Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world may not know Cape Verde (or Cabo Verde). But here are a few facts: it’s off the coast of Senegal and is made up of ten islands and five islets. The archipelago was uninhabited until 1456 when Portuguese explorers settled there and colonized it. Later on, they brought slaves from West Africa to these islands. Today, less than a million people live in Cape Verde, and the country’s official language is Portuguese.
But this small West African country is the third largest nesting site for loggerhead turtles, has volcanic islands and sand dunes, provides perfect locations for water sports, and has a locality of generous and charitable people. Cape Verde is one of Africa’s most stable democracies and boasts a fascinating culture that you will be happy to explore. Plus, it’s the home country of the Grammy-winning morna icon Cesária Évora. No doubt, there’s a lot to see and do in Cape Verde. So, how about we explore five stunning places to visit on any of its islands?
Check out 5 exciting things to do in Cape Verde whenever you visit…
#1. Mingle with the locals
The locals will teach you a thing or two about kindness and hospitality. Caring and sharing for others is part of Cape Verdean life. For instance, the people here think it’s uncharitable to eat next to a stranger and not offer them part of your food. It is the norm here to buy food for others around you or to offer a portion at least. What a wonderful culture! So when you come to any of the islands, try sharing your snack or drinks with a local next to you. You’ll love the smiles, the gratitude, and the happiness that this simple gesture evokes.
#2. Enjoy Cape Verdean Morna
What is a visit to Cape Verde without soaking oneself in its national music, morna? Morna is taught in schools in Cape Verde and is played with a cavaquinho (known as the weeping guitar), viola, violin, piano, and a violão. There’s a large population of Cape Verdeans in the diaspora who miss home or family or country; their feelings of displacement and nostalgia are captured in morna.
There’s a word for that feeling in Cape Verde – Sodade. And there’s a song of the same name that every Cape Verdean loves. Originally a song of longing by a man for his girlfriend setting off on a long journey away from him, the tune now has different versions, the most popular of which is by the Grammy-winning Queen of Morna, Cesária Évora. A Cape Verdean nightlife spiced with live morna and creole music and dance promises to be fun; sit back in a bar or club and soak up all the moods that morna evokes.
#3. Relish the Cape Verdean goat and other dishes
It is said that the Portuguese who settled in the Cape Verdean islands brought goats along with them. The goats thrived and today, it is estimated that for every two people in Cape Verde, there is a goat.
Cape Verdeans eat goat meat and consume goat milk and cheese. Try some catchupa, a delicious dish of slow-cooked corn and beans, often with pork or chorizo. It’s a Cape Verdean staple, and the most famous of the islands’ dishes. When you’re at any of Cape Verde’s lovely beaches, make sure to try a fabulous lunch of seafood and fish freshly caught from the sea.
#4. Visit Boa Vista
Boa Vista is one of Cape Verde’s ten islands and is endowed with gorgeous beaches, volcanic mountains, and scenic sand dunes. The Viana Desert is a fascinating destination for lovers of quad bike safaris. Get on those fun bikes and ride over desert sand and enjoy the thrill and exhilaration. Or you can tread the sand with your feet. Stoop down and touch it. Take selfies. Photograph the wildly beautiful landscape; they will be priceless memories for life.
#5. Explore the beautiful island of Sal
The island of Sal has a lot of fabulous places, and it’s not hard to see why it attracts tourists. Places to visit include Blue Eye, Palmeira, Salt Mine, and the scenic streets of Santa Maria. A top destination is Buracona, better known as the Blue Eye. The Blue Eye is on the northwest coast of Sal, and is a big opening in a cave with seawater and shows a large beautiful “blue eye” when sunlight shines into the cave and its water. It’s a spectacular sight to behold. It is advisable to view the Blue Eye between 11 am and 1 pm to get the perfect blue color.
Also on the northwest of Sal is Palmeira, a fishing and harbor town. Palmeira has many restaurants and bars and is a favorite for divers who visit to explore the underwater reefs and caves off the coast. It’s got salt baths reported to be soothing to the body. Palmeira is also a good place to mingle with the locals, and it has a lively fishing community, many restaurants, and scenic architecture.
Also worth seeing while in Sal is the Salt Mine (or salt lake) located in Pedra de Lume. It is a large crater of an extinct volcano. Infiltrated by seawater, it became a salt lake, and subsequently a salt mine. Salt mining stopped in 1991, and the place is currently used as a tourist attraction. The salt lake is said to be so salty that you can float in it. A dip in the lake is also said to make people look younger. Any wonder why Sal has a charm for its visitors?
Featured image: @niquitanh/Instagram
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.