“The Island of Sodade”
We call São Nicolau “the island of sodade” because to us it best captures that most Cape Verdean of sentiments: nostalgia for the past and longing for friends and family whom we have lost to time and/or distance. That said, São Nicolau is perhaps the most romantic of the Cape Verde Islands.
The best time of year to visit is in February or March (depending on the year), when Carnaval takes place in the island’s capital, Ribeira Brava. This Cape Verdean version of Mardi Gras (aka “Fat Tuesday”) represents the same Catholic celebration of food, drink, and fun before the start of the somber period of Lent, which lasts forty days until Easter Sunday. So bring a costume, your dancing shoes, and come well-slept, because you won’t have much downtime during this four-day weekend of tradition, parades, and parties. And you’ll be amazed at how quickly everything goes back to normal as of Ash Wednesday, which is the perfect time to take a tour of the rest of this quietly beautiful and historically significant island.
Many great Cape Verdean writers and poets were born and raised on São Nicolau as well, including the novelist and poet Baltasar Lopes, author of Chiquinho, perhaps the most well known title of the nation’s literature.