Walking in the Serra Malagueta on Santiago, Cape Verde

Our Max Cousins visited Fogo and Santiago in October 2022 with his friend Stuart. Here’s Max’s story of their Serra Malagueta walk on the day they arrived at Santiago from Fogo. You can read about his first experience of Fogo volcano at Fogo: Born of fire; and also the climb to the summit the next day at Summiting Fogo Volcano.

“Santiago is the heart of Cape Verde. Half of the population of Cape Verde live here on this mountainous island – and half of them live in the city of Praia.

I’m travelling with Stuart and we land from Fogo and collect our baggage. We’re met by cheerful guide Johnny and our driver, who’ll be with us for our next couple of days.

Praia airport is outside Praia itself but there are good views from the van of the sprawling suburbs. The city has an organic feel, spreading landwards from Praia bay and north up the Sao Filipe valley.

Last time I was here was my first trip to Cape Verde and the landscape was baked and dry after a drought that at the time has been going on for three years. This time was very different, the recent plentiful rains meant that the deserts had bloomed into a lush and verdant growth rivalling that which I’ve seen on the Azores and Madeira.

I can’t stop exclaiming at the green landscape around every corner as this drive is so very different to the one I took in 2017. This is Stu’s first visit and he’s just as impressed, but just taking it all in at first-sight.

We’re heading north as we’ll stay in Tarrafal on Santiago’s northern tip for our three days on Santiago. The hop on the little aeroplane from neighbouring Fogo island was in the morning and we’re hoping to get out walking again – once today, exploring the north-west valleys of the Serra Malagueta Natural Park; and once tomorrow, to summit Pico do Antonia, Santiago’s highest point at 1,392m.

North of Praia, Santiago’s true nature starts to reveal itself as the horizon slowly appears through the wind-blown Saharan sand haze that’s characteristic of the country. It’s a harshly jagged skyline compared to the southern plains and the single-tooth profile of Pico do Antonia really stands out. Stu’s transfixed and can’t wait to get exploring, but the summit isn’t planned until tomorrow.

Santiago’s main south-north road stretches all the way from Praia to Tarrafal. It’s the artery route and there’s a constant flow of trucks, cars and aluguers (think hop-on-hop-off shared taxis), all in various states of repair. The road is sinuous and two-way but there’s no rush or hassle from the traffic.

The centre of Santiago is a mish-mash of otherworldly peaks and valleys, volcanic mountains sculpted by erosion and weathering over millions of years. Santiago’s mountain capital is the city of Assomada and this suddenly comes into view: a colourful city spread over a mountain plateau some 500m above sea level, the plateau edge standing 150m above the deep Telhal valley. We stop to take the view in.

Across to Assomada Cape Verde

It’s an adventure already and this is just the drive north.

North of Assomada the central plain runs into the peaks of today’s walking destination: the Serra Malagueta Natural Park. Breaking through the gatekeeping hills, the mountain pass finally starts to descend and it’s here we stop and prepare for our walk.

The Serra Malagueta Natural Park runs east of the main road and down the deep valleys to the north-east coast. We’re going to walk into the Principal valley and the van will take the long way round to collect us from the end. Guide Johnny buys the permits necessary to enter the Natural Park, hands us our packed lunches, and we’re away.

Walking in the Serra Malagueta Cape Verde

The path drops away from the road and we’re immediately immersed in the landscape, incredibly lush from the recent rains. Again – last time I was here, this same view was desert-like, the parched valleys coloured yellow and orange from the bare earth and dormant plants. Now it’s absurdly verdant to me and it’s hard to comprehend the dissonance between what I see and what I remember. Much of what we walk through and past is farmed land. Johnny walks ahead, talking to us about the valley and it’s plantations.

Walking in the Serra Malagueta Cape Verde

The path is delightful to walk along, zig zagging down the steep mountain sides and winding along subsidiary ridges. The more we descend the higher the plant life becomes. After around an hour we’re within terraces such as found anywhere fertile and steep.

Walking in the Serra Malagueta Cape Verde

The small plots are planted with maize, beans, bananas, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, cassava, cabbage, yam, papaya, banana, melons, figs, sugar cane: everything grows here when the rains have been good. We start to meet locals and pass their homes, stone built amongst the terraces. The construction so far from easy access is incredible to see. Reaching a stream crossing we stop for a late lunch and the pasta salad is welcome. After the stream the houses start to increase in density and before long we’re descending alleyways into the locality of Chão de Horta, part of the Principal settlement.

Walking in the Serra Malagueta Cape Verde

Here’s where our walk ends and we get back into the van for our onward journey to Tarrafal and the wonderful Kingfisher Resort. It’s been a full-on few days what with the walking on Fogo and todays transfer-flight-transfer-walk-transfer to the Kingfisher. Stu takes full advantage of the nearest hammock when we check in. And … relax.”

Relaxing at the Kingfisher Resort Cape Verde


Our Serra Malagueta hike took about three hours. We offer it as part of a day out when you travel with us to Santiago and the hike can be included whether you’re staying in the Oasis Atlantico Praiamar in Praia, the Kingfisher Resort in Tarrafal – or anywhere in between.


Cape Verde Choice tailor made holidays.

There is so much to explore on Cape Verde – the 9 islands each have their own flavour and they are surprisingly different. The coffee is also excellent!

Max and Jake are our specialists for Cape Verde – they would love to hear from you and can talk to you in detail about the delights of this beautiful archipelago.

Call us: on 01768 721030.

Or CLICK HERE to send us an enquiry.



Our customers know that Feefo reviews are the real deal. We trust Feefo to independently collect reviews from our customers

Feefo believe that only authentic reviews are worth collecting: genuine feedback that has been matched to a holiday with us