Cape Verde Islands - Rising Star
With all year round sunshine, the Cape Verde island make a great summer or winter holiday destination
By Jo Cooke on 03 July 2010 in Travel Articles
They’ve been hailed as a tourist Mecca, a paradise of sun, sea and sand in the Atlantic - but with an Afro-European twist.
Their spectacular beaches have been compared favourably with those in the Caribbean. Some say they are the new Canaries - or at least the Canaries as they were ‘unspoilt’ in the 1960s.
Over the last decade though investors bought up land to erect holiday homes, and there are still some unfinished homes the blight the otherwise gorgeious landscape.
With all the hype you could be forgiven for thinking the Cape Verde Islands - an archipelago of 10 islands and five islets, 1000 miles south of the Canary Islands and just off the west coast of Africa – had suddenly erupted from the sea providing travel junkies with a welcome alternative to the well-trodden trails around the world.
A Portuguese colony until 1975 the Italians, Portuguese and Germans have long discovered the islands’ potential as a holiday destination – and investment opportunity.
On the Island of Sal there is even a walled settlement known locally as ‘The German Village’. Certainly on the islands of Sal and neighbouring Boa Vista the beaches rival those in the Caribbean. As you step onto the golden sand your feet are caressed by its fluffy-softness and met by luscious, luke-warm, turquoise waters.
This is where the best water sports are and ideal for learning how to wndsur of kite surf. Divers often set off from here to see shipwrecks or take the yellow submarine at Sal - the Neptune - to see underwater views of two 20th century wrecks and a sunken statue of Christ.
Until 2nd November 2006, to get to Cape Verde from Britain you had to fly to Lisbon, and then wait around five hours for a connecting flight. Now Thomson offer direct flights and the entire journey takes only six hours. Plus with only a two-hour time difference there’s no jet lag.
The Cape Verde islands offer year-round sunshine making them the perfect escape for work-weary, sun-deprived Brits. If you want more than sun, sea and sand, though, book an island-hoping package with a specialist tour operator – it’s so much easier than organising domestic transportation independently.
At the island of Sal you can unwind on the beach for a few days and float in the pools of the island’s salt pans. From there it is just short flight to the island of Sao Vincente which is far less touristy.
The capital Mindelo is a faded colonial treasure with cosmopolitan nightlife – which doesn’t really start to liven up until 3am on week nights, later at the weekend.
The Creole culture is very evident in Cape Verde, one of the world's first mixed race society. The Creole now amount to 70 per cent of the population. Portuguese is the offical language and is the written language, but Creole is generally spoken.
Away from town watch, fisherman land their catch at the beach of San Pedro; take a dip with the locals at Crocodile Bay - where lava flows have formed (crocodile-free) rock pools and then end your day with a bird’s eye view of the island at sunset from the peak of Monte Verde.
Walkers should venture on by ferry to Santo Antao to hike the lush hillsides that hide steep river valleys called ribeiras. On arrival you’ll think you’ve come to the wrong place as a dusty, barren landscape greets, however as a rickety pick-up transports you across the mountain peaks from south to north the vegetation resembles a hypnotic botanical garden. Guides will then lead you down the hillsides on ancient paths through sleepy rural villages where shy, curious children pose happily for photographs.
So, are there any negatives to taking a break in Cape Verde? Well, the food is plain and basic and away from the resorts the towns are a little rough around the edges - an unwelcome reality check for those holiday makers who would prefer not to see the locals living in makeshift shacks without mains electricity or running water.
If managed properly tourism could really help to raise the standard of living here. I feel enormously hopeful that this will happen. The Cape Verdeans appear to have a tremendous sense of community and the government a keen sense of responsibility to their people and landscape.
Playa Areja de Chaves , Boa Vista Island
Packages to Cape Verde start from £645 (per person, 7 nights all-inclusive) are available with Thomson Holidays
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