Whether you’re thirsty for heart-in-mouth exhilaration or prefer to indulge in more leisurely pleasures, the West African islands that make up Cape Verde throws up a gamut of enticing options for travellers who like to dig a little deeper. Read on to get the full scoop on having an action-packed – or somewhat more leisurely – time on your Cape Verde holidays…
Active Cape Verde
A mix of landscapes and some challenging but spectacular topography makes many of the islands ideal hiking terrain. Choose from the likes of African-inflected Sa Tiago, home to some of the craggiest peaks or the live volcano of Fogo Island, where you can hike to the brooding rim and even stay with some of the locals who still inhabit the crater. Then there’s the island of Santa Antao, where you can make your way up steep paths fringed by sugar cane and banana plantations to sharp peaks that cut through lush foliage.
The same mountainous terrain lends itself just as well to biking, thanks to head-dizzying descents down steep, rocky, paths winding down the slopes. Many of the most adrenalin pumping trails start at high altitude and are best reached with special shuttle services – perfect for freeride fans and daredevil downhillers. On the lower ground, around the base of Volcano Pico for example, there’s plenty of variety too, riding along gravel tracks, salt flats and more conventional trails.
What draws many ardent adrenalists to Cape Verde holidays are the pounding surf breaks which rank among the best in the world, such as those around the relatively uncrowded Sal Island, which champion windsurfers have made their home.
Sal also hosts a rich marine environment, where divers can expect to immerse themselves in waters populated with ship wrecks, huge loggerhead turtles, manta rays and shoals of barracudas.
The somewhat calmer waters around Boa Vista provide great conditions for novice windsurfers and kitesurfers to find their feet.
Chilled out Cape Verde
If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace on your holidays to Cape Verde, the 1000 strong village community of Cha das Calderias on Fogo Island is a fascinating place to visit in its own right. Here the locals choose to live in the volcano’s crater in a self-governed eco-community somewhat adrift from civilisation with no running water or electricity, yet they still manage to produce remarkably good wine which you can sample.
A rich melting pot of cultural influences makes Cape Verde a choice destination for music lovers. Come during August for the Baia das Gatas Music Festival, a long weekend of riotous full moon parties. If you’re planning Cape Verde holidays in February, then the mini incarnation of Rio that is the Sao Vincente Creole Carnival is not to be missed. One of the most popular shindigs is the Festival Praia da Gamboa, which takes place on Santiago Island each May. Local bands rub shoulders with leading acts from the African mainland and Brazil, while several venues such as Tabu Bar and the Zero Horas hold lively outdoor music nights.
History & Heritage
To put the Cape Verde in its proper context, take some time to learn about its sobering colonial history while you’re there. The Spanish Civil War prison camp, Campo do Tarrafal on Santiago, provides an eye opening, often harrowing introduction to this, as does the 15th century preserved Portuguese citadel of Cidade Velha, the first European colony in the tropics.
Which side of the islands would you prefer – hectic and fast-paced or cultural and chilled? Let us know in the comments below!