Hiking Santo Antão

Dramatic canyons, cloud-soaked peaks and vertigo-inspiring drops all help to make Santo Antão a hiker's paradise. Walks here cover all ranges of abilities, from gentle hour-long valley hikes to strenuous ascents only for the fittest. If you're intending to do some serious hiking, get hold of the Goldstadt Wanderkarte hiking map. You may also consider hiring a local guide; price depends on the hike and whether the guide speaks English, but rates are about CVE4000. Many of the hikes begin or end on the trans-island road. From here you can hitch a ride on a passing aluguer (minibus), or arrange for a taxi to wait for you ahead of time.

The classic hike is from the Cova crater (1170m), with its fascinating patchwork of farms, down to the stunning Valé do Paúl. The steep downhill route, which can get dangerously slippery, passes through lush mountainside, verdant stands of bananas and fields of sugarcane, all the way down to the string of villages that line the country road leading to the coastal town of Vila das Pombas.

An easier hike is along the coastal track from Ponta do Sol to Fontainhas. This hour-long walk takes you along a narrow path carved out of the cliff face, which in places is really high and steep. At the end, the village of Fontainhas clings like a spider to a little ridge high above its fertile valley and a small, rocky cove. From Fontainhas, you can continue the marvellous clifftop walk all the way to Cruzinha (another four hours).

These are just two popular hikes; there are numerous other possibilities. Many inn owners offer guide service and/or advice on nearby hikes; they are typically the best source of info for their particular area.