Pico de Fogo is the highest peak in Cape Verde and an active volcano. Rising almost 10,000ft into the air, its jet-black slopes look most imposing framed against a bright-blue sky – so pray for a clear day. Your prayers will probably be answered, as Cape Verde enjoys year-round sunshine. The best view is snapped from the Island of Fogo tour, which will drop you at the right spot. While this means you’re keeping a safe distance – though rest assured the only deadly eruption on record happened in 1847 – spare a thought for the small village living inside the volcano’s crater. No, really. Chã das Caldeiras is a 1,000-strong community that survives by growing wine grapes in the caldera. There are coffee plantations along Pico de Fogo’s slopes, too.
Yeah, yeah, Cape Verde is paradise – sweeping white sands, neon-blue sea, etc, etc. But while everyone else is busy snapping ‘standard’ beach pictures, you can snag a more artsy image on Boa Vista island’s Praia de Atalanta beach, where there’s a hulking great shipwreck. The rusting remains of M/S Cabo Santa Maria, a huge Spanish cargo ship that ran aground here in the sixties, are a striking contrast against this deserted beach’s picture-perfect good looks. You’ll need to take the Santa Maria Shipwreck tour to get there, as the beach is so isolated. It’s a ghostly, but strangely beautiful shot. (Note many people refer to Praia de Atalanta beach as Santa Maria beach, after the wreck.)
The island of Sal – Portuguese for ‘salt’ – is so called for its expansive salt plains, which, simply put, are deserts of salt. The town of Pedra Lume was a hub for the island’s salt miners back in colonial times, thanks to its massive salt crater (which was left over from an extinct volcano) - it’s scattered with pools of warm, salty water. Today, visitors can take a dip in this ‘salt sea’, where the density of the salt water means you’ll float without even trying – it’s almost impossible to sink (or even swim – movement here is mostly limited to ‘bobbing’). Naturally, the photo opportunities are amazing. Give someone else a turn behind the camera so you can be the one pictured floating.
So you’ve ticked off beach, mountain, sea – what’s left? Glad you asked, because we’ve got yet another type of scenery lined up. How about a spot of desert? Heading back to Boa Vista island, we find Cape Verde’s very own answer to the Sahara. Except this one is only a kilometre wide and five kilometres long – far more convenient. The Viana Desert is an otherworld of towering dunes, with sand so pure it’s almost white. The sand gets blown over here on ocean winds from mainland Africa, creating the alien landscape. Come at sunset for the most dramatic pictures, as the sinking sun throws a kaleidoscope of colours across the dunes. Or join a quad bike safari to take some action shots. Or just play Star Wars. Your choice.
Now you’ve snapped some of Cape Verde’s most isolated spots, it’s time to see a bit of life. Santa Maria fishing village is Sal island’s ‘busiest’ corner, though it’s still a pretty sleepy outpost, offering a smattering of snack shacks and ramshackle bars – and even pubs serving steak and ale pies. The local houses are all painted in jolly, vivid colours, lifting the spirits before you’ve even ordered your first Caipirinha - the island’s signature drink. Make sure to frame an arty pic of these rainbow-hued houses before you leave – the brighter, the better.
Time for another drastically different landscape? You got it. On São Nicolau island, Cape Verde – which means ‘green cape’ – finally lives up to the name. The island’s mountainous terrain is covered in a thick carpet of green, making an epic setting for hiking and horse riding, not to mention some stunning photography. São Nicolau’s volcanic black sand beaches also set this island apart from Cape Verde’s typical golds and blues. The black sand makes a brilliant backdrop to the colourfully painted fishing boats often parked up on the shoreline, so make sure you capture those, too.
We’re not talking random snaps of people windsurfing gentle waves. We’re talking action shots of pro windsurfers flying acrobatically through the air as they skim the next four-metre-high roller. Ponta Preta beach, Sal’s most idyllic sunbathing spot, overlooks lagoon-blue sea. And while this gorgeous water has its gentle days, it’s best known for whipping up massive waves – habitually reaching heights of between three and four metres. The conditions here are perfect for windsurfing, which is why the Professional Windsurfing Association’s World Tour often rocks up to the beach. But even when the contest isn’t in town, pro windsurfers from all over the world flock to Ponta Preta to take on the swell. Pack a picnic with your camera and while away an afternoon snapping them somersaulting and performing tricks.
Take a look at our Cape Verde holidays.
Author: Laura Chubb
Melia Dunas Resort on the island of Sal, is a huge, glass-fronted hotel right on the beach. Facilities include adults-only rooms, six restaurants and a thirst-quenching 14 bars.
On Boa Vista island – which means ‘beautiful view’- Hotel Riu Touareg has five pools, a luxury spa and an adults-only area. Think of it as paradise found.
With a children's splash park, Sol Dunas Resort on Sal island is a good option for kids, and there's a spa so parents can relax, too. The hotel is just a two-minute walk from the beach.
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