Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde
It happened in 1456 when a small portuguese vessel, on its way to the Gambia, drifted off the west-african coast and discovered the coast of the then uninhabited island of Santiago. The venecian captain Aloisio de Cadamosto communicated his discovery to Prince Henry, who he sent out António de Noli to develop the island as the first european colony south of the Sahara.
Santiago is the largest Island in the Cape Verde Archipelago with an area of 991km², its highest peak is the Pico d'Antónia (392 metres) and the Island is roughly 55km long and 29km wide.
In the south of the island you will find Praia, the capital of the Cape Verde Islands and its biggest city with over 100.000 inhabitants. Praia became capital in 1770, following the decline of nearby Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha) and was granted city status in 1858.
Nowadays, as well as being the country's administrative centre, it is also an important port which exports coffee, sugar cane and tropical fruits.
Most of the interesting colonial buildings and museums are located on or are near to the Praca Alexandre Albuquerque, an impressive square in the old part of the city known as Plato (Plateau). Highlights include the 19th Century Palácio Presidencial (Presidential Palace), the Igreja Nossa Senhora da Graca (Church) and the Palacio da Cultura which also houses an Internet Cafe and Bookshop. Nearby, views over the bay and the Ilheu de Santa Maria can be enjoyed from the City's (slightly derelict) fortified walls complete with canons.
The bustling Fruit and Vegetable Market, located on the Avenida 5 de Julio, is worth a visit to see the Island's agricultural produce and taste one of those Bananas!.
The new Airport (RAI), which opened in 2005, is located 3km from the Island's capital, Praia.
Santiago has two mountain ranges, the more northern Serra da Malagueta and the central Serra do Pico do Antonio (reaching 1392). It benefits from several permanent water sources and has lush green valleys and thriving plantations. The drive through the centre of the island is spectacular, with craggy cliff tops and views down the mountains on either side of the road.
Other destinations on Santiago definitely worth a visit include the attractive fishing town of Tarrafal and, 15 kilometres from Praia, the old city of Cidade Velha. The latter is a highly atmospheric, peaceful destination of stone cottages and cobbled streets, set in pretty countryside and presided over by the remains of the 15th Century Sao Filipe fortress. The views of the coastline and surrounding area from the site of the fortress are quite magnificent.