Sal – The Sunniest Island
When approaching the island of Sal, it seems like you are landing on a golden pearl of sand in the middle of the turquoise-blue ocean. Above all, one thing can be found on Sal: sand. Deserts and dry valleys. But little oases, salt marches and dormant volcanoes also distinguish the appearance of the island. For many years, the island was a centre for salt mining, which is also where the name Sal (salt) comes from. However, the salt is almost only for local use and for tourists by now.
The strong trade wind that blows from November to June has turned the island into an Eldorado for surfers. Due to the international airport on Sal and ambitious tourism projects, which have also created jobs, Sal has now reached a population of 20,000 people. Only 10% of these are older than 40 years.
The highest elevation on the island is Monte Grande with a height of just 403 metres. The island is very flat on the whole, which is why clouds hardly have a chance to stay above it and there is almost no rain. So: sun, sun, sun… and kilometres of sandy beaches.
In Espargos in the island’s interior, location of the international airport and the capital of the island, you can find everything that is practical and important: banks, a health centre, the main post office, a hotel, some guesthouses, bars, Internet cafés and restaurants, and – of course – all types of stores.
The harbour city of Palmeira is situated just a few kilometres to the west of Espargos. This is where a majority of the imports and exports take place on the waterways of the islands. Otherwise, Palmeira is a town with bars and restaurants whose architectural appearances still have distinctly Portuguese characteristics, especially in the north. Divers should know that there are fantastic underwater caves and reefs, such as Olho Azul, to explore about 5 kilometres to the north of Palmeira.
Above all, the town of Pedra Lume (“fiery stone”) is known for its salt sea (saline), a low volcano crater that lies beneath sea level. Salt mining now exists only to a limited extent with just a few fishermen still living in the small, deserted town. In addition, it’s now possible to enjoy a curative salt bath in the saline at some of the salt seas for an admission fee. Showers are available.
The city of Santa Maria has developed in a lively way. It has large, luxurious hotel complexes where guests can expect European standards, including animation, various evening and sports programmes (diving, surfing, waterskiing or riding courses) and much more. This has its reasons: With its many kilometres of beaches that are up to 200 metres wide, Santa Maria probably offers the most ideal conditions for a classic beach holiday. The landmark of the town with its small restaurants, stores and little pastel-coloured houses is undoubtedly the weigh house on the old harbour quay, where salt was weighed in earlier times and now is the site of souvenir shops. You can still observe the fishermen as they bring in their catch and clean it at the harbour quay, just like in the past.