Above the Clouds in Sao Nicolau
Climbing up the winding cobblestone paths you'll encounter local Cape Verdeans going about their day
If you tire of sunbathing on the beautiful beaches of Sal and Boa Vista and feel in the mood for some physical exertion and a change of scenery, hiking in Sao Nicolau is a an excellent opportunity to experience the real Cape Verde.
The Island of Sao Nicolau, a short 40 minute flight away from the tourist centre of Sal, is one of the forgotten Cape Verde Islands. Upon landing at the tiny airport, you will be transported by the local bus service, Alugar, to the main town of Riberira Brava. Here you will find the majority of accommodations, which tend to be basic but comfortable in the form of bed and breakfasts called “Pensaos”.
Riberira Brava is a delightful and pretty town, located down in the valley, surrounded by majestic mountains and is a perfect hiking base for the numerous trails on offer. Step back in time as you explore the narrow, cobbled streets, delightful gardens, admiring the colonial styled architecture. Catch your breath in the main square and venture into the pretty church. Riberira Brava was historically the centre of cultural learning; unfortunately, it has now become isolated and overshadowed by the islands of Sao Vicente and Santiago but still retains its wonderful charm.
Mont Gordo National Park
Climbing up the steep, winding, cobblestone paths from Riberira Brava, you will encounter local Cape Verdeans going about their day - little children fetching water, donkeys carrying supplies. The people are so friendly, so try out some basic Portuguese. The local children love having their picture taken.
As you continue your climb and leave Riberira Brava behind you, the full natural beauty of the stunning landscapes open up before you. Spectacular panoramic views of the majestic mountains drenched in mist lie above and around you.
Head towards Cachaco and then on to Penedon. The tourist information centre is located here at Penedon which is the entrance to Mont Gordo National Park. Here you can pick up some maps of the hiking trails; the multi-lingual guides are there to assist you with prior reservations. There is also an opportunity to arrange a typical Cape Verdean lunch with a host family. On the way, make sure you check out the amazing dragon trees.
Onwards and Upwards
Taking the main recreational route, you will be amazed at the tropical forest and the local farms. This then connects to the main summit trail. The trail becomes steeper as you had towards the summit where you will find some of the most awe inspiring views in Cape Verde. Take a moment to sit above the clouds and take in the spectacular views - on a clear day you can see the Islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao amongst others.
Upon departing the national park, take a few moments to visit a local family and enjoy their hospitality. It’s a humbling and rewarding experience.
A great way to finish off your adventure is to experience the national alcoholic beverage, “Grogue”. Sao Nicolau is renowned for producing some for the best Grogue in all of Cape Verde.
After following a truck filled with sugar cane; I ventured in to a large open space, completely covered with sugarcane. The locals were incredibly friendly explaining merrily the fine virtues of the local fire water and proceeded to offer me a small sample and gave me a full tour while explaining Grogue production.
A note of caution, it’s still a way to go back to Riberia Brava and it’s amazing how steep those cobbled paths become after a little Grogue.