This archipelago off the west coast of Africa is a country in itself, boasting a rich offer of cultural, natural and gastronomical exquisites. We visited in 2016.
Our main motivation was trekking, but also to discover a different culture and experience Africa in a “lighter” version. We had a week to travel around and managed to include the main island of Santiago, the northern São Vicente and Santo Antão and some relax time in an all-inclusive beach resort in Boa Vista.
How could we do that
Although charter flights are an option from Portugal, they tend to change departure times, sometimes even departure dates. “Cabo Verde Airlines” offers direct flights from Europe (Lisbon, Paris, Rome), Africa, Brasil and the US, but “TAP” also flies direct from Lisbon to Praia, São Vicente, Sal and Boa Vista.
In our case, TAP flew us directly to the capital Praia, on the island of Santiago, on a Friday night. Next day evening we started our journey around the archipelago:
Praia (Santiago) > Mindelo (São Vicente)
Mindelo (São Vicente) > Santo Antão > Mindelo (São Vicente) by ferry
São Vicente > Boa Vista
Boa Vista > Santiago
The Friday night flight allowed us to get a full day in Praia on Saturday, which we optimised by choosing a hotel outside the city and nearer Cidade Velha, where we spent the day trekking. Then we just took the “colectivo” (it’s a type of public transportation vehicle, a collective mini-van) in the direction of the hotel but only stopped in the city centre and went for a stroll.
Saturday night we flew into Mindelo, allowing us to take the early morning ferryboat to Santo Antão, where we spent 3 days trekking, based from Ponta do Sol. One trek was from Ponta do Sol to Cruzinha through the Northern coast with amazing views. Another was through the valley of the Ribeira Grande de Paul, going down from the mountain top of Cova de Paul at 1290 m. to the beach at ocean level in Pombas.
On Tuesday afternoon we took the ferry back to São Vicente and stayed at a hotel near the beach.
Wednesday late morning we took the flight to Boa Vista (with a 1 hour layover in Sal), where we went directly to the beach resort to drink, eat and relax by the beach and by the pool on a two-night stay.
On Friday, tired from relaxing, we took our last flight to Santiago and rented a car at the airport. We only wanted to go to Tarrafal at the northern edge of the island, but the car rental ended up at a similar price as a ride on a “colectivo” or a taxi and gave us more freedom of movement. For example, it allowed us to visit the local market of Assomada. In Tarrafal we visited the local beaches (the best we found in all Cabo Verde) and did a short trek along the coast to the old Tarrafal prison, which is now a small museum.
On Sunday afternoon we had our flight back to Portugal.
Would we do it again?
Personally, I would have liked to visit Fogo and hike to the volcano, but the recent eruption had destroyed part of the path so it would not be possible to do that trek.
The islands we visited were very different from each other but the trip allowed us a fairly good rundown on them. The fact there were still many isolated villages, and that the touristic offer is mostly concentrated in the islands of Boa Vista and Sal, makes me think we managed to get a good rundown of it all.
Some ideas to linger on…
If you travel with kids, this is a risky trip. Good travel insurance might go a long way, but keep in mind that the islands are lacking in basic amenities and that some islands don’t have medical facilities, while health centres do exist in most of the main islands (Santiago, Santo Antão, Boavista, Sal and Maio). We had no complications whatsoever. Our meals were from restaurants, from supermarkets and some food was bought at local markets or directly from the producer.
For the adventurous tourist, I think this was a perfect tour, giving us a view similar to what a 2-week organised tour would have given us. If you are into trekking, a longer stay in each island would have allowed slower treks or treks done continuously, instead of having a “basecamp” and trips to the start and finish points.
If you are not an “all-inclusive beach resort” kind of person, you can skip them altogether. While they were not a bad experience, they do not offer anything that you can not find in any other resort in the world.
The only regret we have is not having gone during the turtle hatching season when you can watch dozens of them going into the ocean under the moonlight.
If you have any specific doubts, want to share your own experience, or have something else you want to say, do drop us a line below in the comment sections.