Tipping off the African map, the Cape Verde islands would appear to sit more happily with the Azores, or even the Canary Islands. Composed of nine main islands in two groups – the Windwards and the Leewards – six are volcanic and sharply, while three are sandy and flat. This is no tropical paradise, yet despite the hassle of getting here the islands are well worth the trek.
The Portuguese arrived here in 1460 and made the islands part of the Portuguese empire, Cape Verde became an important watering station for passing ships, then a sugar cane plantation site, and later a major hub of the transatlantic slave trade. In 1975, Cape Verde gained independence from Portugal.
With Jumbled African and Portuguese roots, Cape Verdeans certainly know how to make music and dance – samba and salsa sprinkled with African tribal sounds. This soft morna lament gives way to the sensual, upbeat coladeira and Batuque dance, and love songs unfurl in Cape Verdean Creole.
The official language may be Portuguese, but Creole is favoured colloquially.
The first port of call is often Praia on Santiago Island – Cape Verde’s capital. The beaches are fine and white and the mountains impressive, but more importantly it forms the perfect springboard for island hopping. Brava is the smallest inhabited island, the hardest to reach but also the most beautiful.
On brooding Fogo there is fine walking and hikes up into the old volcano crater. There is a good deal of rivalry and many cultural differences between islands – right down to the way the women tie their headscarves.
This small nation lacks resources and has suffered severe droughts. Over the centuries, disastrous famines have continually rocked the lives of the islanders, yet their spirit remains alive and contagious.
How to reach:
International flights to Sal and Santiago.
Frequent ferry services from Dakar and Las Palmas.
- Mindelo Carnaval on Sao Vicente in February – with Rio-style floats and costumes.
- Taking in the lively port city of Mindelo on Sao Vicente
- The lovely town of Vila Nova Sintra on Brava.
- Vila de Riberia Grande on Santo Antao – the first European town in the tropics.
- Island hopping by ferry – discovering the islands’ delights for yourself.
You should know:
The easiest place to get a visa is in Lisbon, or by going through a specialist travel company in West Africa, the only consulate is in Dakar, Senegal – once you have found it, getting a visa should be easy.