The island nation of Cape Verde is just under 400 miles off the coast of Africa and is made up of over a dozen islands and islets. Fortunately, most of these islands are packed with things to do and are becoming increasingly popular for tourists. From hiking up an active volcano to learning to kite surf, here are 10 reasons you should go to Cape Verde.
You can hike up the face of an active volcano
If you’ve ever wanted to come face to face with an active volcano — especially the type that routinely destroys villages — you can do it in Cape Verde. All you need to do is take a ferry from Praia or Brava to Fogo and ensure there’s no lava coming down the side, and you’ll be on your way.
You can experience some of the best kite surfing in the world
Wind, wind, and more wind. Being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean does have its advantages and one of the most popular activities for travelers coming to Cape Verde is kite surfing. There are even kite surfing schools located on the islands — most people head to Sal or Boa Vista. The best time of the year to go is between March and October, when winds are almost constant. However, anytime of year should get you strong enough winds to go out for a day.
You can dine on excellent seafood
As we mentioned, being in the middle of the Atlantic has its advantages, and that includes all of the excellent seafood. Some of the specialties in the area include extremely fresh tuna and lobster (they’re right offshore). The restaurants on the islands often specialize in seafood as well, and you’ll find often find it cooked in Portuguese, Creole and French styles. If you know anything about seafood, then you know those cultures know a thing or two about cooking seafood.
You can go back in time and see old architecture
Cape Verde is full of interesting architecture including structures from the 16th and 17th centuries due to it being the first European colonial outpost in the tropics. The main attraction for most people is the Fortaleza Real de San Felipe in Cidade Vehla, a giant old Portuguese fort complete with canons. Other attractions to discover include the ruins of the 16th century Se Catedral and the Convento de Sao Francisco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can catch some excellent waves, dude
Cape Verde’s island location makes it perfect for catching nice waves on any of its numerous islands. While good ol’ fashioned surfing takes a back seat to kite surfing on the island, there are plenty of spots to do it. The best time to go is between November and March, which is convenient for those coming from North America and Europe to escape the winter. You can even go on a surfing safari and live out your Beach Boys fantasies.
You can dive in crystal clear water
Diving anywhere in Cape Verde is sure to be fantastic, and you can see plenty of coral and a variety of fish in the area. You can also expect to see sea turtles, as Boa Vista is one of the largest nesting places for loggerhead turtles on the planet. There are at least a dozen places around the islands that are popular with divers. And if regular diving isn’t enough for you, go cave diving at Olho Azul Buracon, where sunlight creates an incredible blue effect as it shines through the water. For more fantastic locales, see our article: The Best Places For Diving In Cape Verde.
You can take a journey to the mountains
As with any place primarily formed by volcanic activity, you can expect there will be some scenic vistas. The mountains on the islands go way beyond Fogo, and you can find a great place for a trek at almost any turn. You’ll notice houses built on the sides of the mountains and will probably run into locals walking along the roads or paths, too. The islands aren’t very large, so you can explore most of them in a day if you rent a car and have the time.
You can go on a bird watching tour
Bird watchers heading to Cape Verde are in luck, as there are several endemic species native only to the country. Some of the birds that you’ll only find on the island include the Cape Verde warbler and the Iago sparrow. In total, over 160 bird species call the country home.
You can soak up the culture in Praia
While most of the tourist resorts are located in Sal or Boa Vista, it’s the island of Santiago and the town of Praia that have the lion’s share of the local culture. The old town has great houses from the colonial era, and sitting at a cafe and people watching is a great way to pass the day. Be sure to explore the narrow streets of Mercado de Sucupira where you can find the best deals on local clothing and trinkets.
You can forget all the above and just lounge on the beach
There’s plenty to do on a vacation to Cape Verde, but many people want to come just to soak up the sunshine — and that’s OK! After you’ve thoroughly explored the islands, make sure you get some beach time with a cold drink in hand. There’s also plenty of beach resorts where you can just make your way from your room to the white, soft sand everyday if that’s what suits your fancy.
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This article was originally published on October 5, 2015.