Santiago is one of the larger islands in Cape Verde: Cidade Velha has the 15th century ruins of what was once a magnificent cathedral and fort and there is also a delightful museum exhibiting the city’s history. You could possibly explore the whole of Santiago within a couple of days, with its many small traditional villages and wonderful botanical gardens, with cobbled streets and very scenic areas to leisurely explore. The national Maritime museum in the nearby town of Cabo Verde is well worth the visit; it houses treasures that have been retrieved over the years from ship wrecks around its islands. Even though this is a reasonably small island, there are still plenty of activities for tourists such as, but not limited to, bird watching and nature walks. Praia is the capital of the island and is quite a busy, bustling and crowded town. You can hire a small boat and explore the other islands in the Cape Verde if you wish to get out and about, they’re not that far apart and the scenery of these volcanic islands are wonderful.
There are many beaches around Santiago Island, but many of them are dark in colour from the lava sand that makes them. They don’t look very appealing and once they are wet they’re very muddy, but you will find two very nice golden beaches with clear waters in Tarrafal and Sao Francisco, these offer water sports like sailing and wind and kite surfing.
EatingThe majority of the cuisine here is mostly Creole and Portuguese influenced. There are many fish dishes, as the islands are plentiful with sea life such as octopus and tuna. Stews and rice meals are the norm, but you will find restaurants serving pizza and Italian restaurants are found in some of the larger villages. Be warned, the islands are very laid back so don’t go to the restaurants expecting to be served quickly, you will need a few drinks before it arrives to the table, but it is well worth the wait.
If you’re looking for a shopping heaven then you won’t find it in the Cape Verde Islands, at the most you will find necessary items, and the usual local hand crafted tourist gifts like jewellery, pottery and basket woven items and cloth are available everywhere. If you don’t mind a busy and crowded area, then the open local markets around the island are extremely colourful and the friendly local people do make the market visit quite an experience.
Local live music entertainment is the main attraction and is mostly found in the hotels, there are no lively vibrant nightclubs though, it is very low key and you will mostly people watch whilst having a drink at the local bars. There is music all around the island but there is no techno or upbeat rhythms unless you have brought along your own ipod; you will find the local music is traditional soulful Creole music that is a combination of guitar and violin.