Day trip to Santo Antão
Even though Santo Antão is worth staying for a few days (especially if you like hiking) it is also very well possible to make a day trip to the island. Santo Antão can be reached from Mindelo within one hour with the ferry. The ferry schedule can be found here: ferry information
Using public transportation (aluguer) to explore the island is not advisable if you are on a tight time schedule. So for a day trip it is best to either:
- explore the island with a local guide
- rent a car and explore the island yourself
For going with a local guide we recommend Edson 'Davy' Lima who speaks good English. He also provides guided walks on Santo Antão. More information is available on his website: http://walksantoantao.com/
This article is meant to describe how you can explore the island yourself. Please keep in mind that the indicated distances and times are estimates. Also, as it can be cloudy in the mountains, not all viewpoints may offer the view you might expect. It is also important to know that distances are not necessarily an indication of the traveling time. Most hightlights are concentrated on the eastern site of the island, so it is advisable to stick to this part of the island.
You can rent a car at Pegaso which is about 300 meters to the right from the arrivals. It is a good idea to make a reservation in advance (even though this still may not be a guarantee that you will get the car you asked for).
Davy (see above) also can arrange a car.
Please note that if you rent a pickup, locals along the road waiting for an aluguer may ask for a ride in the back (they are used to tourists stopping to make pictures, so don't feel rushed ;-).
A day trip basically consists of driving up the old road from Porto Novo through the mountains to the town of Ribeira Grande on the other side of the island, and from there driving back to Porto Novo on the new road along the coast. Along the way it is possible to drive or walk to interesing places nearby.
Please keep in mind though that with arrival and departure on the same day not all of the following sights will fit in a one day program.
Rua da Corda
The easiest way to go from Pegaso is to drive back to the ferry and turn right. Pass the Shell gas station and turn left to the main street. After about 500 meters turn right on the road to Ribeira Grande. This road (rua de Corda) is a scenic route through the mountains. It ascends quickly and offers a lot of beautiful viewpoints.
Ater about 30 minutes you will be at a crossing close to the crater of an extinct vulcano (Cova). At this point you have three options: you can go straight ahead to the bottom of the vulcano, turn right towards the second tallest mountain of the island (Pico da Cruz) or you can go left to continue towards Ribeira Grande. After visiting the crater or Pico da Cruz you will have to return at this crossing to continue towards Ribeira Grande.
The crater is a must see, it takes only about 5 to 10 minutes to drive to the bottom. At the end of the road there are some small buildings where you can park the car. From there goes a small path to the top of the edge, a walk of about 15 minutes. At the top you will have a beautiful view down the valley of Paul that is on the other side of the edge. Sometimes clouds may block the view, but it can also be a beautiful sight when clouds seem to flow over the edge into the crater.
Pico da Cruz
It is about a 10 minute drive to a small village from where you can take a 20 minutes walk to the top of Pico da Cruz. This mountain is the second tallest of the island and has a height of 1585 meters. The hiking path to the top starts behind a house opposite to the small square.
When continuing from Cova towards Ribeira Grande after about 30 minutes you will pass a mountain ridge called Delgadinho. You can park your car here on the left side of the road and enjoy the sensational view. There is a sign explaining how some vulcanic rocks where formed. On both the left and right side of this road there is a steep valley.
Some 20 minutes driving after Delgadinho you will enter the town of Ribeira Grande (the official name is Povoação). The small center of this town has some colonial buildings. From Ribeira Grande it is possible to go a couple of directions. The road along the coast with the sea at your left hand side is towards Paul and also to return to Porto Novo. The other road along the coast with the sea at your right hand side goes to Ponta do Sol.
Ponta do Sol
The road along the coast (with the sea at the right hand side) is a nice scenic route. It will take you to the town of Ponta do Sol in about 15 minutes. This fishing village has some nice restaurants and is a good place to have lunch. From Ponta do Sol you can return towards Ribeira Grande or you can make a visit to the mountain village Fontainhas.
The small village of Fontainhas is build on the edge of a rock next to a deep valley.
To drive from Ponta do Sol to Fontainhas will take about 20 minutes. It is a spectectular road, but you will need to feel confident about your driving if you want to make this trip. It is a narrow road with only a small wall between you and the deep valley. As there are few places where two cars can pass each other it is a good idea to look ahead for a possible oncoming car.
To go to Fontainhas you will have to take the road back from Ponta do Sol towards Ribeira Grande and turn right just outside the village (only the first few hundred meters are dirt road).
Ribeira do Paul
After you have returned ro Ribeira Grande you can continue on the road along the coast and after about 15 minutes you will enter the town of Paul. From here starts a beautiful green valley called Ribeira do Paul where you will find sugarcane, banana trees, mango trees etc. You can drive to the end of this valley in about 30 minutes (to the small village of Chã de Manuel dos Santos). It is also possible to make a small walk somewhere in the valley.
It takes around 40 minutes to drive back from the village of Paul to Porto Novo. From Paul you have to drive into the valley and turn left after about 200 meters (if you take the road along the coast you will end up in a dead end street). If you have time left you can make a stop at the abandoned light tower that you will pass after about 10 minutes.