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What to see and do in Cape Verde – a guide to popular activities and attractions

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From marine adventures to vineyards and volcanoes, the islands of Cape Verde offer a diverse range of activities whether you want to relax and sightsee, or explore its underwater treasures. A multitude of dive sites exist in the sparkling offshore ocean, while inland you get a chance to explore colorful colonial towns, float in shimmering salt pans, or climb the country’s most active volcano.

Sean Coleman

My Destination local expert on

Cape Verde

Although most visitors to Cape Verde are attracted to the platinum blonde sands of Sal and Boa Vista, the destination can provide so much more than a deserted beach paradise. The island of Fogo is home to a delicious variety of local produce – including cheese, coffee, and a rather potent wine – and a wealth of historical finds lie dormant on Santiago, in the ghostly colonial settlement of Cidade Velha.

 

Kwarcit wreck

 

Cape Verde is a diver’s paradise, and this sunken ship is only one of many areas teeming with vibrant fish and other marine life. Whether or not you’ve dived before, an ocean adventure on this scale is available to anyone who visits Cape Verde. Far more exciting than a coral reef, this Russian trawler settled into its underwater grave back in 2006, and has now become an artificial reef boasting a huge variety of sea life. Spot jack fish, stingrays and nurse sharks here, and you can even venture inside the ship itself.

 

Pedra de Lume salt pans

 

If you’ve ever wanted to experience the buoyancy of incredibly salty waters like the Dead Sea, then this Cape Verde attraction is for you. A 4x4 tour on the island of Sal takes you to the Pedra de Lume salt pans, where you can tilt back and float in water up to 40 times saltier than the sea. It’s very relaxing! The same tour will take you past the mirage of Terra Boa and to Olho Magical, a ‘magic eye’ peeping from a watery turquoise cave.

 

Pico do Fogo

 

An active volcano encompassing almost the whole island of Fogo, this peak is the highest point of Cape Verde. Visitors can stroll around the colorful and attractive town of Sao Filipe, located only a few kilometers from the airport and boasting colonial-style buildings in a range of pastel shades. But the real attraction on Fogo is the volcano itself, accessible by careful ascent to Cha Das Caldeiras, the main crater. Here you are able to meet the brave population of Cha, explore the eerie volcanic landscape, and discover the old lava flows of 1951.

 

Whale-watching and turtle-spotting

 

The islands of Cape Verde are a haven for many incredible marine creatures, including the humpback whale and loggerhead turtle. The shallow waters surrounding Boa Vista provide the perfect seasonal retreat for the whales, and these mighty beasts can be spotted leaping and splashing in the months of March and April. Boa Vista is also one of the most important turtle breeding sites in the world, with these mosaic-shelled creatures visible on the island’s beaches from May to September. Turtle walks are also available on the neighboring island of Sal.

 

Cidade Velha

 

A perfectly preserved 15th century town, Cidade Velha on Santiago is a must-visit for anyone wanting to delve into Cape Verde’s occasionally tumultuous past. This haunting UNESCO World Heritage Site was Europe’s first colonial outpost in the tropics, and therefore bears the scars of the archipelago’s struggle for independence. Exploring the ancient streets evokes a wondrous appreciation of the country’s strong spirit and dark history, and you can also visit the ruins of the oldest colonial church in the world.