Brava is the smallest inhabited island of Cape Verde and attracts visitors with its rugged mountains hiding picturesque villages. On the island, which is green almost all year round, you can find breathtaking nature, tranquility and solitude.
Brava, the “Wild” or “Brave”, is the southwesternmost and smallest inhabited island in Cape Verde. Its nickname “flower island” comes from its appearance after the rainy season, when the steep slopes of Brava are covered all over with a colorful carpet of flowers.
Brava lies in the lee of its larger neighboring island of Fogo, and clouds form over the island all year round due to the almost 1,000 meter high Mount Fontainhas. The rain ensures that Brava is much greener than, for example, the eastern islands of Cape Verde, such as Boa Vista, Maio or Sal. In the tropical, humid climate, coconut, date and almond palms as well as the colorful bougainvillea and oleander feel very much at home. Accordingly, the most beautiful time for hiking through Brava’s dreamlike mountain world is October to February. For bathing you should not come to Brava because of the lack of beaches.
Tip: The boat traffic between Fogo and Brava is not necessarily regular, for both the outward and the return journey a certain temporal flexibility of several hours or even days is necessary.
Main town Vila Nova Sintra
Vila Nova Sintra sits high on the ridge above Brava and is often called the most beautiful town in Cape Verde. The well-kept little houses with small gardens testify to the comparative prosperity of Brava’s population. The center is the Praça Eugénio Tavares, named after a Morna musician of Brava, whose home is in the west of Vila Nova Sintra. In addition to the Church of the Nazarenes and the colonial church Igreja São João Baptista, the town hall and the post office are also located here.
South of the square you reach the local market and in the east at the entrance to the town there is a stone replica of the Santa Maria, the famous ship with which Christopher Columbus once discovered America. Every year on June 24, the Santa Maria is decorated with flowers, pastries and fruits. People dance and dress up as sailors.
Villages on Brava
From Vila Nova Sintra, Brava can be best explored by rental car on easily passable, if steep, roads. If you move northeast from Vila Santa Nova, you will reach the town of Furna through many switchbacks. The ferries from Fogo dock at its natural harbor, and this is where you normally enter the island. You are greeted by a fort built in 1839, which towers over the houses of the small town.
South of Furna is the valley of Vinagre (“Vinegar”), which takes its name from the curative acid springs. From Santa Bárbara, a beautiful view of Fogo and the bay of Furna reveals itself. A paved path can be used to reach the colonial water tanks, where sick people used to be taken for bathing. Here, supposedly, there is the best water of all Brava and whoever drinks from it, remains eternally connected with the island.
Heading southeast from Vila Santa Nova, you pass the Mirador de Nova Sintra, which offers a wonderful view over Brava’s main town and on to João Nole and Mato Grande. Amidst an emerald green, misty mountain landscape, the pretty houses, pretty churches and small orchards defy the crumbling rock. Mato Grande overlooks the entire eastern coast of Brava, and João Nole is the starting point for hikes up Mount Fontainhas.
Moving northwest from the capital, the road lined with hibiscus and rubber trees leads to Rodela Baixo. There is also a huge dragon tree right on the road! From there, a hike to Fajã d’Àgua, one of the most breathtaking bays of Cape Verde, is worthwhile. Here the cobalt blue sea surges in a picturesque crescent shape against the steeply rising Brava mountains, which people have tried to tame with terraced fields. Here, sheltered from the fierce northeast winds, the landscape is green and lush almost all year round.
Some guesthouses and restaurants make it possible to stay longer in this beautiful bay. Fajã d’Água is also one of the few places on Brava where you can halfway swim – however, there is no sandy beach here either and you have to make do with pebbles.
The further south you go, the more deserted and lonely Brava becomes. The picturesque village of Cova Joana lies a few kilometers before Nossa Senhora do Monte, the settlement closest to the summit of the mighty Monte Fontainhas. Since 1862, the mountain village with its whitewashed houses has been considered a place of pilgrimage. The summit of Brava’s highest mountain is best seen from the neighboring village of Mato. If you drive further south after Nossa Senhora do Monte, past the mountain, you will reach Cachaço, the southernmost settlement of Brava, which lies in the middle of a barren, deserted landscape. On a clear day, you can see as far as Fogo.