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Cape Verde travel guide

About Cape Verde

The islands of Cape Verde are a bewitching blend of Portuguese and African influences. You'll see it in the many European-style buildings and the curious musical styles, but its particularly noticeable in the food. Portuguese fare – especially seafood dishes laden with garlic and olive oil – and more African-style fare – such as stews, beans, maize and tropical crops – comfortably combined on most menus.

Many associate Cape Verde with the mournful songs of Cesaria Evoria, the islands' best known singer. The ‘barefoot diva' is the best exponent of morna, a lovelorn type of folk music similar to Portuguese fado. Music is a key component of life on Cape Verde, and several of the islands stage exuberant carnivals, with the best known being the Baia das Gatas Festival. São Vicente is also renowned for its exuberant festivities.

Once a colony and slave trade outpost, Cape Verde varies wildly in character and scenery through its 10 islands and five tiny islets. From spectacular verdant mountain ranges, to deserted beaches, with a few volcanic landscapes thrown in for good measure, it's the variety that makes Cape Verde such an unusual and appealing destination.

There’s lush and lively Santiago, the biggest of the islands, which boasts verdant hillsides, jungle and plenty of remarkable wildlife. It’s also the cultural heart of Cape Verde, home to the UNESCO-listed old fort at Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiagog (previously called Cidade Velha).

Near Santiago, divers will discover 16th century shipwrecks littering the sea floor. Blue marlin, yellowfin tuna and the odd humpback whale can be seen in the clear blue waters off Boa Vista. The island of Sal is popular for watersports and white sandy beaches, while Fogo is a hiker’s paradise, where volcanic peaks tower 2,829m (9,821 ft) above sea-level.

Cape Verde may have struggled economically since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, but many argue that it's isolation is a blessing, leaving these islands comparatively unspoiled. The economy is currently stable and investing in modernized infrastructure, service, commerce, foreign investment and tourism. Get there before the crowds inevitably catch on.

Key facts

Area:

4,033 sq km (1,557 sq miles).

Population:

558,071 (UN estimate 2019).

Population density:

135.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Praia.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca since 2011.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva since 2016.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

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