Set sail from the west coast of Africa and 500km later you’ll reach the islands of Cape Verde. Uninhabited until they were discovered and colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th century, Cape Verde may be part of Africa but it feels like an intoxicating mix of Europe and the Caribbean. The remote islands of Cape Verde (there are 10 main islands in all) are home to endless white dunes, lush valleys and lofty peaks. On Santo Antão hike among the pine trees and canyons or head to popular Sal and Boa Visa where windsurfers flock to the beaches for the mega waves.
Look out and listen for Cesária Evora, Cape Verde’s smoky voiced barefoot diva who is hugely popular in Portugal and France.
Average temperatures are generally 25°C-plus throughout the winter, though strong winds can make it feel cooler. Summers, considered ‘low season’, can be hot, with temperatures around 30°C. Rain usually falls from July to October, though Sal and São Vicente often get little or none. For the liveliest festival, head there for the pre-lent carnival.
Amilcar Cabral (SID) on Sal, 2km from Espargos. Praia-Francisco Mendes (RAI) 2km from Praia.
The easiest way to get around is to fly with local airline TACV. However, flights get overbooked, and travelling without an advance reservation is unreliable.
The (far cheaper) alternative is ferries. While safe and reliable, crossings can be rough. Four- and six-berth cabins are available. Praia to Mindelo takes 12 hours.
Car hire is available on all the main islands; the cheaper option is aluguers, African minibuses which will pick you up and drop you off where you like.
Resort hotels are the norm on package-holiday-friendly Sal and Boa Vista. Elsewhere, there are simple mid-range doubles but few hostels. Prices in Cape Verde are considerably higher than in other areas of West Africa. There are no official campsites but it is possible to camp on remote beaches.
Fresh, locally caught fish and seafood are available throughout the archipelago. A traditional dish is cachupa, a vegetable stew that can also be served with meat or fish. Portuguese food, particularly bacalau (dried, salted cod), is also common, but more expensive.
Portuguese wine and beer (Sagres and Super Bock) are widely available. Wine from the island of Fogo is just about drinkable. Grogue and ponche (sugarcane firewater) less so.
Cape Verde is free of many of the diseases affecting mainland Africa. All the islands are free from malaria except Santiago. Upset stomachs are fairly common – watch out for salads and unpeeled fruit.
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