The island of FOGO, located to the west of Santiago, is almost round in shape and looks as if it is just a volcanic mountain; in fact, it is – the island itself is one enormous and ancient volcano. Its surface area is 476 Km2 and, although only the fourth biggest island of the archipelago, it is the highest, the top of its newer volcanic peak reaching a height of 2829 m. This volcano, Pico do Fogo, is in fact the main tourist attraction of the island. The volcanic cone rises from a plateau about 8 km in diameter, called CHÃ DAS CALDEIRAS. The walls on the western side of this valley reach almost 1000 m and end in a crater 500 meters in diameter and 180 meters deep. This is truly some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the archipelago. The original volcanic cone must, at one time, have reached a height of 3500 meters.
The volcano was active right up to the 18th century, when the main cone ceased activity and all that remained were the volcanic vapors and deposits of sulphur. There have since then been sporadic eruptions with lava poured out of the openings on the southern side of the volcano.
Island of the great volcano, symbol of life and energy, it was initially called Sao Filipe and only later denominated Fogo for housing the highest peak of the archipelago: the imposing volcano, 2829 meters high, main source of attraction for tourists and place of compulsory visit to every visitor.
The island was once inhabited by people from Santiago island, owners of vast lands and slaves brought from the coast of Guinea. The agricultural and industrial activities were always present in the island: cotton, vineyards, the processing and export of such products, etc. Sao Filipe, with more than five thousand habitants, is the capital of the island and there the visitor can observe the dazzling sobrados: colonial houses where the aristocrats used to live.
This type of houses and the symbolism they convey underline the social demarcation felt in the old days. These were houses consisting of two floors with wooden carved balconies. The ground floor was reserved to the slaves and to the house works, while the owners of the house occupied the first floor. Only once every year, on Santa Cruz day, the owners allowed the slaves to visit the first floor. On the high part of the island, the Miradouro da Aguadinha offers the tourist a gratifying view. From there we can admire some beaches with black and white sand and far-off, if the visibility is good, the closest island – Brava.
The Ermida de Nossa Senhora do Socorro is also worth a visit. With a small chapel overtopping the sea, it is a place of pilgrimage and picnics and legend holds it that there once were divine apparitions there. Mosteiros is famous for the production of the well known “Fogo Coffee,” that can again be found on sale, even in Portugal, thanks to a toasting plant in neighboring Santiago island. It is also a place of important traditions and cultural manifestations, such as the Festa de Sao Filipe, held on the 1st of May, which gathers people from all over the archipelago and Cabo-verdean emigrants who take this opportunity to visit their homeland.
Alongside with the production of coffee, there is also the grape cultivation associated to the production of “Manecon” wine, highly appreciated in the whole country for being produced with no chemical ingredients and for having a very characteristic flavor. Recently a cooperative association was established in the volcano, bottling this wine with improved quality. The island, where the strength of nature imposes itself through the volcano’s grandiosity, registered the most recent volcanic eruption on the 2nd of April 1995.
Cha das Caldeiras, a small village on the foot of the main cone of the volcano, was then almost completely isolated by the lava stream that interrupted the main road at three different points. For those who enjoy an on-foot expedition, it is recommended to reach this village through the lava and ash fields that nowadays cover what were very fertile farming fields and the main source of living of the local population, even though the road has been re-opened.
The isolation and silence felt there and the constant imposing presence of the volcano makes us feel small and helpless compared to the forces of nature. Salina is a breath taking natural pool with warm water throughout the year. Praia Negra is an all black sand beach which originated from multiple volcano eruptions over a long period of time. In Cha das Caldeiras it is also important to highlight the existence of a vast forest area called Monte Velho (Old Mountain), due to the existing humidity, which includes eucalyptus and other large trees.
The contrast with the rest of the inhospitable lava landscape is very beautiful and well worth visiting.