|Discovered and colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century, Cape Verde remained a Portuguese colony right up until 1975 when it was granted independence. Now a republic, the islands are growing in popularity as a tourist destination, offering visitors a mix of warm climate and Portuguese culture.
The ten islands and eight islets offer a variety of different attractions, so it’s best to travel around a little to make the most of what Cape Verde has to offer. Most of the islands are connected by flights, and there are also ferry services operating between them too.
Santiago is the largest island both in size and in population, and it’s here that you’ll find the country’s capital city Praia. Here visitors can see several landmarks and buildings including the Presidential Palace, the old city hall, the monument to Diogo Gomes (a Portuguese explorer) which is also a good place from which to admire the views and the Ethnographic Museum.
The island directly to the west of Santiago is Fogo. Fogo is home to the highest point in Cape Verde, the volcanic Mount Fogo. When the Portuguese named this island they knew the volcano was active, and hence the name Fogo, which means ‘fire’ in Portuguese. Pretty much the whole of the island is the volcano, which was last active in 1995. Though this does not put people off living here – there is a small village for example, called Cha das Caldeiras, right at the base of the volcano which gets evacuated from time to time.
Santo Antao and Sao Vicente
At the north western end of the archipelago are the islands of Santo Antao and Sao Vicente. Santo Antao is the northernmost and the largest of the two, linked to Sao Vicente by a ferry service. This too is a volcanic island, split down the middle by a mountain range. The inner mountains are sparsely populated and make for a wonderful place to hike amongst the pine forests. The main town is Ponta Do Sol on the northern coast, and is an excellent base from which to hike along some of the major trekking routes which start here. Scuba diving is also popular here.
Although also a volcanic island, Sao Vicente is actually quite flat in comparison. The main town on this island, Mindelo, also serves as Cape Verde’s cultural capital and is a lively base for a holiday. From the harbour you can catch a ferry to Santo Antao, and also enjoy the area’s beaches, hotels, restaurants and shops.