6 islands in Cape Verde
By Laura Gelder – March 2019 – 2 minute read
Africa’s most westerly nation, Cape Verde offers everything from all-inclusive beach bumming to hardcore hiking. Here are six islands which could be included in a Cape Verde itinerary.
The biggest island in the archipelago is also home to the nation’s capital, Praia, and as such is a commercial and cultural centre but still offers rugged mountains and green valleys. Old capital, Cidade Velha, was the first city built by Europeans in West Africa and a key slave trading point between Africa, Europe and America. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important historical site with a 16th century fort.
Fogo means fire in Portuguese, reflecting this island’s landscape which was shaped by molten earth. The 2829-metre Pico do Fogo volcano rises like a cinder pyramid from the floor of ancient crater Chã das Caldeiras, half-bound by black, jagged cliffs. The main cone has been inactive more than 200 years but Chã had eruptions in 2015. New settlements top the ashes of half-buried houses and the fertile soil produces great wine and coffee.
It’s easy to see why this was the first of Cape Verde’s islands to receive tourists. It has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sandy beaches and its lively capital offers accessible local culture and lots of good-value restaurants. Watersports enthusiasts love it, especially kite surfers who head to the aptly-named Kite Beach. Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort is the archipelago’s most upmarket resort with a spa, casino and four restaurants.
This island’s capital Mindelo is its star. A pretty Mediterranean-style town proud of its cultural heritage and with a rich tradition of music and art. There’s lively night life too with live music common in the bars and restaurants. The island also hosts a Rio-style Carnival 40 days before Easter and a summer beach music festival.
This vertiginous island puts the verde in Cape Verde, with some of the most scenic hiking in West Africa. The more populated northeast of the island is popular with hikers and gets enough rain to support pine tree forests on its hilltops and tropical banana, cassava and coffee plants in the steamy valleys. A popular hike takes in Fontainhas, a fairytale village clinging to the cliff edge, surrounded by green mountains.
Dramatic in a totally different way to Fogo or Santo Antão, this island has an arid red rocky desert landscape not dissimilar from Arizona or California but its golden beaches are the main draw. The crystal-clear waters off the island are a draw for divers thanks to tropical fish, bright coral and rusted shipwrecks. Quad biking, deep-sea fishing and windsurfing are also popular activities.