São Nicolau, Cape Verde

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São Nicolau
Native name: Sanic’lau
Nickname: Ilha de Chiquinho (island of Chiquinho)
Bela-vista-net-Sao Nicolau-map.jpg
São Nicolau is located in Cape Verde
São Nicolau
São Nicolau
Location Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 16°36′54″N 24°16′16″W / 16.615°N 24.271°W / 16.615; -24.271
Area 343 km2 (132 sq mi)
Length 44.5 km (27.65 mi)
Width 22.0 km (13.67 mi)
Highest elevation 1,304 m (4,278 ft)
Highest point Monte Gordo
Cape Verde
Concelhos (Municipalities) Ribeira Brava, Tarrafal de São Nicolau
Largest settlement Ribeira Brava
Population 12,769[1] (2010)
Pop. density 32.9 /km2 (85.2 /sq mi)
A cobblestone-paved road with the view of the island's mountain.
Coast of the island of São Nicolau
Tarrafal de São Nicolau fishing boat

São Nicolau (Portuguese meaning Saint Nicholas) is one of the Barlavento (Windward) islands of Cape Verde. It is located between the islands of Santa Luzia and Sal. Its population is 12,769, with an area of 343 km².[2] Its economy consists mainly of agriculture as well as fishing and tourism near its beaches. Much of the population is rural. Preguiça Airport is located to the south between Vila da Ribeira Brava and Campo.


First inhabited in the sixteenth century, its first settlers came from Madeira and Portugal, it is known for its mountains and for its main town, Ribeira Brava, long the seat of the Cape Verde diocese. Its other town is the ferry and the fishing port of Tarrafal. In 1500, Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral stopped by the island before heading to discover Brazil in what is now South America. After the island was founded, agriculture spread and had plantations, it also produced wine, notably grogue and coffee. In 1818 a fort would be built at Preguiça to defend from pirate attacks, the attacks first started from around the 17th century which its inhabitants fled inland notably Ribeira Brava and sporadically continued until the 19th century when Preguiça's fort was built.[3] The seminary was first opened in 1866, the oldest in West Africa. A famine affected the entire island in the 1940s which led to emigration, mainly to São Tomé and Príncipe and the neighbouring island of Sal especially to Espargos where the airport and town would be created.


The mountainous island is mostly agricultural but is subject to droughts. The flat areas and hills dominate most of the coastline and the central part. A peninsula covers the eastern part of the island. The highest point on the island is Monte Gordo (1,304 m).[2] Other mountains include Monte Bissau in the central part and Pico do Alberto to the east.

Administrative divisions[edit]

The island is divided in two municipalities, which are subdivided into civil parishes:

Before 2005, the island was administrated as one municipality: São Nicolau.


As of 1832, São Nicolau had an estimated population of 5,000.[4]

In around 2000, the island's population are now less than the island of Sal's.


The island's airport is the Preguiça Airport located near Preguiça and south of Ribeira Brava.

The road network is 108.76 km, 92.73 km are national and has seven roads and 16.03 km are municipal and has nine municipal roads.

National routes[edit]

Number Destination Length
Ribeira Brava-Tarrafal de São Nicolau
15.85 km.
Ribeira Brava-Aeródromo de Preguiça
3.68 km.
Tarrafal de São Nicolau-Ribeira da Prata
18.6 km.
Ribeira Brava-Carriçal
37.2 km.
Preguiça Airport-Preguiça
3 km.
Ribeira Brava-Agua das Patas
3 km.
EN1-SN-01-Monte Gordo
1.4 km.

International Relations[edit]

São Nicolau is twinned with:

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ Portal do Instituto Nacional de Estatística: INE - CENSO 2010 Archived 2014-04-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b Cabo Verde, Statistical Yearbook 2015, Instituto Nacional de Estatística, p. 25
  3. ^ Petit futé Cap-Vert (Small Smart Cape Verde), 2015, p.132
  4. ^ Roberts, Edmund (1837). Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 17. 

Further reading[edit]

  • João Lopes Filho, Ilha de S. Nicolau : Cabo Verde : formação da sociedade e mudança cultural, 2 vols., Secretaria-Geral, Ministerio da Educação, Lisbon, 1996, 533 + 515 p. ISBN 972-95047-1-7 ISBN 972-95047-2-5
  • Michel Lesourd, "São Nicolau", Le Cap-Vert,, Jaguar, Paris, 2006, p. 188-199 ISBN 978-2-86950-408-0
  • Richard A. Lobban Jr et Paul Khalil Saucier, "São Nicolau", Historical dictionary of the Republic of Cape Verde, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland ; Toronto ; Plymouth, 2007, p. 207-208 ISBN 978-0-8108-4906-8
  • Sabrina Requedaz et Laurent Delucchi, "São Nicolau, l'île rurale", Cap-Vert (Cape Verde), Olizane, Geneva, 2011 (6th ed.), p. 173-197 ISBN 978-2-88086-394-4
  • André Pinto de Sousa Dias Teixeira, A Ilha de São Nicolau de Cabo Verde nos séculos XV a XVIII (The Island of São Nicolau of Cape Verde From the 15th to the 18th Centuries;;, Centro de História de Além-Mar, New University of Lisbon, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Lisbon, 230 p. ISBN 978-972-986726-2

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 16°36′54″N 24°16′16″W / 16.615°N 24.271°W / 16.615; -24.271