Cape Verde is a group of tropical and volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean with wonderful weather all year round. Each island is unique and different. Extensive white sandy beaches, azure blue sea, historic cities, unspoilt nature, whales, sharks and turtles, delicious food & drinks and music are the main attractions of the Cape Verde Islands. In this article you can read all about the islands, the sights and tips for a trip to the Cape Verde Islands.
What makes the Cape Verde Islands an ideal holiday destination? And what are the sights on the Cape Verde Islands?
General information about the Cape Verde Islands
The Cape Verde Islands are also known as “Cape Verde”. But the official name of the country is Cabo Verde, but hardly anyone uses this name. The Cape Verde islands were colonized by Portugal in the 15th century and since then most of the islands have been inhabited. In 1975, the Cape Verde Islands finally became independent from Portugal. The current inhabitants of the Cape Verde islands come from Portugal and from various countries in Africa. This special mix of Portugal and Africa can be seen in the music, the food, the inhabitants and the architecture of the islands. Did you know that the Cape Verde Islands are one of the driest areas in the world! The Sahara (on the mainland of Africa) ensures that in some places and at certain times of the year the wind blows the desert sand onto the Cape Verde islands. Only 1/10 of the land is suitable for agriculture and therefore 90% of the food is imported.
Tourism on the Cape Verde Islands
In recent years, the Cape Verde Islands have rapidly developed into a popular holiday destination. Most tourists come here for a sun, sea and beach holiday. The beaches and the sea are the most famous sights of the Cape Verde Islands. On the islands of Sal and Boa Vista you will find large-scale (all inclusive) hotels, but fortunately there are also plenty of small-scale accommodations and quiet places. Especially on these two previously mentioned islands you can also see that people are busy building more hotels, restaurants etc. Tourism is clearly in development. During the summer time in the Netherlands it is 3 hours earlier on the Cape Verde Islands and during the winter time it is 2 hours earlier.
Where are the Cape Verde Islands?
The Cape Verde islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa. At about 1,500 kilometers south of the Canary Islands and about 460 kilometers off the coast of Senegal (West Africa). The Cape Verde islands are 664 kilometres from Dakar (Senegal), 2,887 kilometres from Faro (Portugal) and 4,851 kilometres from Amsterdam (the Netherlands). Now you know exactly where the islands are! The archipelago has a total area of about 4,000 square kilometers. The Cape Verde Islands are part of the Macronesia Islands together with the Canary Islands and the Azores.
The sights of the Cape Verde Islands
The Cape Verde Islands consist of twelve different islands, of which nine are inhabited. In the north are the windward islands and in the south the leeward islands. All twelve islands differ enormously from each other and that makes the Cape Verde islands so unique. I have briefly described the various sights and special characteristics of the specific island.
- Sal: This island is very touristy and you will find large resorts and long white sandy beaches. But far away from the resorts you won’t notice any mass tourism! There is not much to see and do and it is especially the village of Santa Maria that is very cozy. Sal is famous among wind and kite surfers.
- Boavista: This island is very popular and many tourists visit the island because of its white sandy beaches, azure sea water and charming villages. This island is an ideal mix of beach and culture.
- São Nicolau: This island has spectacular red-brown mountain peaks, fertile valleys, waterfalls, beautiful landscapes and small villages. São Nicolau is the island for nature lovers. This is a large island with few people.
- São Vicente: This island is world famous for its carnival and many music festivals. On every corner of the street is live music and here you come for the famous Cape Verdean music. Mindelo is the cultural capital of the Cape Verde Islands and is said to have the most musicians per thousand inhabitants in the world.
- Santo Antao: This island has spectacular mountain landscapes, tropical valleys and agriculture. You can sleep in small scale locations. A perfect island to get to know the authentic Cape Verde, because there is little tourism. The wild sea pounds here beautifully on the rugged coast.
- Santa Luzia: This island is uninhabited and is a 5 hour boat ride from Sao Vicente. An island where you can walk perfectly in peace and where you have all the beaches for yourself.
- Santiago: This is the largest island of the Cape Verde islands with special attractions such as the market in Assomada and the old capital Cidade Velha (Unesco World Heritage). Nature, history, mountains, palm trees, lakes……..Santiago is a versatile island, but also little tourist.
- Fogo: This island has an active Pico de Fogo volcano with a top of almost 3 kilometers. There are several small authentic villages including the village of Sao Felipe. The crater landscapes are surreal! The volcano provides fertile flanks where wine and coffee beans grow.
- Brava: This island is a green oasis and is the smallest inhabited island. The smallest island has pristine landscapes and a wonderful place to walk. Tourism is on the rise and this is a great place for travellers who are looking for peace and quiet.
- Maio: This is a very small desert island with deserted and white beaches and above all lots of peace. This is because there are not many tourists and so you can experience the real Cape Verde and meet the warm people. Turtles nest here on the white beaches.
Did you know that….the name of the island of Sal means salt; Boavista means good view; Maio means May; Fogo means fire and Brava means wild.
Visa for the Cape Verde Islands
For a trip to the Cape Verde Islands you need a passport which is valid for at least 6 months at departure. Cape Verde has no visa requirement since 1 January 2019, but you pay an Airport Security Tax (TSA). The costs of the TSA are converted to €31,-. You can easily arrange your TSA in advance through the travel agency where you book your holiday. Or you can arrange it yourself online via this website. I bought my TSA on the spot at the airport. You can pay in Euro’s, by debit card or by credit card. My TSA was so arranged and went super easy.
Vaccinations for the Cape Verde Islands
It is advisable to make an appointment with the GGD or your family doctor. Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and DTP are recommended, and a vaccination for Yellow Fever may also be compulsory.
ATM’s on the Cape Verde Islands
You can use ATM machines on the islands at the international airports (e.g. Sal and Boa Vista). A debit card with the Maestro logo works, but it is advisable to take a credit card with you. Many ATMs only accept Visa. Keep in mind that there is a withdrawal limit of €180,- per transaction. If you want to withdraw more money, you can do so in a bank. Most banks close at 15:00 in the afternoon.
Eating and Drinking on the Cape Verde Islands
For me, gastronomy is also one of the sights of the Cape Verde Islands! The kitchen is a nice mix of Portuguese and African cuisine. There is a lot of use of fish and corn. Meat has to be imported and that’s why meat is a luxury product. Cachupa is the national dish and consists of beans and corn and this dish is often eaten 3 times a day by the locals. This dish is supplemented with onions, meat, sausage or fish. Tuna is the most important export product and you can order it in all restaurants. Baked, fried, roasted or grilled and always super fresh! The tuna dishes are served with sweet potatoes, boiled banana or cassava. The most common dessert is cooked papaya with goat cheese or coffee pudding. Grogue is the national drink of the Cape Verde Islands and is a sugar cane spirit drink. The taste is very strong and it resembles jenever the most. I didn’t like it very much! You can also drink Grogue by diluting it with honey, which makes the taste less strong: the Ponche.
What is the best travel time for the Cape Verde Islands?
Throughout the year the Cape Verde Islands are pleasantly warm and the sun is shining. So you can visit the Cape Verde Islands all year round. It is also definitely a wonderful winter sun destination! The chosen travel period does not make much difference when it comes to visiting the sights on the Cape Verde Islands. The average temperature throughout the year is between 25 and 30 degrees and the average seawater temperature is around 25 degrees. The rainy season runs from the end of July to September, but it doesn’t rain much. The high season on the Cape Verde Islands is approximately from July to March.
- Surfers: the most ideal conditions are in the months of January and February, but the other months are also fine for surfing enthusiasts.
- Divers: the best visibility underwater is from June to December.
- Hikers: the islands with mountains are very beautiful in the period July to December.
- The nesting turtle season runs from June to October.
- The best opportunities for whale watching on Boavista are in March and April.
- The Sao Vicente Carnival is in February.
Why the Cape Verde Islands are wonderful!
- It is not that far flying, namely only 6.5 hours from the Netherlands. The airline Transavia flies directly to it.
- The official slogan of the locals is “no stress”. In my opinion, a better and finer motto during your holiday is not possible!
- The whole year there is great weather with lots of sunshine. But there is also often a nice breeze so that it is easy to hold out. Don’t forget to bring enough sunscreen and apply yourself regularly, because you burn quickly.
- There are countless endless white beaches and an azure blue sea! A perfect place for all sun, sea and beach lovers. There are busy beaches, deserted beaches, beaches with luxurious sunbeds and beach bars, beaches where you can actively do water sports…. In short, for everyone from young to old, there is a perfect beach.
- The population is extremely hospitable, cheerful and friendly. This is so nice to experience during your holiday!
- There is plenty of peace and quiet and in most places you won’t see any hordes of tourists. Amazing!
- Cape Verde is one of the most politically and economically stable countries in Africa.
- Island hopping is fun and very easy to arrange and so you can see much of the country in a short time. The islands of Cape Verde are spectacularly different. Highly recommended!
- You can enjoy wind and kite surfing. Ideal for lovers of these sports, but also beautiful to watch and see all those colored kites in the sky. Always wanted to take a test lesson in surfing, then this is the place to do!
- There are several excellent and beautiful walking areas. You simply never walked out of it!
- You can easily combine culture and beach. I always find that a perfect combination!
- There are many different sports activities to do. Nice to be lying on the beach and do something active!
- You can spot turtles, whales, sharks and birds. How cool is that!
- You can make great jeep safaris through the rugged landscape and ride on quads.
- There are several charming, authentic and colourful villages that you can visit. You’ll also see beautiful street art in many places and get to know the authentic life of the locals.
- The untouched nature reserves that you can discover are great.
- You can enjoy listening to the Cape Verdean live music. This just makes you very happy!
- It is a wonderful place for yoga and wellness lovers.
- All the sights on the Cape Verde Islands can be discovered all year round. So it doesn’t matter when you go on holiday.
Cape Verde is a very versatile and surprising destination! Do you have any additions to this article with sights and tips for Cape Verde?
- 20x what to do on Zanzibar
- A trip to Zanzibar: 15 things you need to know
- Th 5 nicest hotels with pool at Zanzibar