Located about 350 miles off the western coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, Cabo Verde is an archipelago made up of 10 islands formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Once a Portuguese colony, this archipelago is now independent and tapping into its tourism potential! The weather is almost always sunny and the temperature hovers around 85 degrees all year long. Plus, it has something for everyone: miles of beautiful beaches for those who just want a place to relax, plenty of mountainous terrain for hikers, and trade winds, making it popular with surfers. Each island has its own range of attractions and thanks to newly launched direct flights in the fall of 2019 from Dulles (Washington, DC) and Boston, Americans can explore this hidden gem easier than ever before.
It’s easy to see why Sal is the archipelago’s most popular destination for tourists and the island where you should start your adventure. Sal is known as a beach lover’s paradise thanks to its long stretches of golden sandy beaches which sink into azure colored waters. For years it’s been a favorite for water sports enthusiasts who love to surf, kite surf, and deep-sea fish. A week on Sal can include excursions to “Shark’s Bay” to wade among native lemon sharks, or “Blue Eye”, a stunning natural formation of coastal lava pools. The salt trade used to be one of Sal’s main industries, (“Sal” means “salt”) and visitors can even float in the salt mine waters located in an extinct volcano crater, considered a mini spa for your skin. Sal is also known for what’s below the water with the opportunity to do some great snorkeling and scuba diving.
The capital of Sal, Espargos, is located in the center of the island while he main resort area, Santa Maria, is on the south end. Santa Maria is home to dozens of beach front hotels, restaurants and various activities, so visitors can spend a day taking in the sites, enjoying good meals, and dancing at one of the bars that host local music or nightclubs.
70 miles south of Sal is another “beach-lover’s” haven on the island of Boa Vista. Long stretches of sand make this a perfect destination for those who want to relax in the sun and swim or scuba dive in the crystal-clear waters with not that many people around. Day-trippers love to experience the stunning dunes in the vast Viana Desert which leads right up to the ocean. Thanks to shallow warm waters, between February and May, humpback whales can be spotted from land. Then, between July and September, Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on Ervatão Beach, and visitors can witness them in action in the third most important loggerhead turtle nesting site in the world.
The island of São Vicente is one of the most diverse in Cabo Verde, located in the western group. Like the rest of the archipelago, it also has stunning beaches, but what sets it apart is its breathtaking inland landscapes, and a vibrant capital, Mindelo, that is home to a thriving art and music scene. It is said there is music around every corner. A day's adventure on São Vincente features a visit to the local fish market, a breathtaking view over Mindelo town from Monte Verde (the highest peak on the island), and a stop along the northern most coast to visit the fisherman village of Salamansa.
Santiago is the largest island in Cabo Verde, located on the southern curve of the archipelago, and it’s where half the country’s people live. It is home to the country’s capital, Praia, and much of the history of Cabo Verde. Cidade Velha in Santiago is Cabo Verde’s first named UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to 1462, it’s the scene of the first European colonial outpost in the tropics and features an original street layout of the Portuguese settlement. It also contains the remains of a royal fortress and the ruins of the oldest colonial church in the world. For shopping lovers, Mercado de Sucupira in Praia is where you can buy an array of goods, including handcrafts, and taste traditional foods.
Fogo, Maio, and Brava
Located on either side of Santiago along the southern edge of the Cabo Verde archipelago are the three less visited islands of Fogo, Maio, and Brava.
The most prominent of the three is Fogo, simply because it has the highest point in the Cabo Verde chain, Pico de Fogo (which translates to Mountain of Fire). The volcano has erupted periodically since 1680, with the most recent eruption occurring in 2014. This means that the rich volcanic soil grows delicious coffee on the low-level island coastline and fine wines from grapes grown on the volcano’s sloping sides and even inside the actual crater! The most popular island activity is the six-hour climb to the top of Pico de Fogo.
Just to the east of Santiago is Maio, another great beach destination, complete with colorful houses and turquoise waters. The pace on Maio, however, is much slower and the beaches are empty and secluded. That’s because the island is accessible only by ferry or small plane and there are only a few basic hotels.
The southwestern most island of Brava has only 7,000 inhabitants and is the least populated of the Cabo Verde archipelago. It is known as the island of flowers due to the fact it's the greenest in the group.
Santo Antão, São Nicolau, and Santa Luzia
The northwestern most island is Santo Antão and second largest of the Cabo Verdean islands. It is famous for its mountains and is arguably the most visually stunning of all the islands. Santo Antão is popular with hikers and anyone who loves getting close to nature. It is often the port where you will find cruise lines stopping by. An excursion favorite is the winding mountain drive where you’ll see breathtaking ravines and gorges covered in lush green vegetation. The island’s capital, Ribeira Grande, is a very lively place where visitors can enjoy local delicacies and clothing markets.
Heading east you’ll first find the small uninhabited island of Santa Luzia and next the relatively untouched island of São Nicolau - a sleepy island with very little tourism. Its spectacular scenery is worth discovering on a day trip from a neighboring island.
Whichever Cabo Verde island you choose, there is so much to explore and experience. At Quest Travel Adventures, we’re excited about all Cabo Verde has to offer and can help provide exciting and unique trips to these unique destinations. Call us today for a customized quote a 1800-693-1815 or check out our Cabo Verde packages starting at $799 per person for 7 days.