Friday, September 29, 2006


Cape Verde islands

Travel journalists are speculating that the Cape Verde islands could be the next tourist hotspot in 2006. Have you been there already? Where would you head for? Share your ideas!

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Programme factfile
From £1,286 per person based on two sharing in February 2006

We went with:
Cape Verde Travel, For more tour operators and information, search the web.

12 nights, b&b, scheduled and internal flights
Sample costs
Transfers cost extra. Similar packages are available through Destination Portugal

Destination know-how
Your recommendations
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Travel facts
Further reading

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Sumit Bose reported from another Holiday first, the mysterious Cape Verde islands.

The next tourist hotspot?
In 2004, only about a thousand British tourists visited the Cape Verde islands, but they're set to be one of the top destinations for 2006. Sumit visited three of the more easily accessible islands in the group - nearly all can be reached by ferry or by air within an hour or so. An air pass from Cape Verde airlines offers a great way to island-hop. Sumit landed at Praia, the capital of the archipelago on the island of Santiago. Although the domestic flights in Cape Verde are very efficient, there's a tendency for the airline to overbook. So, unless you confirm and re-confirm, you may find that you have a ticket for a plane that you can't get on.

Air pass: £120 for two flights

Sumit found Praia very busy. At the working port, it was fish market day and the boats had come in, with a wide assortment of fish for sale. The fresh tuna was very cheap, at about £1.35 for a kilo. He explored the fresh produce market, referred to as the Plateau, where all the produce sold is grown on the island. From there, he took a trip to the old town, or cidada velha, in an alugar, the cheapest form of local transport. It cost him about 50p for a half-hour journey.

The islands were uninhabited until discovered in the 15th century and settled by the Portuguese. By the 1600s they'd become a big staging post for trade across the Atlantic, in fish, sugar, salt and slaves. Slavery brought wealth to Santiago and that made it very desirable for the other European empires. The French, the Spanish and even the English all had a go at conquering the islands and that's why the Portuguese built S_Filipe fort to try and repel the enemies.

Santo Antao
Sumit left Port Mindelo and caught a ferry to the island of Santo Antao, popular for its walking. Local tour guides and accommodation can easily be arranged on the island. Sumit's guide took him up into the mountains. As the road climbed higher and higher, forest plantations began to fill the higher valleys and there was a chill in the air. As Sumit gazed down into the plunging Ribeira Grande, he witnessed breathtaking drops on either side. Pinnacles, cliffs and double bends around spires of rock mark the descent to the verdant side of island. This took them to the village of Cha De Igreja, where they stayed overnight in a family house.The Rodriguez family have been opening up their home to tourists since 2002 and it offers a great way to experience Cape Verdean life.

Ferry to Santo Antao: £7.50

Great for water sports
Sumit took one of the timely ferries back to the island of Sal. Hotel Morabeza was built in 1960s as a private house for a Belgian couple who had fallen in love with the island. It_s now a small hotel run by their granddaughter. But an ambitious hotel construction programme has begun right across the island. Santa Maria beach is beautiful, offering 7.24km (4.5 miles) of beautiful golden white sand. It's also great for water sports, such as kite surfing and wind surfing.

Kite surfing lesson: £31 per hour

In summary...
It's worth remembering that Cape Verde is a developing nation and so there can be some problems with transport. But the diversity of the islands is very appealing - you can choose between beach, cultural or walking holidays, and the country is welcoming tourism, which, if developed responsibly, can only be a good thing.

Have you been to Cape Verde? If you have, we'd love to hear what you thought of it, and where you went. Have your say...

Attractions - Cape Verde Island
Alexandria from Providence, RI, USA writes: it's a paradise that's hidden in the Atlantic Ocean. The people are friendly; each island has diverse regions and the climate is wonderful year-round. You can hike or surf on any island while enjoying great cuisine overlooking a captivating and mesmerising country. Remember that there are ten islands to be explored and some are still not developed for tourism. Always book your accommodation before island-hopping unless you have friends and family there.

Attractions - Cape Verde paradise, Island of Sal
David from Whitefield, Manchester writes: I went to Cape Verde in July 2005 after my parents went there and recommended it. I did a lot of research before going but I wasn't prepared for the beauty of the place. I went to Sal and Boa Vista islands. Sal beaches are simply stunning! I enjoyed snorkelling (actually taking the fish we caught to restaurants and they were more than happy to cook it for us), diving, and big fish fishing (like Tuna). Sal is very flat but excellent, with lots of various activities to stop anyone from getting bored. The people are very friendly and easy to mix with. It's very safe with virtually no stealing and no violence. The food is superb and fresh, especially if you like seafood. Property development is the main investment drive and I managed to acquire a few for myself. I'd recommend people invest in property in Sal or Boa Vista. One friendly website is It was one of the best holidays I've had in a long time. My number one holiday destination and I'll be going back in February 2006 for some surfing!

General - Cape Verde
Gary from Bristol writes: I've lived and worked in Cape Verde for the past five years. The tv report showed only a small percentage of the fantastic lifestyle available on these islands. Whilst the report showed three islands, there are another five at least to view. The people are some of the friendliest in the world and although the food may not be to everyone's taste, the local culinary delights are worth trying. All islands have their own personalities and anyone going to Cape Verde should try to visit the main islands of Santiago, Sao Vicente and Boa Vista. Learn some Portuguese or better still try Creolu, which is what the locals speak. Not too many people speak English, although they do understand much more. Most hotels are only around a three-star European level but that adds to the charm. Enjoy a good time in Cape Verde.

Attractions - Cape Verde beaches
Ed from London writes: I went to Cabo Verde in June 2005. The weather was hot and sunny every day, and the sun is very, very strong! I met a local in Sal, who showed me the island. There are 20 miles of beautiful beaches on the east side, complety deserted. For the whole day all that came past was one windsurfer. It felt like the whole world had disappeared! There is a beach where turtles come up to lay eggs, and in the north of the island a natural rocky pool where you can swim in clear water with colourful fish around your feet. There are salt mines to visit in the north too. The island is very, very dry. You have to hire a four-wheel drive car otherwise you'll be stuck a soon a you come off the main roads. One bad point was the amount of people trying to sell their wares to you, they could be very troublesome sometimes.

Attractions - Beaches and turtles
Fred from Llandrindod writes: Having visited the Cape Verde Islands in each of the last three years, I didn't recognise them as I know them in your recent report. They're not for the inexperienced traveller unless you want a beach holiday in Sal. Away from the few major hotels almost no one speaks English and some Portuguese is essential. I wouldn't recommend that inexperienced travellers wander the markets or some areas of Praia and suggest that they follow the advice of guide books. The best bits of the islands got left out. You must visit the crater of Fogo and perhaps the best beach in the world at Santa Monica on Boavista. Holidays in the Cape Verde Islands are likely to appeal to the "green tourist" and the fact that this is one of the best nesting areas in the world for loggerhead turtles will not be lost on them. Don't necessarily expect hot water in accommodation away from the main towns and just think what British Health and Safety regulations would say about travelling miles on unsurfaced roads in the back of an alugar - often an open truck!

Attractions - Sal
Martin from Santa Maria, Sal writes: I recommend the Cape Verde islands to everyone. Sal is certainly the most developed in terms of tourism. I live in Santa Maria on Sal where there's a variety of accomodation, from basic to the brand new Rui-owned five-star hotel. There's one of the best beaches I've seen. It's a water sports haven. The sea food is excellent. There are some bars which make for a great evening's entertainment - one that springs to mind is Tam Tam, run by a lovely Irish couple. For a day out, head towards Pedra de Luma an amazing salt mine, visit Boa Vista by ferry (you can do day trips) or go deep sea fishing. For hiking, head towards the island of Santo Antao (you can fly for approx 160 Euro).To get to Cape Verde from the UK there are a number of ways; via Lisbon using TAP (Air Portugal), via Gran Canaria or with Ryan air to any major Italian city and then use Neos air ( to get to Sal. We hope there'll be direct flights from the UK soon.

Attractions - Cape Verde
Adam Caulfield from Leeds writes: my partner and I went to Cape Verde in June 2005 after researching the Islands in great depth. We gathered information about the ten islands before deciding to explore Santiago and Sal. We arrived in Sal and fell in love with it within the first few hours. The two main towns are Santa Maria and Espargos. Espargos isn't touched by tourism and most of the people can't speak English. It's quite a big town with very little to do, although there are a number of excellent restaurants that are well worth dining in. Santa Maria is the tourist town, if you can call it that. The square is pretty with some good bars and places to eat. In the evening it comes to life with people congregating in the hope of live music playing at one of the adjacent bars. Often than not, they're not disappointed! Music plays a huge part in Cape Verdean culture and it really is quite unique. We'd recommend that you spend an evening or two in any local bar that has live music. The rest of Santa Maria has a very strange look and feel to it. Many streets are cobbled, while some are mere dirt tracks. Some buildings are modern and have character, whilst others are in decay. That brings us to the beach. Awesome! Beautiful white sand and aqua blue seas await you! Sea life is in abundance as Cape Verde is one of the last places on earth that is under fished. If you love water sports, then this is the place to be. There isn't much sightseeing in Sal. It's a flat and barren island. However, the lagoon and salt mines are sensational. Overall, Sal will please anybody looking for great weather, fabulous beaches, great food, friendly people and plenty of water sports.

Santiago is very different. There aren't many nice beaches, Tarrafel being the most popular and certainly the best. However, this beach is at the top of the island and considering that Santiago is the largest Cape Verdean Island, prepare yourself for a three-hour ride from Praia in a 4x4. Santiago is the most African of all the islands. We found the capital, Praia, to be quite dirty. Don't expect your creature comforts, you'll be lucky to find hot water in most hotels. The nightlife in the Capital is good and we found some excellent restaurants, serving mouth-watering dishes. There's certainly more to see and do compared to Sal and there are a number of historical sites worth visiting. There's an Old Portuguese fort in the old town and a number of churches dating back to the height of the Portuguese empire. Further inland, the island is very mountainous. For three months of the year, after the rainy season, the valleys fill with water and areas become green and lush with all types of fauna. We believe that Santiago is worth a visit, but in terms of tourism it's several years behind Sal, even with the new airport that has just opened. We'd encourage you to visit Cape Verde. There aren't many places around the world that isn't touched by tourism. Cape Verde is probably one of the last. Obviously this'll change in time, but for now it remains relatively untouched. We plan to go back in May and try three other islands. We'll keep you posted.

Attractions - Cape Verde
Peter from London writes: I loved Cape Verde, went to all the islands. The one that I found amazing is the Island of Boavista. There's a fantastic new Italian hotel, everything you need and more, the beaches are the best in the world. I've travelled quite a bit and never saw anything like it. This will be the next paradise to be discovered by international tourism. So far the Italians have kept this to themselves but those days are over, with tourists flocking to the island from all over the world. Go see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

Attractions - Sal, Cape Verde
Sue from Kingston upon Thames writes: we have just returned from paradise!! Being an undeveloped but emerging country at present, there's so much charm it's untrue. This is the new Caribbean but a lot closer, with direct flights starting in November 2006 from Birmingham and Gatwick, it's a sure bet that this is the new destination for tourists and holidaymakers from the UK. Food, people, beaches, salt mine, charm, scuba diving, wind surfing, surfing, golf courses (being developed) etc. The list is too long. We stayed on the island of Sal, which is beautiful, flat and sandy. There are other islands to explore, they all offer different experiences and environments to suit all tastes. Great for families or lone travellers, very safe. Not a vast amount of other things to do at present, but time will change this. We enjoyed the charm it offered just the way it was. It's well worth a visit and also an excellent investment should you be wishing to purchase a property.

Attractions - Fogo, Santo Antao, Mindelo
Ludo from London writes: the beaches of Sal and Boavista get the most press when people talk about Cape Verde but the real beauty lies in the mountainous islands of Fogo and Santo Antoa. I spent two weeks studying the volcano on Fogo and in my opinion there's nothing as spectacualr as the 9km crater with the 1000m high cliff rim around it. The people there were the most welcoming I've meet in Cape Verde (I was born in Sao Vicent). It's very basic but for a hiking holiday the landscape is about as close to the moon as you can find. I was overwelmed by the place. The wine brewed there is also very unique and strong! The island of Santo Antao is the most beautiful in my opinion. Huge ridges and valleys, very green and the local drink, Grog, is a pleasent way to cap off a days hike in the mountains. Praia may be the national capital and most populated city but for pure fun and to really experiance the real life style of Cape Verde travel to Mindelo, the main town in Sao Vicent. The night life here has no competition and doesn't end. The festival in August at Baia das Gatas is also an amazing experience with the best of Cape Verdian and Bazilian music for three nights on the beach. I strongly recommend a trip to Cape Verde but you don't only have to travel to Sal to experiance it. The other islands all have their qualities and this makes Cape Verde such a unique place. Watersports, nature, beach holidays, hiking holidays and all night parties.

Attractions - Santa Maria, Sal
Tina from Plymouth writes: I spent two weeks here in March and must admit it took a couple of days to get used to the place after which I fell in love with it so much that my partner and I bought a beachfront apartment overlooking the beautiful turquoise ocean and white sands. The 'Brits' are just beginning to discover these islands and there are developments going on in and around Santa Maria. However, the island only being 25kms by 10kms means it can never be overdeveloped. If you love seafood, you'll love this place. We'd watch the day's haul being landed on the beach in the morning and that evening, in one of the local restaurants, of which we tried many, we would be eating that fish - tuna, wahoo, lobster - the best I've ever tasted. It was fantastic and cooked as only the Csape Verdians know how.

Travel facts

Best time to go
October to June

Approx flight time
7¾ hours flight from London to Sal, via Lisbon

Time difference
1 hour behind

Visa (with UK passport)
Cape Verde Honorary Consul: Mr Joao Roberto, 18-20 Stanley Street Liverpool L1 6AF. Tel: 0151 236 0206

Health risks
Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Diphtheria recommended. Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and Rabies sometimes recommended. Yellow Fever certificate may be required

Cape Verde escudo
Check out the latest rates: use our currency converter


Further Reading
BBC News: country profile Cape Verde Lonely Planet - Cape Verde


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