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Boa Vista beaches
Boa Vista island
Boa Vista has some of the finest untouched beaches on the planet. Never-ending stretches of soft white sand, fringed by desert inland and by bright turquoise water oceanside. It doesn't come more picturesque than this. The thing is, there is nothing else here. No palms, no shades, no roads, no people, no bungalows, no beach huts, no resorts (besides the few on the whole island). Just sand, sun, and the sea... and, of course, the wind.
Boa Vista loop
Boa Vista island
After a few days on Boa Vista, you might start to wonder whether the rest of the island is as barren as where you are. And yes, it is. But the best way to figure it out, is a tour of the island. A full loop of Boa Vista takes a whole day in a 4x4 on dirt tracks, in sand dunes, over stony desert, and occasional on a stretch of real road – with potholes of course. Rent a car with a driver, since they know the right track from the wrong ones.
A suggestion for a route could be:
Sal Rei (town) – Rabil (village) – Deserto Viana (desert) – Povocao Velha (village) – Praia da Varandinha (beach with caves) – Praia de Santa Monica (beach) – Curral Velho (ruins and salt lake) – Praia de Joao Barrosa (turtle nesting beach) – Baobab (a lone Baobab tree) – Ervatao (a surf beach) – Fundo das Figueiras (village) – Santa Maria shipwreck – Sal Rei
Take a look at the photo gallery for more details.
São Nicolau island
At the Western end of the island lies a small gem called Carbirinho. It may be a little hard to get to this spot, which is hardly mentioned in any guidebook, but it is well worth the effort! You can sit for hours watching the waves crash into the rocks and the water pulling in and out of the small black-sanded beaches. The rough sea has been carving the sandstone cliffs for centuries forming beautiful patterns. Some natural springs seep through the rocks attracting goats who come here to drink. Especially around sunset, the place becomes magical. If you are lucky, you can also see turtles swimming below the rocks.
Santo Antão island
Set apart from most hikes on Santo Antão, which are mainly inland going between the top of the mountains and the coast in either direction, the coastal walk between Cruzinha and Ponta do Sol is something very different. Don’t expect to hike flat though. You’ll probably get the same or even more altitude difference in your legs than on the other hikes. The trail keeps going up and down along the rocky coast, sometimes going over some passes, but pretty much all the time you see the ocean and have amazing views. You pass by some beautiful black sand beaches where you can cool your feet down in the waves. The few villages you pass through are also beautiful and some have amazing agricultural terraces.
In contrast to touristy Santa Maria further south, the small town of Estragos is a chance to experience an ordinary Cape Verdean town. Since it’s close to the airport, there is a small selection of guest houses offering a chance to stay a day or two, something that isn’t normally possible in Cape Verde outside the tourist zones. The town is neither impressive nor has any tourist appeal, but that is exactly the charm of Estragos. Just a normal town with fruit selling ladies with goods balancing on their head, cheeky school kids and old folks sitting outside their homes.
Santo Antão island
One of the main crops on Santo Antão is suger cane. The cane sugar that is consumed on the islands is however imported from Alagoas, Brazil, because the Cape Verdeans have a better use for their sugar cane: making Grogue. This often very locally brewed alcohol is a type of rum. When hiking through the villages of Santo Antão, you are bound to run into such a small distillery. The people will happily show you the process of distilling the sugar cane and might even let you try some grogue. First, the suger cane goes through a press to extract the sugar cane juice. The dried sugar canes are eventually used as a fuel for the distillation process.
Monte Gordo (1,312 m)
São Nicolau island
The most popular hike on São Nicolau island is probably the climb to the top of its highest mountain: Monte Gordo, just over 1,300 m high. Since recent years, the area around this mountain is protected and has become a national park. There is an information center at the start of the trail in Cachaço and they even have some leaflets with a very good trail map of the national park. The climb goes up steadily to the top from where you get 360° views of the island. With clear weather, you can see several of the Barlavento islands such as São Vicente and Santo Antão.
From here you can backtrack all the way or you can choose to just hike down a little the same way, then hike around the mountain, go over some ridges and then finally hike down to finish in the town of Praia Branca, which is strangely not a beach town as you would think of its name (praia is Portuguese for beach).
People of Cape Verde
The people of Cape Verde are a good reason to visit the country. They are generally very welcoming and kind to foreigners. Always happy to give you directions or have a chat with you and if you ask (sometimes they will even ask you), they will gladly pose for a picture.
Because of the former Portuguese colonisation, and the islands being a transit place for slaves during that time, most people are Creole, a mix between African and European. The commonly spoken language is Creole while the official language is Portuguese.
You will encounter several people speaking fluent English, Dutch or French because of the large amount of Cape Verdeans working overseas.
Ponta do Sol
Santo Antão island
Ponta do Sol is a town at the Northern tip of Santo Antão island and a good base for doing day hikes on the island. It is a place that easily grows on you after staying a few days. Originally being a fishing village, tourism is modestly becoming an important part of the town. The small harbour is a lovely place where you can watch the fishermen skillfully manoeuvre their small boats through the rough waves into the relative safety of the harbour. You can watch the people weigh, sell and clean the catch of the day and then enjoy the good fish and seafood in one of the restaurants while watching the sun set.
Capital of Cape Verde, Santiago island
The capital Praia is just an overgrown version of any other town in Cape Verde. A beach, a harbour, and a cluster of mismatched concrete dwellings, all kept in the usual dull grey. Well, that is not totally true, Praia also has an Old Town, called the Plateau since it’s raised above the rest of the city. Here, the houses are a bit more cute and colourful, and there is a range of colonial buildings, like the court house and President Palace, which even has a splendid viewpoint behind it. The Old Town also has a shaded town square, a vegetable market and a pedestrian street, 5. De Julho, which is mostly famous for its range of restaurants. Since the people of Cape Verde is very easygoing and calm, it should not come as a surprise that Praia is just the same.