A small country, Cabo Verde won independence from Portugal in 1975, although it retains an important Portuguese heritage. The capital is Praia, on the island of Santiago. As with many former European colonies, it possesses that rare blend of African roots and European influences, apparent in its culture, traditions, language and racial mingling.
The archipelago, which lies off the coast of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean, consists of many islands and islets. Santiago and São Vicente are the largest islands, the others being São Antão, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, Maio, Fogo, Brava and the uninhabited São Luzia. In the 18th and 19th centuries the islands became a major Portuguese slaving centre as well as a supply point for ships crossing the Atlantic to the colonies of the new world.
Each individual island is a journey through a diverse range of natural and urban landscapes, with something for everybody, whether you want to kick back and do nothing or whether you want to do everything this captivating destination has to offer.
Some places have become major tourist destinations, but you will also discover hidden corners and pristine landscapes where you can live your holidays the Cabo Verdean way: hiking, adventure tourism, ecotourism, getting to know the locals, etc.
The bonhomie of the Cape Verdeans and their special sense of time teach us to live life at its own pace and to take the archipelago’s quirky transport system with serenity. It’s not unusual to have planned to take a boat from one island to another, but the boat actually leaves … some other time. Likewise with flights, and some places don’t even have a public transport system.
Cabo Verde can be reached by air from many parts of the world. Almost all the islands have airports, the largest, international ones being Amílcar Cabral International Airport on Sal, just 5 minutes from Espargos and 20 minutes from Santa María; Praia airport on Santiago and Mindelo Airport on São Vicente.
São Antonio can be reached by ferry from São Vicente – the trip takes one hour, and Brava can be reached by ferry from Fogo. Domestic flights are operated by the state-owned airline TACV, although in high season and during festivals and other special dates it may be difficult to book flights.
Many flights arrive from Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and cheap flights are available, mainly from cities in Germany. Transport from the airports to hotels is by taxi and can be quite expensive.
Transport on the islands can be chaotic but, hey, we’re on holiday! A good idea is to hire the services of a local who to take you where and when you want to go, rather than having to rely on the public transport system. 4-wheel drive trucks and cars may be hired on Sal, São Vicente, Santiago and Fogo; although the business is as yet in its infancy, it is always possible to find a vehicle.
There are accommodation options to suit any budget and lifestyle, although these differ from place to place. Some places boast major hotels and rental houses and apartments, but in others the offer is limited to modest guest houses. Accordingly, it is best to read up on what is available depending on where you want to visit.
Because of its latitude, Cabo Verde has a tropical climate. It is always warm and there are only two seasons: the dry season, from November to July, and the rainy season, from August to October; inland, at high altitudes, it can get quite chilly at night.