Cape Verde has become a very popular holiday destination in recent years, but what many people don’t know is that it’s also a fantastic destination for the more active traveller. People are looking for new places to ‘discover’ as a visitor.
Places that take a little more work to get to are usually worth the extra effort. Island hopping is the way to really get to know Cape Verde, and it doesn’t have to be very difficult or expensive. The islands of São Vicente and Santo Antão are ‘neighbours’, but they are two completely different worlds.
There are other islands that when combined can deliver an unforgettable experience. Travel to the islands of Santiago and Fogo, islands that are known for being versatile and and mysterious. Or if you wish to spend a week on the beaches of either Sal or Boa Vista, head out to the island of São Nicolau later to see another side of Cape Verde. Or, if visiting the capital Praia on Santiago, why not escape to the peace and quiet of Maio?
Here are seven things you can get out of travelling to São Vicente and Santo Antão:
There is no island in Cape Verde better suited for true lovers of hiking than Santo Antão. Although islands such as São Nicolau, Santiago and Fogo have some amazing hiking trails, Santo Antão is the place to be. Compared to the other islands the conditions are better with more routes, longer trails and spectacular views.
One of the routes of the island is the ‘coastal route’, that leads from the charming town of Ponta do Sol to the tiny village of Fontainhas. A few years ago this very special place was featured on a list by National Geographic about the villages that have the most beautiful views in the world.
The islands Maio, Sal and Boa Vista are mostly known for their incredible beaches. The island of São Vicente, where 90% of the population lives in Mindelo, is a very cultural place. Mindelo is known as Cape Verde’s cultural capital, but the island has more to offer its visitors.
São Vicente actually also has some amazing beaches, with a few of them being hotspots for kite- and windsurfers. The most popular beach in Mindelo is Laginha. This beach is located close to the city centre, so it’s usually the first choice for many people.
One of the best things to do on the island of São Vicente, is visiting the villages. Not only are the beaches incredible, but a visit to theses traditional fishing villages also show you the other side of life on the island.
Santo Antão is twice as big as the island of São Vicente, but it has half the population. The city of Mindelo has always attracted people from the islands of Santo Antão and São Nicolau, because of its influential harbour. Whilst Mindelo has grown to become Cape Verde’s second largest city, many parts of Santo Antão have not changed at all in many years.
There are incredible villages across the island where you might feel as if you’ve travelled back in time. Places where people’s lives depend on agriculture, and most of the work is manual labour. Villages that have limited electricity, where life can be pretty tough, but where people seem to be very happy.
Quote (Angelika, Switzerland)
“People work so hard, with what nature provides. Nature offers them food. Many don’t go to a supermarket. This creates a different dynamic in life. I’m not saying that people who live a ‘simple life’ have a better life. But I saw things in the way of life in Cape Verde that we’ve lost and we are trying to get back again.”
Culture & Nightlife
Mindelo is known as the cultural capital of Cape Verde, a title the city is very proud of. The city has gained this title because it hosts the biggest and best festival in the country, and always seems to figure out how to expand the cultural offer. When travelling to Cape Verde it is highly recommended that you spend at least one weekend in Mindelo.
A lot of the bars and restaurants around Mindelo’s city centre and the boulevard along Laginha Beach organise small events from Thursday to Sunday, with high quality live music.
You get to discover
The islands of São Vicente and Santo Antão are receiving more visitors each year. But around 75% of people that visit Cape Verde choose Sal or Boa Vista as their destination. With 25% spreading out across 7 other islands, this means that there are many places where you can get to ‘discover’. One of these islands is Santo Antão.
As the second largest island in Cape Verde, Santo Antão only has half of the population of São Vicente, and about a quarter that of Santiago. The island is full of beautiful small villages and hiking trails where you’ll feel like the first traveller ever to visit.
There is no doubt that the city of Mindelo hosts Cape Verde’s biggest and best Carnival celebration. The entire country loves the festivities, but it is only in Mindelo that Carnival can compare with the events hosted in much larger cities around the world. The people of Mindelo love using the phrase first used by ‘the queen of Cape Verde’ Cesária Évora: “Soncent é um Brazilim” (São Vicente is a little Brazil).
For almost a week everything is about Carnival, with Tuesday being the most important day. The official Mindelo Carnival groups parade through the street of Morada (the city centre), competing to win the title of best Carnival group. In 2024 the main parade will be on Tuesday 13 February.
The best of Cape Verde
When traveling to Cape Verde you’ll get the most out of your trip if you can combine two (or more) islands. Choose wisely, and pick two islands that have very different qualities.
Santo Antão and São Vicente, are two islands separated by a one hour ferry trip. They complement each other in many ways, which makes these islands the perfect combination for travellers who are looking to connect with Cape Verde on a deeper level.
A combo trip to both islands promises you the best of Cape Verde. São Vicente, with beautiful beaches and Cape Verde’s most exiting city on one side, and the country’s most spectacular island on the other. Welcome to the real Cape Verde.
[09 Feb 2024]