Even if you don’t have time to hike through Santo Antão’s valleys, the island is well worth driving around. With a car, you could enjoy stunning impressions of the island’s eastern landscape in a few hours. If you have a night to spare, we would also recommend driving down towards Tarrafal mid-afternoon, experiencing the sunset along the way. But honestly, even our week on the island proved to be far too short. A day could not do the sights on the island justice.
Landing on Porto Novo, we met our guide, Mar, from Nobai, who was planning on taking us on a hike through the area of Xôxô. We we running on very little sleep however, due to odd flight and ferry times (flights near midnight, and ferries at dawn), and told her we’d like to take it easy. She suggested a scenic drive instead, which would allow us to see most of the things we would have encountered on our hike around Xôxô.
The scenic drive begins from Porto Novo, up the Rua de Corda, an old road built in the previous centuries by slaves. Cutting north through some of the island’s most beautiful valleys, the road snakes along steep slopes and rises quickly towards the volcanic ridges of the island.
One of the primary viewpoints along this route is the rim of the Cova crater. The Cova crater is a part of a long extinct volcano, and is covered in lush vegetation. Many of the trees are, in fact, imported from all over Europe, and includ various types conifers and pines. These grew side by side with more tropical and Mediterranean plants like the agave. When we were to visit Sintra in Portugal, later in the year, we noticed the similarities between the diversity of plants in both the crater and on Sintra. On this day, unfortunately, our view down into the crater was obscured by a thick layer of clouds.
The most stunning point, however, was the lookout from the Delgadinho mountain ridge. Here, the old, cobblestone road, cuts into the peak, splitting it in two. The cliffs fall sharply on either side of the ridge, hundreds of meters above the valley flood. The view is stunning on both sides. Our guide, Mar, pointed out the many hiking trails that were visible from where we stood. On these, we could just barely make out small groups of hikers, trekking in the shadow of the cliffs. Some of the cliffs were truly impressive. Mar told us that it was possible to climb them. I would have, if I could.
We stayed on that ridge for a rather long while, taking in the amazing sights. As the first impression of Santo Antão, it was stunning. Little did we know that this was only the surface, and that in the coming days, we would see even more incredible sights.