Santiago Island


Cape Verde is…

Synonymous with rich cuisine, with the traditional Cachupa, the well-known tuna steak, the Xerém, or even the typical Modjo from S. Nicolau.

The art of Morabeza, reflecting the warm welcome of the people, the symbol of Sodade, brought to us by the voice of Cesaria Evora, and of Cretcheu, the sweet and romantic side of a country.

A slow and tender melody like Morna and the hot rhythms of the Funaná.

An example of democracy, stability and prosperity, proof of which was the attribution of the Mo Ibrahim award to former president Pedro Pires, as a recognition of his achievements in matters of human rights and good governance. As a result, Cape Verde was the second African Country to graduate from the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries.

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Santiago Island

Santiago, the largest island of Cape Verde, belongs to the Sotavento (leeward) island group. It is located at a straight line distance of 50km from Fogo Island to the west and 25km from Maio Island to the east.

Praia is both the country's capital and most populous city.


The island holds Praia International Airport, located just 3 km from the city center. This airport receives international flights from Europe, South America, North America and the African continent, as well as domestic flights.

About 50km north of Praia lays the town of Assomada, with its busy market and the Tabanka Museum. To the north of the island, around 75km from Praia, is the town of Tarrafal, with its sandy beach and palm trees. In that same municipality you can find the former Tarrafal Camp, created by the Portuguese Government of the Estado Novo to house exiled prisoners.


Santiago Island and Praia have experienced an extraordinary development since Cabo Verde’s independence in 1975, the population having doubled since that year. One of the oldest villages is São Domingos, located inland.

Ribeira Grande de Santiago, now known as Cidade Velha (Old Town) and situated 15km west of Praia, on the coast, was Cape Verde's first capital and is currently a world heritage site.


The Cape Verdean Creole variant spoken in Santiago is popularly called badiu, a term that can also be used for the natives of the island.



Praia is the largest city in Cape Verde. It has a commercial port, from where coffee, sugar cane and tropical fruits are exported. It also has an important fishing industry.

As Cape Verde’s capital, the city houses in its Plateau neighborhood, a promontory by the sea, several public buildings and other important sites such as the Presidential Palace. This palace was built at the end of the XIX century as home to the Portuguese governor. In this neighborhood you can also find the former City Hall, a building with a classic facade and a square central tower, the Nossa Senhora da Graça Church, also in the classicist style, the Ethnographic Museum and the Diogo Gomes Monument, a Portuguese navigator and discoverer of Santiago Island in 1460.


The city of Tarrafal has one of the few white sand beaches of the island, in a bay surrounded by coconut trees. It is certainly one of the most paradisiacal beaches of the archipelago.

The Tarrafal Penal Colony, located in Chão Bom in the Tarrafal municipality, was created by the Portuguese Government of the Estado Novo. The Tarrafal Concentration Camp, as it came to be known, began operations on October 29, 1936, with the arrival of the first prisoners. Here the political enemies of the dictatorship of Salazar were confined, 40 of whom eventually died. The Tarrafal Camp was closed in 1954. In 1961 it was reactivated as Campo do Chão Bom, to receive prisoners from the Portuguese colonies.

The Resistance Museum is part of the preservation and musealization project of the former Tarrafal Concentration Camp, and has the long-term aim of being declared a World Heritage Site.

Cidade Velha

Cidade Velha (Old Town) is located in the Ribeira Grande de Santiago municipality, 15 kilometers west of Praia, on the coast. On the 10th of June of 2009 it was classified as one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin. Due to its rich history, demonstrated by a very interesting architectural heritage, on 26th of June of 2009, Cidade Velha was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


Assomada, also known as Santa Catarina, is an important commercial hub. The city centre displays a strong presence of Portuguese colonial style buildings, which testify to its historical past.

The Assomada market is considered the largest and busiest of Santiago, presenting a huge variety of agricultural products and assorted goods to buy and sell. It is no coincidence that that we find ourselves in the heart of the largest and most populated island of the archipelago of Cape Verde and in the Santa Catarina municipality, also known as ”Cape Verde’s Barn”.

In cultural terms, the Tabanca Museum deserves a special mention. Housed in the building of the former Treasury and Post Office and considered a historical and cultural heritage due to its architectural design, the current Assomada Cultural Centre is located in the city’s centre.