At first sight, the island of Sal looks like a desert that is in full erosion. With its infinite expanses of shingle, it has a lunar landscape where a few acacias and palm trees struggle to grow. However, this bit of arid land attracts more tourists than all the other islands in the archipelago due to the magnificent beach of Santa Maria. This is a real little seaside paradise with a strip of white sand bordered by turquoise waters. With the best hotels in the country (but which are on average in accordance with international regulations), it has a good reputation amongst holidaymakers who like to relax, wind/kite surf. The best time for the latter is between November and March (Santa Maria being considered as one of the 5 best spots in the world). The little village of Santa Maria has perfectly adapted to this tourist expansion, and those looking for dynamic nightlife will find more than just a handful of bars and clubs here.
Despite its desolate aspect, the island of Sal is far from being devoid of charm. You should devote at least half a day to explore its spectacular landscape and numerous geological features, such as the site of Pedra de Lume, in the north-east of the island, which has a large salt mine in the depths of a vast crater. Another attraction, the site of Buracano, on the western coast, is famous for its natural swimming pool fashioned by the undertow in the coastal black rock. Enthusiasts can swim in clear water, and diving fans can choose to explore a flooded gallery just beside it, which opens out into fresh air through a gaping hole. If you can, do not miss the opportunity to take a trip on a quad leaving from Santa Maria; an ideal means of transport for discovering the spectacular landscapes and deserted beaches on the island (Isabelle and Jean-François Saunier offer these excursions from the Sobrado hotel. Excurssäo Na Ilha do Sal: 00 238 96 33 57). 00 238 96 33 57).
The small town of Espargos, which stands at the foot of one of the impressive rocky volcanic ranges dotted around the island, is the administrative centre of Sal.© Patrice Hauser / EASYVOYAGE
To the north-east of Sal lies Pedra Lume, which was once a village and a very busy port thanks to the salt extraction industry but is now something of a ghost town.© Patrice Hauser / EASYVOYAGE
It is from these saltworks that the island takes its name. The most well-known saltworks and the best ones to visit are those at the Pedra Lume crater, although there are of course others, notably in Santa Maria.© Patrice Hauser / EASYVOYAGE
Sal is no Boa Vista, so don't expect to see massive dunes. What you can expect to find, however, are some beautiful dunes to the north-west of Santa Maria that you can even climb.© Patrice Hauser / EASYVOYAGE
Murdeira Bay, on the west coast, is protected by the Monte Leão peninsula and is relatively sheltered from the main swells. This is also a renowned diving spot.© Patrice Hauser / EASYVOYAGE