The archipelago of Cape Verde straddles the continent of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. The country is more westernised than the rest of the African continent and facilities for travellers are, by and large, better. With that being said though, the country still feels like an African destination. The fantastic music and the bustling markets in every city are clear signs that you are not far from the African coast.
Cape Verde is fairly difficult to spot on a world map, or even on a map of Africa, but the country has a lot to offer. Each island serves up a different set of attractions and reasons to visit and each island feels vastly different from the last.
Cape Verde can accommodate those seeking nightlife with its loud and vibrant music scene, it can please outdoor enthusiasts with its perfect and picturesque terrain for hiking or watersports. But if you are simply looking to relax by the sea, then Cape Verde can also fulfill you desires with its perfect golden sandy beaches or its healing black sand beaches. No matter who you are; Cape Verde will certainly appeal to you in some way, shape or form. Let’s explore the best places to visit in Cape Verde!
Fogo, meaning fire, is the most prominent of all of the Cape Verde islands with a maximum altitude of 2,900 metres above sea level. The volcano Pico de Fogo is the main attraction here and can be climbed in around six hours, using the nearby town Cha de Caldeiras as a starting point. The largest city on the island is Sao Filipe which is the fourth largest city in Cape Verde and also home to the islands airport. The beaches on the island are stunning and well worth exploring.
The island of Sal is known as Cape Verde’s sunniest island. As you approach the island in your plane, you will find it hard to believe that you are about to land on such an unspoiled golden gem. The island does however have an international airport and a growing population of around 20,000 people. The islands climate is very hot and dry and the miles and miles of sandy beaches make this island a real tropical paradise for those looking to relax by the sea.
Situated on the sunny, sandy island of Sal, Palmeira is a busy harbour town responsible for many of Cape Verde’s imports and exports. There is plenty to attract tourists to the town including many restaurants, lively bars and beautiful architecture. The town is also revered amongst divers who flock from around the globe to experience the many underwater caves and reefs located just off the coastline of the town. If you are looking to cure some aching muscles after hiking (or even just exploring the town) then the salt baths here are perfect for soothing relaxation.
4. Santa Maria
Also situated on the island of Sal, Santa Maria is a lively and developed city. The hotels in the city are of the highest standard and will comfortably meet, if not surpass, the expectations of travellers from Europe and North America. The city is one of the most ideal locations in Cape Verde for a classic beach resort holiday. The sandy beaches that lie only a few minutes walk from the luxurious hotels offer clear blue water and watersports such as jet-skiiing and scuba diving. For tourists looking for culture and history, the main sight here is the Weighhouse in the old harbour which was used in the past to weigh salt before export.
Praia is situated on the fertile island of Santiago and is the capital city of Cape Verde. The city, like many capitals, is the economic and political home of Cape Verde. The town is not as focused on tourism as many destinations in Cape Verde but it does have plenty to explore nonetheless. The old colonial buildings in the city’s old town are great for exploring in the sunshine and make for some pretty photo opportunities too. There are also churches, a presidential palace and the parliament building to be seen. If all the exploring and culture gets too much then there are, of course, beautiful sandy beaches nearby although it should be noted that the nearby Praia de Gamboa is not recommended for swimming.
6. Sal Rei
The capital city of the Cape Verde’s easternmost island; Sal Rei retains a relaxed feel despite being home to more than half of the islands population. The main plaza of the city has a distinctly African feel with goods being sold by traders and colourful flowers and buildings. The plaza is a great place for souvenir shopping whilst in Cape Verde and the goods on offer here range from wooden ornaments to flamboyant fabrics. The baroque style church in the city is one of the main tourist attractions along with the many colonial buildings. There are also more stunning beaches to explore if you feel inclined to do so.
The city of Mindelo has a reputation for being home to a real mix of cultures. Mindelo is located on the island of Sao Vicente and due to a decline in the economy and harbour here in the last decade, the city is now home to many people living in slum like conditions. Despite these conditions however the island retains its claim of being the cultural capital of Cape Verde and is a must visit for travellers hoping to experience lively nightlife in the country. The music clubs and bars here will keep you entertained until the early hours. In the daytime, the fish market and harbour in the town are worth exploring.
8. Ribeira Grande
Nestled in a valley of the same name, Ribeira Grande is a cosy but stunning city on the Santo Antao island. The winding streets here are as charming as the small restaurants and guesthouses that occupy them. The attractions for tourists include a lively food market and a clothes market as well as the Nossa Senhora do Rosario church. For relaxation, try the hot springs in the city which are a popular tourist attraction but also retain a calm and natural feel.
9. Porto Novo
This city, which is also located on the island of Santo Antao, has a constant dry feeling exacerbated by the hot dusty wind that blows here. The city is home to a great museum detailing the lives of Porto Novo’s past kings as well as a royal palace and several government and colonial buildings worth visiting. The royal palace, which was formerly occupied by King Toffa, is one of the best ways to experience and learn about how African royalty lived.
10. Ribeira Brava
Capital of the island of Sao Nicolau, Ribeira Brava is a small city with a grand backdrop. Surrounded by mountains, the city is a lively one and begins the day early with traders setting up and selling from wooden crates all along the narrow streets. The colourful buildings that line the streets of the town centre are worth visiting. For tourists, the city has ample accommodation options and also a modern market hall where food, clothing and other amenities can be purchased.
The city of Tarrafal is a 20 mile drive from Ribeira Brava and now has more inhabitants than tits close neighbor. The city is one of the most popular place for beach swimming on the island as it has easy access and the black sands here are rumoured to relieve pain due to minerals such as Iodine. As well as beaches, Tarrafal is home to the largest harbour on the island of Sao Nicolau and also has many quality restaurants and shops to keep tourists entertained.
The island of Maio is known for its secluded and paradisaical beaches. The golden sand and calm sea conditions make the island first choice for those looking for a relaxing beach holiday in a stunning location. Bird-watchers will also find this island to be a paradise due to the many rare birds that frequent it including rare larks and courses. The capital of the island, Vila do Maio is located right by the sea and is home to a beautiful colonial Portuguese church.
Although it is only a small town, Morro on the island of Maio is worth mentioning. The beaches here are the finest in Cape Verde. Surrounded by palm trees with golden sand, the beaches are idyllic. If you are not already tempted to visit Morro, then the sea turtles that visit the island to lay their eggs in the summer will surely seal the deal.
14. Vila Nova Sintra
Another small town with a lot of beauty. The town of Nova Sintra is widely thought to be one of the most beautiful on all the islands in Cape Verde. Perched on the Brava mountains, the town has two story houses with their own gardens; proving that there is some slight wealth in these parts compared to the rest of Cape Verde. There is a church and market worth seeing here but the number one reason to visit Vila Nova Sintra is the village itself and its extraordinary location. Be sure to see the stone replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship which guards the eastern entrance to the town.
15. Sao Filipe
Sao Filipe is home the island airport on the island of Fogo. It has black lava beaches and is a truly picturesque city. The upper and lower sections of the city are separated by the Alto San Pedro which is essentially a large plaza. The city should be visited for bustling markets, which take place every morning, brightly coloured buildings and of course the nearby volcanic craters. If you are looking to visit a beach while in Sal Felipe, it is best to travel a little distance from the city where the beaches are much cleaner.
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