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Santo Antao is located in the Cape Verde archipelago and is the second largest of the nine islands. The main airport is located to the north of the island at Ponta do Sol, which is also the island's main town. However, you are unlikely to be able to access the island direct via this point, as direct flights are extremely limited – not least by the tiny airstrip. Most holiday charters arrive at neighbouring Sao Vicente and transfer, via ferry, take approximately one hour.
One of the first things that any visitor to Santo Antao will notice is how green and rugged the island is. Its mountainous terrain makes it a haven for hikers, walkers, bikers and all manner of trekking holidays. Most visitors base themselves at Ribeira Grande, located to the north of the island. Many who travel to this resort choose to do so on a typical package holiday, where transfers – in a welcoming air conditioned coach - will be included. For those preferring to travel independently, there is generally no shortage of aluguer (taxis) on hand to transfer you. Car hire is available but you will almost certainly need a 4x4 to explore most areas, as roads can be very basic.
Whatever means you choose to travel by, the journey from Porto Novo, where the ferry from Sao Vicente docks, across to Ribeira Grande, is spectacular. Built mosaic-like from local volcanic stone, the roadway stretches approximately 20 miles, twisting and turning down though volcanic gorges and over volcanic ridges, with a vast array of spectacular scenery. In places the road is very narrow, with sheer drops of 600m to either side! At some of the highest points on the roadway you are almost engulfed in a micro climate, where pine and eucalyptus forests flourish.
Santo Antao is certainly an island of contrasts. In parts, it is lush, fertile and extremely mountainous - you can reach altitudes of over 1,500m in several places. The highest peak, Top de Coroa, will take you to just under 2,000m. Organized excursions are readily available on the island to explore these stunning backdrops, which include walking, trekking and even canyoning trips. For the really serious hiker, a trip to Cova, near Riberia Grande, brings the chance to descend an ancient volcanic crater.
Conversely, along its coast, Santo Antao is dry, arid and warm and as with any island destination, watersports are always in plentiful supply, with a particular emphasis for exploration and fishing. With clear, calm waters surrounding San Antao – sea temperatures rarely drop below the mid 20s - the area is a haven for divers and snorkellers, who can marvel at the marine life, or explore the numerous corals and caves. Divers can also visit a wreck dating back to 1919. Fishing trips are very popular and there is even the opportunity to try spear fishing in local caves!
The island's capital, Ponta do Sol, is well worth a visit. As the main municipality, you will find this a bustling and vibrant area, with colonial buildings, numerous places of interest and an array of bars and restaurants. The best of Santo Antao nightlife is also located here.
Dining out you will find that the emphasis is on seafood, caught daily, as well as Creole and Portuguese inspired dishes reflecting Cape Verde's heritage. One thing not to miss out on is a taste of the famous Cape Verdian Rum, made from locally grown sugar cane and known as 'grogue'.
Temperatures on Santo Antao are reflective of its proximity to the west coast of Africa and range from the mid twenty degree range, climbing to around 30 degrees in the hottest period. Humidity is generally low and with steady light winds, this is a good all year round destination.
Santo Antao is not the only island in Cape Verde that can boast spectacular scenery and if time allows, it is well worth considering a trip to neighbouring islands, including Sal, Boa Vista and Maio to soak up the sights and sounds. Those feeling particularly adventurous may even want to try Fogo, where you can climb a live volcano! Inter-island travel is via local ferries or planes, although both can be a little erratic in terms of schedules.
Much of Cape Verde's tourism stemmed from Portugal and Italy until, in recent years, direct flights to the area became available from the UK. English is widely spoken across the region, as tourism blossoms and resorts contine to expand. However, unlike many European tourist resorts, you will not be able to use your flexible friend too readily in Cape Verde, as many places do not accept credit cards. ATM machines are also generally only available in the larger towns on the bigger islands, so travellers cheques and cash are a must.