A travel guide to Brava, Cape Verde with hotels, restaurants, hikes and tours
Do you want to visit Brava, one of the remotest islands of Cape Verde? It’s probably the best choice you’ve ever made! But be ready to affront several challenges to reach the “Island of Flowers”! Indeed; access to Brava has been very complicated for a long time.
An extremely rough sea, limited and unreliable ferry connections, a closed airport, an old fishermen’s boat working as a ferry, etc.
Here the good news: not only did the connections to Brava improve over the last years, but it will above all be totally worth overcoming any obstacle as you will reach a paradise for hikers and an oasis of peace! Read on to explore the things to do on Brava, also known as Cape Verde’s “Island of Flowers“.
Brava, Cape Verde is the smallest, inhabited island of the Cape Verdean archipelago and, next to Santo Antao, the greenest island.
Tons of fruits and vegetables grow on its fertile volcanic soil. I arrived on Brava just after a rainy day, and I couldn’t believe my eyes how phosphorescent green this island was! It was like somebody put an overly exaggerated saturation filter on the entire landscape!
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Due to its unique mix of colorful flora, “Ilha Brava” is also known as the “Island of Flowers“. Despite its limited size (10 km at its widest point), Brava has numerous spectacular hiking trails.
You know that I am a big fan of Santo Antao for hiking, and Brava is the only island that could compete when it comes to hiking trails and spectacular views on the mountains and the ocean. On top, the atmosphere is even more relaxed than in Santo Antao.
The fact that it’s difficult to reach, and often covered in mist, created a lot of legends and adventurous stories about Brava. This feeling of being on a “lost island” is enhanced by the fact that emigration, mainly to the US, is a real problem on Brava.
Thankfully, initiatives like the 7Sois7Luas Festival created perspectives for young people and particularly musicians. More about them in this post!
In order to make the most of your time, check the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book filled with local, hidden gems.
How to get to Brava, Cape Verde?
Geographic situation: Brava, the smallest inhabited island of Cape Verde, located east of Fogo.
Language: Creole and Portuguese. Limited English and French is spoken.
Currency: Escudo Caboverdiano (CVE)
How to get there:
- By airplane: to Fogo airport and get the ferry to Brava. If you travel internationally, you might want to check the (often very cheap) flights to Sal or Boa Vista and take a national flight to Praia, then Fogo. Check Skyscanner.com to fly to Fogo with national flights operated by Binter.
- By ferry: from Fogo, Cape Verde or Santiago. The ferry from Fogo costs around 10 €. Tickets from Fogo to Brava can not be purchased in the harbor but only at a travel agency like Qualitur on the main square of Sao Felipe, Fogo. I also recommend purchasing your return ticket in advance, as selling agencies are difficult to find in Brava. Check here the ferry schedules and rates. From the harbor, you need to get an “aluguer” (collective taxi) to Nova Sintra.
- By public transport: Aluguers are departing from Nova Sintra to all major towns on Brava.
Extra travel tip: Brava is best to be combined with a visit to Fogo. Wednesday is the best day to travel from Brava-Fogo–Maio because you can do it in one day. Before the afternoon, you’re already in Maio.
Even though it might be hard to get around on the other Cape Verdean islands, please do visit the periphery islands. Don’t just stay in Sal or Boa Vista all the time. Each island is very different and has its own charm.
Where To Stay on Brava
|Hotels on Brava|
|Hotel Pousada Nova Sintra-Brava|
|Hotel Cruz Grande-Brava ***|
|Djabraba’s Eco Lodge Giandinoto’s Place|
Note on Traveling to Cape Verde as a Solo Female Traveler
You don’t need to be worried to travel to Cape Verde as a solo female traveler. I just had a few concerns at night in Sao Vicente (Mindelo) and in Sal (in the offbeat streets of Santa Maria). Otherwise, all the people I met were genuinely kind and respectful, and I often had the impression that some were even a bit intimidated like on Brava or Maio.
Just a quick review of Brava, Cape Verde history:
The people of Brava started working on whaleboats, and during my visit, I was lucky to meet a ship worker who had traveled all over the world. You will surely meet Manuel in one of the bars of Nova Sintra. There was, and still is, a massive emigration to the US and don’t be surprised to find English with a strong American accent widely spoken all over the island.
1. Nova Sintra
Let’s start with a fun fact. Nova Sintra (only 1500 inhabitants) is the only island capital that is not located on the sea. Bearing the name of Sintra, Portugal due to its landscape similarities, Nova Sintra can easily be considered as one of the most beautiful towns on Cape Verde (next to Sao Felipe, Fogo).
The colonial houses with their pastel-colored fronts, the gardens filled with bright flowers and the main road are a delight to visit. The atmosphere is absolutely relaxing, a bit sleepy even, and it rather feels like a calm village. People were very friendly and kind to me. It is really a pity that not so many tourists find their way to Brava.
The Rua da Cultura is the main street of Nova Sintra and it’s the best place to spot colonial architecture. The main square is the Praça Eugenio Tavares, named after the famous Cape Verdean writer and founder of morna (“poems” in creole).
The characteristic pavilion and the creative flooring make the square one of the most charming places of Nova Sintra.
When in Nova Sintra, you should absolutely visit the 7Sois7Luas Center, which is the cultural hub of Brava. Here, you can visit exhibitions, dance on the Cape Verdean music, and even spend the night in the “presidential room”. You can book your traditional dinner in the center with Rosa Borges (+2389827680).
The “aluguers” (collective taxis) to the other villages all depart at the Praça Eugénio Tavares.
2. Hiking in Brava
Brava is a paradise for hikers! Despite its very limited size, you can easily spend several days on the island without doing all its trails. The wet, humid climate and mild temperatures create the ideal conditions for hiking and trekking.
It’s during your hikes that you’ll appreciate the beauty of the “Ilha das Flores” (“Island of Flowers“). The colorful gardens will lure you with their sweet fragrances of hibiscus, bougainvillea, and jasmine.
The 2 most prominent hikes on Brava are from Nova Sintra to Faja d’Agua and to Fontainhas (Brava’s highest village).
The trail to Fontainhas (600 m higher than Vila Nova Sintra), consists of deserted roads and starts from the road to the Mira Beleza viewpoint. As the trail is not signalized, I recommend to take a guide (Rosa or Zé Duarte, +002385996115) or ask the locals. They will be more than happy to help you out. The round trip takes about 4 hours and you will have a fabulous view on the neighbor island of Fogo.
Hiking down to Faja d’Agua is one of the most spectacular hikes on Brava. You can start directly from Nova Sintra or park your car at the Mira Beleza viewpoint. The duration from Nova Sintra is about 3 hours. In serpentine, the cobbled path leads you along fertile, vibrant green farmland.
You will notice that some villages have been abandoned, due to emigration. You can’t get lost on that trail and Faja d’Agua is a must when traveling to Brava. On top, you’ll be supporting the local community while you enjoy your sustainable holidays in Cape Verde.
3. Natural Pools of Faja d’Agua
After doing the hike form Nova Sintra to Faja d’Agua, you will be craving a refreshing bath for sure! You’ll probably find out that the sea is very rough, but I have good news for you! Faja d’Agua has the most gorgeous natural pools I have seen on the Cape Verdean archipelago.
Cross the village of Faja d’Agua and follow the signage. They are located 1 km from the village. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking! In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best things to do in Cape Verde.
But also Faja d’Agua itself is worth a stop. With its origins going back to 1747, the village was famous for being a landing port for whale ships coming from the United States. Brava is by far the island with the strongest American influence. The monument Monumento dos Emigrantes erected in 1993 is a symbol of the massive emigration towards the United States.
The location is absolutely privileged. Sheltered by the mountains, you will enjoy a peaceful view of the sea, framed by palm trees.
I recommend having lunch in Faja d’Agua (for example in Casa Julinha, +2389850079), to absorb the absolutely relaxing vibe. Just give Rosa Borges a call (+2389827680) and she will take care of everything.
Learn more about where to eat in Brava in the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book filled with the best, local restaurants.
4. Abandoned Airport Esperadinha
The abandoned airport of Esperadinha is located 1 km after the natural swimming pools of Faja D’Agua. It was opened in 1992 but had to close in 2004 due to very strong crosswinds and the (too) short airstrip.
The shutdown marked the beginning of the decline of Faja D’Agua.
However, the former Brava, Cape Verde airport still remains a great place to visit. Go for the mandatory “flying photo” on the former landing strip! And again, you will have impressive views on the rocky coastline of Brava.
5. Enjoy Cape Verdean Music
The music of Cape Verde is the real wealth of this Archipelago. The variety and quantity of singers, composers, and musicians on each island is something I will never be able to get used to.
Even though some of the most popular musical forms are Funaná, Coladeira, Batuque and Cabo love, morna is still the most prominent one. The lyrics are in Cape Verdean creole and include instruments like cavaquinho, clarinet, accordion, violin, piano, and guitar. Some songs are deeply melancholic, whereas others are full of joy.
I highly recommend attending a musical performance of the 7Sois7Luas Brava band. They compose their own songs and the lead singer, Rosa Borges, is a phenomenon. In the shortest time, she manages to captivate the audience with her vibrant voice and glowing aura.
Concerts take place in the cultural hub 7Sois7Luas Brava Center in Nova Sintra where you can also have dinner with the musicians after the show.
It’s a truly unique and eye-opening experience during which you’ll get a deep insight into the Cape Verdean culture and particularly its music. The cost of a private performance is about 100 €. Just give Rosa Borges (+2389827680) or Zé Duarte (+2385996115) a call and they will take care of everything.
6. Visit Cheese Factory in Cachaço
One of the best things to do in Brava is to visit a local cheese factory. The village of Cachaço is famous for its cheese production and there are several cheese factories. However, due to the drought, they were closed during my visit.
But you can still go to Cachaço (the ride from Nova Sintra is really picturesque) and ask for Jacqueline. She can give you a little demonstration of how typical goat cheese is produced for several generations.
No additives are used to produce the cheese that is produced with milk from the same day, and that they sell for 1 € each. For fermentation, they use a liquid gained from the stomach of a baby goat. In a few hours, the milk is coagulating and ready to become cheese.
Assisting in the cheese-making process gave me valuable insight into the daily grind of Brava’s inhabitants.
7. Enjoy Cape Verdean Food
For me, traveling always goes also through the stomach! I can not leave a country without having tasted at least a few of the traditional food from Cape Verde.
In Cape Verde, also in Brava, the national dish is cachupa, a dish with corn and beans. Other typical meals are fried chicken, buzio stew (made out of the bubonic conch) and all types of fish. Crawfish is another Cape Verdean delicacy.
When it comes to the drinks, you need to taste ponche (with fruits) and grogue (a strong rum made from distilled sugar cane).
The most typical dishes from Brava are shellfish and “xerén com capa“. The local cuisine was influenced by emigration to the United States and therefore, even pumpkin or apple pie found their way to Brava. Sometimes, the ingredients are replaced by the local fruits such as mango, avocado or papaya.
If you want to taste the real Cape Verdean food on Brava, I recommend Casa Julinha in Faja d’Agua with breathtaking views from the terrace or the 7Sois7Luas Center in Nova Sintra. Just give Rosa Borges (+2389827680) or Zé Duarte (+2385996115) a call and they will take care of everything.
8. Viewpoint Hopping in Brava, Cape Verde
The miradouros (viewpoints) of Brava are a class of its own. There are several ones spread all over the island and every time you’ll think: “That’s the most beautiful one!”.
Some of them will provide you a dramatic view of the staggering deep valleys. Others will leave you in awe with their nature’s magnitude. The view of Fogo is absolutely unbeatable!
- Matogrande village: You’ll have the best view on the neighbor island Fogo from Matogrande. It will catch your breath for sure! The village is also the starting point to hike to Garça.
- Matogrande viewpoint: On the road from Nova Sintra to Matrogrande, I recommend stopping at the Miradouro Matogrande, from which you’ll enjoy a spectacular view on Nova Sintra. There is also a grogue factory close to the viewpoint, but I ignore whether it is open for visitors.
- Mirabeleza viewpoint: Probably the most spectacular view is the Miradouro Mirabeleza on the way to Cachaço. The views on the lush green valley and the sea are breathtaking! It’s also the starting point for your trek to Faja d’Agua.
9. People Watching
This might sound awkward as an activity, but actually it was one of my favorite things to do on Brava. Just sit down and watch the daily grind go by.
I was marveling at the vibrant mix of people in Brava. It’s fascinating how many kids have blue or green eyes with dark skin. My guide explained that it was due to the Portuguese and Italian legacy. As Brava is so remote and difficult to reach, this extraordinary mix has been preserved over centuries.
My favorite places to observe daily grind were in Cachaço, Nova Sintra and Furna.
Furna (the main harbor of Brava) has a different vibe than the other municipalities on Brava. It is a bit busier, due to the arrivals and departures of the ferry. Furna is a typical fishermen village and the colorful house fronts add a lot of charm!
10. Do an Island Tour of Brava, Cabo Verde
You only have limited time and you want to make the most out of it? Even though hiking is the best way to explore the beauty of Brava, there are a few agencies and guides on the island that can take you on a tour and show you the unmissable things to do on Brava.
I recommend Rosa Borges (+2389827680) or Zé Duarte (+2385996115) for your visit to Brava. As they are musicians as well, they will give you a fascinating insight into the culture and the daily grind of Brava.
The Best of Cape Verde: it’s music!
Video of 7Sois7Luas Ilha Brava band
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my visit to Brava, Cape Verde could convince you to include the beautiful north of the Archipel in your travel plans.
Have you been to Brava, Cape Verde? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Map: Attractions of Brava Island, Cape Verde
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
Disclaimer: I have been a guest of the 7Sois7Luas Festival. All my opinions are, as always, my own. This post contains affiliate links. In case you purchase one of the items, I’ll receive a small commission. The price remains the same for you.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, you’ll find all the tips to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road together!