continue from Fontainhas, start your walk down back to Ponta do Sol which should take about 1-1.5 hr with time for photo stops. The road offers excellent views of Fontainhas when you cross to the other side of the valley.

As we get closer to Ponta do Sol, the views of the town along the road are impressive. This is really the top tip of the whole archipelago stretching into the ocean.


Cova do Paúl

Cova do Paúl is the large crater at the top of Paúl valley. This region has excellent conditions to grow fruit and vegetables so it is widely cultivated. Note that most of Cape Verde greens and fruit come from this island.

To reach the crater, we took the old road from Ribeira Grande to Porto Novo. When reaching the top of the hilly sides coming from Ribeira Grande, the views are impressive. Once reaching the top of the crater, we can see the whole cultivated crater area and the telescope station at the top left side.

Just beyond the crater, you can climb through a small path to start your descent through the Paúl valley. The views at the start of this trek are amazing. The valley of Paúl is an excellent area to try local produce, fruits and vegetables and local drinks. Try out the local grogue, the alcoholic beverage made of sugar cane.


Travel Advice

Santo Antão with a baby

When we started to prepare this trip, we were a bit concerned to travel with our 9-month baby to an island like Santo Antão which does not have an airport neither an hospital. In general, though not the simplest first destination for babies traveling with a toddler in Cape Verde is easy from safety and access to doctors. Santo Antão towns have medical centers and the boat connection to Mindelo is reliable enough for our peace of mind.

Another aspect is how people are really friendly and helpful when we travel with kids. Very easy to engage in conversation with anyone on the street and other local families.

As long as you enjoy, the treks are great to take a toddler on the baby carrier. The most important thing is to avoid the peak heat of the day and use the early mornings and late afternoons for walks and take enough water and food. The short trek to Fontainhas from Ponta do Sol e perfectly feasible to do with a baby.

Check with the accommodation where you are staying whether they have a baby cot. The one in Kasa Tambla (Ponta do Sol) was fine.

Transport

Some of the islands that are close to each other have easy boat schedules, but to travel between groups of islands plan for flights or long boat trips that may exist only once a week.

Boat Santo Antão – Mindelo

The ferry between Santo Antão and Mindelo takes about one hour and the sea is reasonably calm (at least in the summer months) since. There are usually 3 departures per day. You should buy the ticket in advance while in Mindelo (e.g. the day before) to make sure there is a place but usually it does not get full except in some of the local holidays. The ferry is in large and in good condition, we could take easily our luggage, and you can also take a car.

Taxi in Santo Antão

You can pre-arrange transportation for Santo Antão or negotiate at arrival as there are many taxi drivers waiting at the harbor. The prices are expensive but reasonably fixed across all the companies. Find below a list of taxi prices around Santo Antão to get an idea. This transport company is realiable: TransSol (00238 995 62 15, [email protected]).

Porto Novo to Ponta do Sol (via new road or old road) – 4000 escudos (or 40 EUR)

Ponta do Sol to Fontainhas – 700 escudos (7 EUR)

Accommodation

At Ponta do Sol, we stayed at Kasa Tambla, a wonderfully located eco-conscious guesthouse by a french owner. Besides the excellent views from the terraces of the top rooms, this is a comfortable place to stay while exploring the area. They can pack some light lunch (sandwich) for your day treks and you can refill your water bottles for a small fee.


Next post in this series: Musical Cape Verde – Part 2

Continue reading… (coming soon)

Highlights – Musical Cape Verde – Part 2

Mindelo (island of São Vincente)

Island of Sal

Santa Maria

Salt mine

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