Santiago (Portuguese for “Saint James”), or Santiagu in Cape Verdean Creole, is the largest island of Cape Verde, its most important agricultural centre and home to half the nation’s population. At the time of Darwin’s voyage it was called St. Jago.
Santiago is located between the islands of Maio (40 km west) and Fogo (50 km east) and is one of the Sotavento. It was the first of the islands to be settled, the town of Cidade Velha being founded as Riberia Grande in 1462. It is also home to the nation’s capital city of Praia and to one of the islands’ four international airports, Praia International Airport, 3 km from the capital (IATA airport code: RAI, Praia).
Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde, with an area of 991 km². The island is mountainous, although slightly flatter in the southeast. The wetter climate of the interior and the eastern coast contrasts with the dryer one in the south/southwest coast. Praia, located in the southeast coast, is the largest city of the island, and also the largest city and capital of the country. Other towns on the island include Cidade Velha, 15 km west of Praia, Cape Verde’s first capital; Assomada, 60 km north and Tarrafal in the northern part of the island 75 km from the capital.