The Cape Verde islands, an incredible archipelago not far from the cost of Senegal, has become a very popular beach destination in recent years. But the country has so much more to offer, and other destinations within the country are starting to get more attention. Tourism in Cape Verde can go far beyond the 'All Inclusive model' only.
The islands of the country are very different from each other, and that is exactly what makes Cape Verde an interesting destination. Island hopping is the perfect way to really get to know the country. Add a rental car to 'the mix' and you have all you need to see the best of Cape Verde in as little as two weeks.
I came up with the 'Fly, Ferry & Drive' concept a while back. The county's working on developing better infrastructure and accessibility. This way visitors wanting to go island hopping don't always have to go for domestic flights which are not cheap. The difference that is saved up can be used for a rental car to see the larger islands, creating a unique experience.
Here's what I would recommend for a 'Fly, Ferry & Drive' in Cape Verde:
Although São Vicente is one of the smaller islands, Mindelo is Cape Verde's second biggest city, and it is known as 'the cultural capital'.
Most travelers visit Mindelo because of the many great events the city hosts each year, and for its exiting nightlife. Having a rental car on the island gives you the flexibility to visit São Vicente's beautiful villages on your own schedule.
The villages São Pedro, Calhau, Baía das Gatas and Salamansa are all traditional fishermen villages that you need to see to get a better understanding of the island. With about 90% of the islands habitants living in Mindelo you would think the city is where it all happens. But it's actually these villages that are a must see when you are on the island.
The island of Santo Antão is seen by many as the most beautiful island of the entire archipelago. It is very popular with naturelovers and hikers. Santo Antão is Cape Verde's second biggest island, only Santiago is bigger. Although it's one of the larger Cape Verde islands, it has a population as small as 40.000 people.
On the other side of the São Vicente canal, the city of Mindelo alone is home to more than 75.000 people, on an island which is about 4 times (!) smaller than Santo Antão.
The small population and the incredible landscape are two reasons why Santo Antão is a place where you can feel incredibly peaceful. Visit Tarrafal de Monte Trigo in the westeren part of the island, a secluded part of Santo Antão with much less habitants ánd visitors.
Other popular places, and among the most beautiful of the island, are the valleys of Paúl and Ribeira de Torre. One the most beautiful hikes you can do on the island leads from the crater of Cova all the way down to the valley of Paúl.
Santiago is Cape Verde's biggest island, and about half of all Cape Verdeans live here. It's home to the city of Praia, the capital of the country. Santiago is often reffered to as the 'most versatile' of all Cape Verdean islands. Culture, history, beautiful beaches and mountains: you can find it all on the island of Santiago.
The road trip here leads from Praia, in the southeren part of the island, to the lovely town of Tarrafal. The town is known for its amazing beach, which has become a favorite with surfers. Tarrafal de Santiago is located in the most Northeren part of the island, and the two hour drive from Praia takes you through the beautiful country side of Santiago.
Tarrafal de Santiago has an amazing beach, but the city of Praia also has a few lovely beaches where locals love to spend their weekends. Praínha and Kebra Kanela are two of the favorites of the local population. The town Cidade Velha is located just 30 minutes outside Praia. It's Cape Verde's oldest settlement, and a must if you want to learn more about the history of the country.
The drive from Praia to Tarrafal de Santiago also leads through Assomada. It's located in the municipality of Santa Catarina, the 3rd biggest in the country. The house where Amilcar Cabral (Cape Verde's freedom fighter) was born, is located close to Assomada. This part of the island is also home to the Serra Malagueta, a perfect place for hikers.
The island of Fogo is Cape Verde's most mysterious island. Fogo is home to the Pico the Fogo volcano, which erupted in November 2014. The area around the volcano, Chã das Caldeiras, is one of the most interesting places you can visit in Cape Verde.
Fogo's capital São Felipe might be Cape Verde's most beautiful city. It's built on top of a hill side right along the coast, unlike any other place in the country. Because of it's location the views around the city are amazing. From many spots in São Filipe you can enjoy an ocean view with Cape Verde's smallest island Brava in the background.
São Felipe has a historical centre with beautiful colonial architecture, in a style different from Praia and Mindelo. From São Felipe you can easily drive all around the island of Fogo. Chã das Caldeiras is the place to visit, but also Mosteiros is worth a visit. Mosteiros is Fogo's second biggest city, and is located in the northern part of the island.
The drive from São Felipe takes about an hour, on a fantastic route. Try to do a part of the route during sunset, and you will be amazed by the incredible views. Mosteiros is known for the production of bananas and coffee, but the town also has a very busy little fishing harbour. There is a little known hiking route that leads from Mosteiros all the way to Chã das Caldeiras in about 5 hours.
Chã das Caldeiras can be reached from São Felipe in about an hour. The drive now takes longer because the eruption of the Pico the Fogo damaged a part of the route. Shortly after the eruption a part of the population was back in Chã das Caldeiras. Today, the population is working hard to rebuild the village so tourism is more important than ever.