With just 600,000 inhabitants, this former Portuguese colony (from 1462 to 1975) is an ten-island archipelago off the coast of Senegal which in recent years has become a rising tourism star – especially among Europeans, above all from Britain, Germany, Portugal (unsurprisingly), the Netherlands, and Belgium – due mostly to some of the world´s most gorgeous beaches, with tawny sands, crystal-clear waters, and excellent swimming and water sports (particularly snorkeling and scuba diving). But Cabo Verde (its name in Portuguese) also offers stunning volcanic landscapes; warm, welcoming people; a tasty cuisine; excellent ecotourism (including first-rate humpback whale watching from February through May); and a diverse culture with a unique blend of African, Portuguese, and Creole influences. Some top destinations and experiences not to miss:
Boa Vista Island
The stars here are desert-like landscapes and wildlife including sea turtles (particularly between July and September). It's a great place for beach lovers (Praia de Chaves, top, is especially is a dream) and visitors seeking a tranquil, laid-back vibe.
Musts are active volcano Pico do Fogo, the country´s highest peak, up which you can hike to score some truly breathtaking views, and the charming town of São Filipe, known for its colonial architecture and wine production.
Besides beautiful beaches like Santa Maria, and Ponta Pedra (fabulous surfing!), Sal is famous for its water sports (windsurfing kitesurfing, and snorkeling are especially popular), other outdoor activities, and the salt pans which gave the island its name, such as Pedra de Lume.
You may fly into and out of national capital Praia (pop. 159,000), although the country does also have another half dozen on other islands including Boa Vista, Fogo, and Sal. Praia´s main attractions include a charming old quarter (on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and an interesting ethnographic museum of culture. Also very much worth a visit, a 20-minute drive away, is UNESCO-World-Heritage Cidade Velha, the oldest European settlement in the tropics, whose major landmarks include several churches and a 16th-century fortress (above). On the beaches front, a standout is Praia Tarrafal up north in the town of the same name, a relaxing destination with a laid-back atmosphere (on a less happy note, nearby there´s also a campo de concentração (concentration camp), a penal colony for Portugal´s political prisoners as well as African opponents of its colonial rule, in operation from 1936 to 1974 and now a ¨museum of resistance.¨
Santo Antão Island
Lush and mountainous, this paradise for hikers and nature lovers boasts dramatic landscapes, lush valleys, picturesque villages, and again, beautiful beaches (the most notable being Praia Grande).
São Vicente Island
Its largest settlement, Mindelo (pop. 70,000), is considered the cultural capital of Cape Verde, with a lively nightlife music scene (especially the traditional genre called morna (see below), You can also explore its historic center, dating back to 1736, the colorful local markets and enjoy more great beaches such as Praia da Laginha.
Standouts include cachupa (above, a hearty cabbage-and-bean stew, often including meat or fish), pastéis (fried turnovers made with fish), and of course a cornucopia of fresh seafood (especially tuna, lobster, and octopus). The locals also make an excellent rum, called grogue.
The country is particularly is renowned for its music and dance, notably genres like the upbeat coladeira, funaná, and the best known, the wistful morna, comparable to Portugal´s fado and considered the national music genre par excellence, its most famous artist is still the late, great, Grammy-winning Cesária Évora.
If possible, time your visit to coincide with an event such as the pre-Lenten Carnival of Mindelo (above; in 2024 it begins on February 13); the Festival of Santa Catarina (November 24) in the town of Assomada on Santiago Island; the Kriol Jazz Festival on Sal (mid-April); and the country´s most popular music event, the Festival de Baía das Gatas, held on a full-moon weekend in August on São Vicente.
More info: Visit/CaboVerde.com..