Cape Verde Africa

cpvrdThis may not be the world’s most popular tourist spot but the Cape Verde Islands are certainly worth visiting if you are the sort of person who enjoys getting off the beaten track.

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, 460 kilometres west of the African country of Senegal, the Cape Verde islands are volcanic in nature. There are ten main islands, and five smaller ones which are part of the Republic of Cape Verde.

Prior to the 15th century the islands were uninhabited. The islands were settled by the Portuguese and eventually became a colony, but because the soils were generally to poor for decent agricultural production Cape Verde only prospered during the days of the transatlantic slave trade during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Cape Verde achieved independence in 1973 and the first local national assembly was elected in 1975. Since then, the island nation has remained relatively unknown, but in recent years tourism has began to pick up as travellers search out new and remote places.

The main city is called Praia, which means “beach”, which is on Santiago Island. Its population numbers less than 130,000 and it is a reasonably hilly place, being built on a series of plateaus and valleys. It is a warm place which, surprisingly, gets little rainfall throughout the year. The oldest town on Santiago, and in Cape Verde, is Cidade Velha which is about 15 kilometres from Praia. Both Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus visited here, and the town has an interesting fort and the world’s oldest colonial church, which was built in 1495.

It its beaches you want then some of the most popular are on the islands of Sal, Boa Vista and Sao Vincente.

Sal, which was once called Flat Island, because that is an accurate description of its appearance. It had a major salt industry, but now the island attracts over 50% of visitors because of its great sandy beaches and excellent climate. It has a number of hotels, but visitors can also stay in pensiones and in private residences.

Boa Vista is also known as the `Island of Dunes’. As well as its many beaches, there are many smaller islets just offshore. Boavista is an ideal place to practice water sports such as windsurfing or diving. Other highlights of Boavista include the shipwreck of the Santa Maria, which ran aground on the windswept northern coast inn 1968, and the green valley of Ribeira Norte, an oasis on an otherwise desert island.

Sao Vicente is one of the Barlovento group of Islands. The main attraction is the city of Mindelo, which is considered the cultural capital of the islands. Baia das Gatas is a lagoon located on the north-west coast, which provides sheltered waters that are safe for bathing. The village, which is largely composed of holiday homes, plays host to an annual music festival at the beginning of August.

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