São Vicente is one of the most westerly of the Cape Verde islands. Not only does it possess lovely beaches, but there are also green hills in São Vicente. The capital of the island is Mindelo, which is a mecca for artists, musicians and poets. The island also holds several festivals throughout the year, including the famous Baía das Gatas (Bay of Cats) Music Festival and one of the few African Gay Pride celebrations. This island has something for everyone and the harbour in Mindelo makes a great place for yachting.
Cape Verde has become a popular holiday destination in recent years. The majority of visitors by far travel to the islands of Sal and Boa Vista, mainly because of the beautiful beaches. The beauty of Cape Verde as a tourist destination lies in the fact that all the islands have something special to offer, including their diversity.
The city of Mindelo is located on the island of São Vicente, and is known as ‘the cultural capital’ of Cape Verde. About 90% of the island’s population lives in what is the second largest city of the country, after the capital Praia. Here are 5 reasons why you should travel to Mindelo:
The Biggest & Best Events of the Country
Mindelo is very proud of it’s status as the cultural capital of Cape Verde. The city has earned this status because of the many events that it hosts all year long. Mindelo hosts the biggest Carnival celebration in the country, and also the biggest music festival.
The 2018 Carnival celebration will be on the 13th of February, when the 4 official Carnival groups of the island battle for the title of ‘Carnival Champion’. The official kick-off will be on the Friday night with a big music truck parading down the streets of Mindelo. Thousands of people join in over a few days of fun and dancing.
Baía das Gatas:
This music festival, organised in the village of Baía, has been around for more than 30 years. Usually held on the second weekend of August, from Friday to Sunday, with international and local artists performing for a huge crowd.
New Year’s Eve:
The celebration of New Year in Mindelo happens in two famous places in the city centre: main street Rua de Lisboa, and on the boulevard along the Avenida Marginal. People gather to watch the fireworks down at the boulevard. A small group also honours the tradition of going into the water at midnight. Rua de Lisboa is where the party continues until the early morning, with big international artists performing for a huge crowd.
Mindelo also hosts an annual Gay Pride event, which is one of the very few in Africa. This is a relatively new development, but to be welcomed. Cape Verde is following Europe and leading the way in Africa on matters of equality and human rights.
The beaches might not be the no.1 reason why people travel to the island of São Vicente, but it has a few lovely beaches that deserve a visit. Laginha Beach is located just a few minutes outside Mindelo’s city centre. It’s a lovely beach with an amazing view of the iconic Monte Cara (Face Mountain) and the island of Santo Antão. The beach has a brand new beach lounge, where you can hang out all day long.
The villages outside the city have great beaches as well. The beaches of Salamansa and São Pedro (close to the airport) for example, which are known for the watersports activities like kitesurfing. In addition to Laginha and the beaches of the villages, São Vicente also has a few ‘secret’ beaches, such as Jon D’Ebra and Palha Carga.
Mindelo is not only popular for the bigger events that it hosts. It is also well known for the many bars and restaurants. The Mindelenses (people from Mindelo) love going out, and have many options. A lot of places in the city have nights with live music, especially at the weekends. Visitors travel to Mindelo to hear the music that Cesária Évora, ‘the Queen of Cape Verde’, brought to the rest of the world.
The bars and restaurants offer a nice mix of traditional music, such as morna and coladeira, and other more international sounds like reggae. Eating Out in Mindelo gives the visitor a lot of choice, because there are many good restaurants. The choice includes Italian, French, European, Greek, Cajun and Creole. Dancing the night away in clubs Caravela or Syrius is an option from Thursdays to Saturdays, where DJ’s play all types of music all night long.
The Bay of Porto Grande
The bay of Porto Grande has often been named one of the world’s most beautiful bays. Mindelo is a harbour city, and it’s harbour is one of the most important in this part of the Atlantic. The island of São Vicente was actually the last of the Cape Verdean islands to be permanently populated. This only happened after an English coal factory was opened in the harbour of Porto Grande.
Much has happened since then, but the bay is as beautiful as it’s always been. Picture the sun shining on the ocean, the many fishing boats on the shore and in the water, the view of the famous Monte Cara (Face Mountain) across the bay. One of the perfect places to see the sunset is along Avenida Marginal, close to the Fish Market, on what the locals call ‘Boat Beach’.
Mindelo is a city of creatives, artists and musicians. The Street Art scene is not a very big one, but that is starting to change. In a neighbourhood called Ribeira Bote a team of residents are using the power of Street Art to create new opportunities. This is a part of the city that used to made headlines for negative reasons. It is now an example that other initiatives look at to get the same results.
Together with a Community Tourism Project in the neighbourhood, Sonvela Arte is transforming one of Cape Verde’s most notorious places, and it’s getting ready to do much more. The team is planning projects on other islands, and is working on the first ever Cape Verde Street Art Festival. This should take place towards the end of the year.
There are some festivals coming up during August and September. These include the Festival de Música de Calheta, 12 – 13 August in Calheta, Santiago; City festival (sport and culture), 21 August to 8 September in Vila do Maio, Maio; the famous Baia das Gatas Festival of Music, 11 – 13 August in Baía das Gatas, São Vicente and The Sal Music festival in September in Santa Maria. Enjoy the music that is such an important part of Cape Verdean life.