Pristine white beaches? Check. Epic volcanic landscapes? Check. Tranquil island life? Check. But you don’t need to spend 11 hours on a plane from Europe to get a taste of the tropics. Head instead to Cape Verde, a stunning 10 island archipelago positioned 570 kilometres off Senegal, on Africa’s west coast.
You’re unlikely to be disappointed. The islands, a former Portuguese colony granted independence in the 1970s, make up one of the most developed countries on the continent while still managing to appear almost untouched by man.
This is, undoubtedly, an African country. The Portuguese did, however, leave behind some traces of European culture; locals speak Portuguese, are largely Roman Catholic and live in houses styled more as in Lisbon or the Azores than in sub-Saharan Africa. Tourists enjoy a mild to warm climate the whole year round, with temperatures rarely falling below 24 degrees celsius or rising above 30.
It’s a country increasingly frequented by package holiday travellers, with providers like Thomas Cook offering more attractive every year, so you can usually bag yourself return flights for a much lower price than to, say, Barbados or Trinidad.
How to get there
It’s possible to get an extremely good deal on flights if you book far enough in advance. A two week trip departing from Manchester in March 2018 will set you back just £190, flying with Thomson, while sites like lastminute.com offer a selection of all-inclusive flight and hotel packages from around £500 per person.
Where to stay
Prefer to book your hotel independently? There are accommodation options across the islands to fit every taste and budget. Choices range from super-cheap backpacker hostels for those who simply need a place to lay their head, to respectable three- or four-star hotels offering quality service, to opulent five-star luxury resorts or serviced apartments.
Visitors planning to hit the beach should head to the islands of Sal or Boa Vista. Santiago, the biggest and first to be settled of the islands, is where you’ll find a vibrant nightlife scene and lots of culture. Fogo, meanwhile, is one for the adventurous, boasting the highest peak on the archipelago and some incredible views.
What to do
Getting around the archipelago is relatively easy, with flights and ferries operating between the islands and public buses and taxis waiting when you get there. Sal and Boa Vista make for excellent diving and snorkelling locations in the summer, with shores teeming with marine wildlife. Day-trippers on whale-watching excursions could catch sight of humpback whales and dolphins. And if you’re more of a thrill-seeker, you can windsurf or kitesurf on Sal and Boa Vista too, while the rugged landscapes of Fogo and Santiago are great for hiking all year round.
Cape Verdeans love to make music, and all over the archipelago you’ll come across traditional creole music, a unique brand of folk music derived from both African and Portuguese influences. Local markets sell clothes, jewellery and other produce unique to Cape Verde, while shopkeepers offer thick Cape Verdean red wine and rich coffee beans.
Remember to book your airport transfer with Holiday Transfers when you go!