Santiago was the first island colonised by the Portuguese from 1460. Cidade Velha, on the south coast was the first European city built in the tropics and for the first four centuries was the principal settlement of the whole archipelago. An old fort (the Fortaleza de São Filipe) still stands proudly protecting the old cathedral ruins in the town below from pirate attack. In its heyday Cidade Velha (translated as 'Old Town', but originally called Ribeira Grande) was a wealthy outpost trading African slaves for valuable minerals from the New World.
The capital was officially moved to Praia around 1850 (when it was called Praia da Santa Maria) which now has a population of 100,000. The centre of Praia sits on a plateau with many old colonial buildings including the presidential palace (once the ex-Governor's building).
There are currently three international standard hotels in Praia totalling 135 rooms and several good restaurants and bars. Santiago Island can offer spectacular mountainous scenery, white sandy beaches and lush plantations filled with banana, sugar cane, date and coconut palms. A new international airport at Praia costing US$30 million will offer, from April 2003, a second gateway in Cape Verde (besides Sal Island) for direct flights from northern Europe on Boeing 757, 767 and 737 operated by TACV (Cabo Verde Airlines) and by TAP (Air Portugal).
Please go to the image section to find a collection of photographs showing the beauty and the different faces of Santiago Island.
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Copyright © 2001 [J.Grepne]. All rights reserved.