The Cape Verde Islands, the exotic volcanic archipelago on the northwest coast of Africa, has seen a significant tourism boost. According to the National Statistics Institute in Cape Verde, foreign visits to the archipelago have increased by 13.6% during last year, with the islands of Sal and Boa Vista being especially popular tourist spots.
This stunning island chain offers an intriguing combination of mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. The destination is warm, with sunny skies year-round and temperatures varying between the mid-70s in January and mid-80s in September.
The island of Sal is primarily a beach resort with long stretches of white sand and azure waters. It is the most developed of all the Cape Verde Islands in terms of tourism, and the island offers spectacular marine life with countless species, including flamboyant tropical fish, dolphins and turtles. Besides snorkeling and scuba diving, Sal is considered to be among the world’s top windsurfing locations.
The Resort Group recently opened the luxurious Llana Beach Resort in Sal. However, one of the quainter places to stay is the small, locally owned hotel Odjo D’agua. The hotel features a spectacular open-air restaurant-bar jutting out into the sea. Be sure to try the freshly caught fish in the restaurant.
Boa Vista, the second most popular island in Cape Verde, offers vast stretches of untouched golden sand; rich, turquoise seas; and a unique atmosphere. The entire island is completely covered in sand. On Praia de Chaves, for example, an old ceramic factory covered in sand yet still perfectly intact.
Depending on the time of year, travelers can spot turtles on Boa Vista’s southern beaches, which are recognized as one of the most signficant loggerhead nesting sites in the world. For the greatest chance to see turtles, visit Boa Vista between June and and September.
Although Boa Vista has a few affordable hotel options, the island also features palaces of pure luxury. The Hotel Riu Touareg looks like a sandcastle, whereas ClubHotel Riu Karamboa has a desert oasis feel reminiscent of a sultan’s palace.
Cape Verde has more to offer than its beaches; the islands have fascinating cultural and natural offerings, as well.
Avid hikers will love the mountainous peaks of Santiago. The island offers many unique and diverse landscapes ranging from volcanic rocks to green valleys and barren regions.
On Fogo Island, travelers can climb an active volcano, which is one of the highlights of a Cape Verde holiday. The restaurant at the top of the volcano offers a beautiful view of the impressive scenery of Fogo with its dark rocks and black sands, giving an impression of a lunar landscape. Coffee is grown on the outside slopes while the vines used to produce the famous Fogo wine are grown inside the crater. Both are definitely worth a try.
You can drive up a hairpin, cobbled road into the crater, where hundreds of locals make their home. For a memorable stay in Fogo’s crater, try the basic but tasteful, lava-brick guesthouse of Pedra Brabo or spend a night with a local family.
Ornithologists will be able to spot a great number species endemic to Cape Verde. The Raso lark, which is entirely confined to a single island with a total population of 45 pairs, is one of the world’s rarest birds. The Cape Verde swift, Cape Verde warbler and Iago sparrow are the other endemic species.
History buffs will love a daytrip to the old capital of Cidade Velha, a Unesco world heritage site, and Forte Real de Sao Filipe, the main slave-trading point between Europe, Africa and America, provides an interesting insight into the island’s troubled past. This is where the history of Cape Verde began, and the town has had many famous visitors over the years, including Sir Francis Drake and Charles Darwin.
For culture lovers, Sao Vicente is the place to be. Mindelo, the island’s capital, is proud of its rich tradition of music and art and has a vibrant nightlife with a lively buzz of music throughout the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
Music-making is everywhere, and a visit to the Cape Verde Islands would not be complete without experiencing the Cape Verdean morna music in Mindelo, a combination of guitar and violin music often put to lyrics about love.
Cape Verde fast facts:
TACV is the national carrier of Cap Verde. TACV has three weekly flights to Lisbon from Praia and one weekly from Sal and So Vicente. TACV flies once a week to Providence, R.I. TAP has daily flights from Lisbon to Praia in peak season. Royal Air Maroc offers regular flights to Cape Verde.
Travelers can get around the islands on minibus, which pick up people at unmarked points around town and drop passengers off anywhere on the way, on request. Taxis are also plentiful on the islands. For island hopping, there are several ferries available connecting the islands as well as local flights.
All visitors to Cape Verde (except holders of some African passports) require a visa. A tourist visa can be obtained without any problems on arrival.
How to pay?
The currency of Cape Verde is the escudo de cabo verde (ECV). Coins come in denominations from 1 to 200 escudos and bills from 200 to 5,000; $1 U.S. is worth approximately 102 ECV.
Exchange counters are located at international airports but not at domestic airports. Credit cards issued by MasterCard or Visa are accepted at major hotels and banks.
The official language of the islands is Portuguese, which is used in most written communication, including newspapers; however Creole tends to be used in conversation.