The historic capital of São Nicolau is Ribeira Brava where the narrow streets and old buildings tell their own story of the island's history. Places to look out for include the Catholic Church on the main square and the Seminary, a colonial building used to educate the clergy and where the island's secondary school system began as a public service.
São Nicolau is a quiet and serene island but with its mountains, valleys and beaches there's still plenty to do. The town of Tarrafal on the eastern side of the island draws visitors with its unusual dark, sandy beaches, said to have medicinal properties that help conditions such as rheumatism. From here you can continue along the coastline to Baixo Rocha, a beautiful white sandy beach shaded by a huge rockface, and on the way back to Ribeira Brava stop off at Monte Gordo, the island's tallest mountain. Here, you will see native trees including the protected Dragoeiro, a tree that exists only on São Nicolau and the Canaries islands and now forms São Nicolau's symbol.If this doesn't take your fancy, you can try a spot of fishing or diving, the sealife is in abundance here.
The best time to visit São Nicolau is during February for the carnival. The São Nicolau carnival is second only to the Sao Vicente carnival, like a Brazilian party but on a smaller scale when thousands of visitors dressed in flamboyant costumes take to the streets in true Cape Verdean style.
You can fly from Sal or Sao Vicente, or if you're feeling particularly adventurous, take a boat from any of the neighbouring islands.
With a large semi-humid valley in its centre, this mountainous island has a fertile hinterland and several almost permanent streams sufficient to support agriculture.
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