The island of Santo Antão in Cape Verde is a hiker’s paradise. This island was for me the main reason to visit Cape Verde. Santo Antão is just spectacular; it has dramatic canyons, cloud-soaked peaks and vertigo-inspiring drops. I only spent here a couple of days, but you can easily spend here a couple of weeks. There are countless hiking trails to choose from, but as my time was limited on this stunning island I narrowed it down to the 2 most popular trails: the Cova Crater to Valé do Paúl Trail and the Coastal Track. In my previous blog post you can read about my complete trip to Cape Verde.
Cova Crater – Valé do Paúl
This classic hike leads from the Cova crater down to the stunning Valé do Paúl. It’s the most popular trail of the island although it felt like I was the only one hiking the trail. I took the 8am ferry from Mindelo to Santo Antão. When I got out of the ferry terminal I was overwhelmed with the amount of alugueres (shared minibuses) which were waiting for customers. Most of the alugueres take the coastal road to the villages around the island. But if you want to reach the Cova crater, which is located in the centre of the island, you need to catch an aluguer which takes the transisland road. Look for an aluguer with the name ‘Joao de Corda’ and he will drop you off near the crater from where you can start the hiking trail.
The trail starts at the stunning Cova crater. You will walk around the crater which is a fertile valley serving as farmlands for the island.
Once you reach the opposite side of the crater you have to hike a bit uphill towards a viewpoint which will take your breath away. Just…..Wow! What a view! From here you will have an amazing view of the valley of Paúl.
You can see the ocean behind the mountain peaks and you instantly know that you will have a long walk ahead of you before you will reach the coastal village of Paúl.
From here it’s only downhill which gets really tiring. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore at the end of the day! But the scenery was so worth the pain.
The steep downhill route passes through lush mountainside, verdant stands of bananas and fields of sugar cane. It’s difficult to imagine that people actually live and work here.
Halfway during the trail I met an awesome French guy with whom I continued the track towards the coastal village of Paúl. He works for a French television station and has been interviewing all the big names of Hollywood during the past 10 years. He had some great stories to share which helped me to forget about the pain in my legs.
We’re reaching the end of the trail and all we can think of now is a nice cold beer. We deserved it! The entire trail takes roughly 5 hours.
After a few well deserved beers I walked along the waterfront towards my hotel. I stayed at Black Mamba which I can highly recommend. The location is just perfect. The owners are Italian and super friendly. Oh and they also make some really tasty pizza’s!
My room felt like a tree house. I had to climb a ladder through a hatch to reach my room which has 2 floors. The bathroom is located on the first floor and the bedroom on the second. From the bedroom you can see and hear the ocean. There’s no better way to wake up than with the sound of the ocean. Perfect!
The second most popular track of the island is the coastal track. I took an aluguer from Paúl to Ponta do Sol from where I started the coastal track. The entire coastal track takes roughly 5 hours. I chose to only hike the section from Ponta do Sol to the village of Fontainhas which takes 1,5 hours.
The coastal track takes you along a narrow path carved out of the cliff face. Some parts of the track are pretty high and steep.
The coastal track is pretty easy compared to the Cova Crater to Valé do Paúl Trail from yesterday. The path is pretty well maintained and paved with cobblestones.
The path leads you pretty close to the edge and seeing the huge crashing waves lapping the rocky shores below is just spectacular.
After an hour you will see the village of Fontainhas ‘hanging’ to a little ridge high above its fertile valley and a small rocky cove. After a quick lunch in Fontainhas I made my way back to Paúl.
The stunning island of Santo Antão is spectacular and for me the highlight of Cape Verde. If you like hiking then I highly recommend to pay a visit to this gem in the Atlantic ocean.
Check out my Flickr album for more Santo Antão pics!