The ferry passage from Mindelo to Santo Antao takes barely an hour – a bracing voyage and an exciting prelude to the magnificent first sighting of Santo Antao.
On docking, a veritable cornucopia of life avalanches onto the jetty – a noisy, hustle-bustle of people and belongings in search of relatives, friends or transport. Most tourists hail an Alugar for the unmissable drive over Santo Antao’s rugged spine to Ribeira Grande in the north.
Arguably one of the great road journeys of the world, the route is miraculous. Built from volcanic stones, hand-hewn then individually laid to create a 26km long mosaic, this grey ribbon-like road twists and turns over volcanic ridges and across deep gorges. So great is the climb that the scenery, flora and even climate change. From arid coastal desert to cool misty hillsides, draped in eucalyptus and pine forests – with breathtaking views in every direction.
From Ribeira Grande – a peaceful town with colonial houses, founded in the16th century– it’s a short ride to Ponta do Sol, a fine town with elegant buildings, beautiful churches, restaurants and nightlife.
The landscape of Santo Antao is possibly the most spectacular of all the Cape Verde Islands. A stunning, extensive mountain range with altitudes exceeding 1500m in places divides the island into two sections, one to the north and the other to the south. The usual way to reach the island is by ferry from the port of Mindelo, located on the island of Sao Vicente. The first contact on the island is with the small port town of Porto Novo where the ferry docks. From here you take a local aluguer with driver to the towns of Ribeira Grande and Ponta do Sol.
The town serves as a base for visitors to the island to go out walking and trekking, to explore the two deep green valleys which flank Povoacao. Ponta do Sol is the administrative centre of the island and is located approximately 10 minutes by local aluguer from Ribeira Grande. A very peaceful town with some colonial buildings. The airport of Santo Antao is located in Ponta do Sol. The tropical vegetation in the valleys offers a sharp contrast to that of the rugged coastline, which is as a result of the diverse microclimates on this island. Located close to Janela is a large rock of historical interest. The inscriptions on this rock are significant, dating back to the 15th century, and question whether the Portuguese actually discovered the Cape Verde Islands. Be sure not to leave the island without tasting the grogue -the famous Cape Verdian rum – made from the sugar cane grown on the island, the coffee and the small, sweet bananas.