Guide to BRAVA, Cape Verde’s blooming little island

They say that Brava is the most beautiful of the Cape Verde islands.

View of the ocean from the island of Brava, Cape Verde
A very rewarding hike.

Actually, it’s a cute, small jewel in the middle of the ocean encircled by tiny islets. You can hike around the isle in just a couple of hours. There are colorfully painted buildings, surrounded by pretty flowers…and pure serenity. 

From Island to Island

Travelling between the islands is not always that easy. It strongly depends on which route you choose. Brava, the smallest and southernmost of the inhabited islands, does not even have an airport.

Port of Brava
This is the Port of Brava at the little town of Furna on the island’s north coast. The picture was taken in the early morning when the clouds are still hanging very low over the island.

It’s a bit tricky to plan your Brava-visit ahead because the ferry doesn’t go when the sea is too rough. So if you’re coming from Santiago, the best way is to plan a stay in Fogo and possibly go to Brava on short notice. Since there is not too much to do there, a stay of one or two days will be sufficient, anyway.

You can check out their schedule on their website, but stay flexible and avoid at any cost going to Brava at the end of your stay when you depend on reliable transport to an international airport.

Vila Nova Sintra

The ferry takes you to the port of Furna. There, disembarking in front of the massive mountain wall is one of the most impressive moments in Brava. Most travellers – thus on the ferry I took, I was the only tourist… – stay in Vila Nova Sintra, a romantic, picturesque place with adorable little houses lining charming narrow streets. To get here, you can take one of the Aluguers, the private taxis waiting at the port. Having your accommodation sent an Aluguer for you is certainly a good option. A ride to Vila Nova Sintra should be around 6 €uro.

The central square of Nova Sintra
The central square of Nova Sintra, so to speak Brava’s capital.

Vila Nova Sintra – named, obviously, after Sintra in Portugal – is said to be the prettiest town in all of Cape Verde. I don’t know about that, but it is certainly very picturesque and well-maintained. Also, it deems a bit wealthier than other parts which is correct. Like I pointed out in the main post, there are many Cape Verdians in the diaspora sending either money to the homeland or coming back to retire. Therefore, the old colonial houses were restored and are kept in good condition.

The town ‘s very tranquil center is the Praça Eugénio Tavares with a statue of this island’s most famous son.

Eugénio Tavares on the 2000 Escudos bill
Eugénio Tavares and one of his romantic poems on the 2000 Escudos bill. Almost too precious to be spent…

The island is called Ilha das Flores – which translates to Isle of flowers – for a reason: It is gorgeous and overgrown with lush greenery and many…flowers.
You should cherish that by hiking.

Taking a Dip

If you want to take a dip in the inky-blue ocean, there are two natural pools next to the port of Furna.

View of the Ocean around the Island of Brava
Yes, the waters look calm, but there can be an unpredictable undercurrent.

However, the water can be unpredictable and dangerous with currents and big waves – so I would choose Brava rather for hiking and enjoying the beautiful plants – and the ocean just from afar.

Taking a Hike

I took the popular hike from Vila Nova Sintra crossing Nossa Senhora do Monte to Faja d’Água, which is a 6 kilometers respectively 4 miles hike.

Ocean seen from the island of Brava
Hiking on Brava takes you along the deep blue ocean….

It took me – including many photo stops of the breathtaking views – about two hours.

Path between two stone walls on the island of Brava
…..as well as through stoney couloirs…..

At Faja d’Água I walked the main – at the same time only – road up and down twice, passing kids whispering in awe turista to each other. So that gives you an idea of how many turistas they must have seen before.

View of Faja d'Água from above
….all the way to the other side of the island where Faja d’Água is located. From here, I took a communal transport – namely a pick-up – back to Vila Nova Sintra.

Before taking the ferry back to Fogo, I wanted to take another short hike up to João d’Nole.

Fog over the island of Brava
The foggy clouds are mysterious and fascinating – but can also be a bit dangerous.

In the afternoon there is a dense fog going down on Brava – within minutes you cannot see your hand before the eyes. The fog covers also the pavement, makes it all wet and turns it into chutes.

Of course, I slipped and fell and landed in an unforeseen complicated yoga position and hurt my ankle really, really bad!
And I was still lucky that I didn’t rip all the ligaments in my knee from this ‘sporty’ position. So this teaches me – and hopefully you – to always wear adequate hiking shoes with a good grip sole.

Sunrise over Furna
The sun rises over Furna – welcoming another beautiful day in Cape Verde.

Practical Information on Brava

How to get there and around

As I explained above, not only is Brava an island that’s not accessible by plane, also the ferry service to Fogo is limited. It also strongly depends on the weather conditions.

You can check the ferry schedule on this website, but stay flexible and avoid at any cost tight schedules at the end of your stay when you depend on reliable transport to an international airport.

There is no public transportation on the island of Brava. You can take a cab or an aluguer, a shared cab.

However, most of the time, you’ll be hiking, anyway.

Money

Another remnant from the Portuguese colonial times is the name of the local currency which is called – just like in Portugal until the installment of the €uro – Escudo respectively Escudo de Cabo Verde, abbreviated CVE. For 1 US$ you get 100,01 CVE, for a €uro 110,27 CVE (as per January 2020). You can check the current rate here.

You need to take enough cash to Brava since they don’t have an ATM on the island.

Language

As Cape Verde used to be a Portuguese colony, the official language is Portuguese, but people speaks krioulo. This is a local patois and, like many dialects, differs a tiny bit even from island to island.

People on Brava do speak some English, but it is certainly helpful to have some basic knowledge of the local language.

Before my trip, I’d practiced using babbel. The first lesson is free and supplies you with the most important words to interact with people.

Where to Sleep

Since Brava is a bit off the beaten tracks, there is only about a handful of suitable accommodation there. You can check them out here*

Booking.com

I stayed at a small guest house in the heart of the town – namely Pensão Paulo Sena*.

View from the balcony at Pensão Paulo Sena on the island of Brava, Cape Verde
View from my balcony at Pensão Paulo Sena.

I stayed in a comfy room – a bit like spending the night at grandma. The breakfast was fine and the – pre-ordered – dinner just amazing. If you are rather into homey and quirky than into posh, I can really recommend it.

Where to Eat

Brava is still a pretty hidden gem so don’t expect there a main road lined with restaurants. I believe that your best option is to have a home-cooked meal at your accommodation. If that’s not an option, try Esplanada Sodadi, a cozy place right on the Praça Eugénio Tavares, the main square. However, do not expect either star cuisine or a very varied menu – by the way, anywhere on the islands.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful islands I’ve visited in Cape Verde? Then go to the main post and take your pick!

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