Only six hours flying time from the major airports of Europe, the volcanic Cape Verde archipelago, lying in the Atlantic Ocean off the bulge of Africa, is rapidly emerging as an inspiring holiday destination for those seeking something different.
The nine inhabited islands are bursting with their own individual character and unique musical culture, besides offering plenty of opportunities for relaxation or active pursuits. The rapidly developing island of Sal is particularly popular, with long white sandy beaches; Sal has been discovered by European beach buffs and water sports enthusiasts. The main tourist town, Santa Maria, near the international airport, is earning its place on the map as being the world's newest surfing destination, and also as a major draw for windsurfers and kite surfers, with its trade winds and winter swells.
A former Portuguese colony, Cape Verde is now a struggling Republic, scourged by drought in the last century, which prompted heavy emigration. Exploiting the natural assets of the islands by encouraging tourism has now become a valuable injection for the economy.
Apart from beaches, the islands also offer impressive mountains, volcanoes, delicious seafood and an interesting African/Portuguese cultural mix. The distinctive music of the islands, carried abroad by renowned singer, Cesara Evora, 'the barefoot diva', also adds to Cape Verde's character.
Most visitors utilise the inter-island ferries or domestic airline to explore more than just one of these somewhat barren and ruggedly beautiful islands, each of which has unique sights or experiences to offer. In a frenetic world Cape Verde remains slow, unsophisticated and secure, with a stable democratic government, ready to welcome those seeking a simple holiday far from the madding crowd.
The unit of currency is the Cape Verdean Escudo (CVE), broken
down into 100 centavos. As this is a local currency it cannot be
obtained before arrival and cannot be reconverted outside of Cape
Verde. There is a bureau de change at the airport, and local banks
will change travellers cheques and foreign currency, although there
is a high commission on travellers cheques. ATMs can be found at
the airport and in Sal, Praia and SÃ¢o Vincent. Major credit cards,
particularly MasterCard and Visa are currently accepted in a few
main resort hotels and restaurants. Banks will give cash on credit
cards but commissions are high.
|CVE 1 =||US$ 0.01||Â£ 0.01||C$ 0.01||A$ 0.01||R 0.10||EUR 0.01||NZ$ 0.01|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
No vaccinations are required for entry to Cape Verde, however it is recommended that precautions be taken against typhoid fever, polio and cholera. It is also recommended that visitors get vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). Outbreaks of Brucellosis are occasionally reported. A yellow fever certificate of innoculation is compulsory for travellers entering from a yellow fever infected area. There is a limited risk of malaria on Sao Tiago Island. Water is unsafe to drink without prior treatment, and milk is unpasteurised. Medical facilities are limited and some medicines are in short supply. Visitors receive free hospital treatment in general hospitals on presenting their passports, but health insurance is strongly advised, with coverage for emergency repatriation. If you require prescription medication for your holiday it is ideal to bring it with you; make sure you have the necessary documents from your doctor to get the medication through customs.
Visitors of any nationality require a passport, valid for the period of intended stay, to enter the Cape Verde Islands. We recommend that passports be valid for six months after intended period of travel.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Cape Verde Tourism
Foreign Embassies in Cape Verde
Cape Verde Embassies
Sal is the liveliest and most developed of the Islands. More than half of the tourists in Cape Verde make the trip to Sal to enjoy the crystal clear waters lapping long stretches of white sandy beach, including water sports enthusiasts and holidaymakers who make the most of the rapidly developing hotels and resorts.
The town of Santa Maria is home to the most popular resorts in Cape Verde. A former fishing village, the streets are lined with pastel-painted buildings that are more likely to host a souvenir shop, bar, or restaurant than anything else. Santa Maria has some of the best beaches in Cape Verde; they stretch for five miles (8km) and are popular for windsurfing, fishing, and scuba diving.
Although Santa Maria is the most popular town in Sal, there are others worth visiting. Near the international airport is Espargos, where shops, bars and restaurants do good business and the strains of live music fill the air. The island's main port, Palmeira, is a working fishing harbour and import station, but is currently improving its tourist infrastructure in line with the rest of the island. Sal's landscape is unexciting, being flat and arid, but there are some interesting features to visit including the salt lakes inside the extinct volcano crater at Pedra de Lume; Sal is also home to Cape Verde's best golf resorts. Tourists often enjoy day trips to the nearby island of Boavista, known for its sand dunes, by catamaran.
The island of Santo Antao is divided dramatically in two by a mountain range with peaks rearing up to 4,921ft (1,500m), making it attractive for trekking, particularly through the tropical vegetation of the deep green valleys which encase the 16th-century town of Povoacao. Hiking is the most popular activity for tourists on Santo Antao, and the sparse human development ensures a special experience of nature. Canyoning and biking are also fun activities on this beautiful, volcanic island.
A walk around the small town of Ponta do Sol is recommended to enjoy the old buildings and colonial heritage, and the main site of historic interest is a mysterious inscribed rock near Janela, dating from the 1400s, when the islands were believed to be uninhabited and undiscovered.
In contrast to the mountainous interior, the island's coast is rugged and bare, but sugar cane, bananas and coffee are grown by the locals. Sugar cane is the raw material for the famed Cape Verde rum, called 'grogue', which is produced here and enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.
Visitors can reach Santo Antao by ferry from the port of Mindelo on the more populated island of Sao Vicente, arriving at Santo Antao's small port of Porto Novo.
The largest island in the archipelago, and arguably boasting the best scenery, Santiago is also the most populated. Its residents are more traditionally African in culture than those on many of the other islands, which is reflected in their musical traditions, markets and the many festivals held during the year.
Santiago is the site of Cape Verde's capital city, Praia, and the picturesque fishing town of Tarrafal. Praia has an interesting marine archaeology museum dedicated to documenting the various shipwrecks that have occurred around the islands. While not a popular tourist destination in its own right, Praia is the site of Cape Verde's busiest airport, and walking around the city is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two before venturing to another part of Santiago, or taking a ferry to one of the other islands.
The interior of Santiago is characterised by two towering chains of mountains, while the coastline sports small, sandy, palm-fringed coves. Other sites of interest on the islands include the historic old port city, Cidade Velha, which was a major slave-trading post and retains cobbled lanes and stone buildings in the shadow of its old 15th-century fortress and cathedral. Cidade Velha was once the second richest city in the Portuguese empire but it was raided by pirates and declined as the slave trade did.
Voices and volcanic mountains characterise Sao Vicente, the most sophisticated island of the Cape Verde archipelago. It is the home of Cape Verde's most famous singer, CesÃ¡ria Ãvora, renowned as the 'barefoot diva'. Sao Vicente was discovered in 1462 but remained virtually uninhabited until the middle of the 19th century due to the lack of water on the island. It is now a bustling cultural centre for Cape Verde.
The port city of Mindelo is the cultural capital of Cape Verde, and is home to over 90 percent of the population of Sao Vicente, as well as a number of interesting markets, a few beautiful colonial-style government buildings, and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine like catchupa stew. Mindelo has a lively nightlife all year long, but truly comes alive each March for Carnaval, one of the biggest parties in Cape Verde.
The island boasts beautiful beaches, too, particularly the Baia das Gatas lagoon that has been formed by volcanic activity, and the long, sandy stretch of Sao Pedro beach, sought out by windsurfers. The island is not particularly green due to being dry but it is attractive in a rugged way and there are interesting hikes to be done in the mountainous areas.
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