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.
Since 1986 the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) has been held in November. The event starts from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands and heads over the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Boats from all over the world come together for this event.
There are three routes for the sailors to chose from. One of those is via Mindelo on the island of São Vicente in Cape Verde. The boats stay in Mindelo for between three and five days before setting off for Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. This picture shows some of the boats at Mindelo.
Another route is similarly from Las Palmas to Mindelo then over to St. Vincent rather than Saint Lucia. The third route is direct to Saint Lucia from Las Palmas.
Organised by The World Cruising Club, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is open to all, including couples, families, racers, and large or small boats. It is not just a race across the Atlantic, because it is also a social event where friendships are made before the race commences and during the race by keeping in touch by radio. On arrival in Saint Lucia crews are met with a rum punch and a cold beer.
Mindelo is the main town on the island of São Vicente, and it is a tourist and cultural centre, with a lively atmosphere. It was discovered in 1462, but only really became developed in the 19th Century. The deep harbour meant that it became a refuelling stop for shipping. The restored buildings and refurbished squares are indicative of this being a prosperous town. There are many restaurants and also a cultural centre, and arts and crafts workshops and exhibitions. Mindelo is also home to the only marina in West Africa.
A tender will be launched shortly for the construction of a new Mindelo cruise terminal. Mindelo is on the island of São Vicente, which is in the west of Cape Verde. It is hoped that the work will commence in 2019 and a budget of €30m has been identified for the project. Jorge Mauricio, the chairman of Enapor – Portos de Cabo Verde made this announcement recently.
It is anticipated that this will help Cape Verde to improve its service cruise ships and passengers. At present those that call into Cape Verde tend to be the smaller ships. Furthermore, the existing facilities are rather basic, so cruise passengers will have a more pleasant experience in future.
São Vicente is to be home to the first commercial wave power project in Cape Verde. SINN Power, a German company is to partner with a local company Fazenda de Camarão to prepare a feasibility study. The plan is to create an organic prawn farm, which will then be supplied with energy from the waves.
The seas around Cape Verde are a good choice to harvest the power of the sea to generate electricity. The country has set an ambitious target to be be 100% reliant on renewables by 2025. This latest proposal will surely help Cape Verde to reach this target. The use of this in conjunction with a sustainable prawn farm has the benefit of not only providing renewable energy, but also boosting food production.
Cape Verde has an abundance of lovely beaches. Some are white sand and some are black from the volcanic action in the past. This picture was taken on the island of São Vicente. Cape Verde beaches are often deserted, except on the more touristy islands.
We are now in the carnival season. Cape Verdeans know how to celebrate and there is fun to be had. In Mindelo on São Vicente the main Carnival celebration will be on the 13th of February, but the festivities will have commenced last night (Friday). It is worth visiting and joining in the party. Celebrations also take place on other islands in Cape Verde.
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.
Praia Grande (‘Large Beach’ in Portuguese) is on the northeast coast of the island of São Vicente. In the distance is Monte Verde, which is the tallest mountain on the island, reaching a height of 750m. Monte Verde is part of a national park. Of the 93 listed species of flora in the national park, 17 are on the São Vicente endangered list. From the top of the mountain, you can get great views of the whole island and also the islands of Santa Luzia and Santo Antão.
The Telegraph is the latest newspaper to feature Cape Verde in its Travel Destinations section. The article ’10 reasons why Cape Verde is the most underrated winter sun destination on Earth’ by Chris Leadbeater extols the virtues of visiting Cape Verde.
In his article Chris describes how Cape Verde is not a destination that comes to mind when considering a holiday, but he describes the 10 islands that make up Cape Verde as being ‘as beautiful as they are mysterious’.
So why is Cape Verde becoming a popular holiday destination and one that is being featured by the press? Here are just some of the reasons:
It is accessible from much of Europe
There are direct flights to the island of Sal from the UK, from airports such as Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester. There are also direct flights from Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester to the island of Boa Vista. Airlines that fly there include Thomas Cook and Tui (Thomson). Other islands are accessible via Lisbon with TAP airlines or via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc. Flights are also available from many European cities, such as Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Munich, etc.
The weather is good all year round
Flying for an extra 2 hours, people who traditionally have looked at the Canaries for their winter sun, can take advantage of the Cape Verde weather. There you can enjoy the lovely temperatures that rarely drop below 20C and average between 25C and 30 C in January. The sea around Cape Verde is also much warmer than in the Canary Islands.
There is a variety of accommodation
There is a great range of accommodation available from self-catering apartments and villas to guest houses and luxury all-inclusive hotels. Something to suit every tourist. Some links to accommodation on each of the islands are included below.
It has a unique musical tradition
Two types of traditional music can be heard in Cape Verde, morna which was made more famous by singer Cesária Évora and then there is Funaná. Along with their music, cape verdeans love to dance and visitors are more than welcome to join in.
It is a chance to experience Africa
Cape Verde is an African country and Santo Antão island is the continent’s most westerly point. Santo Antão is a mountainous island and roughly half the island is dry and arid, the other half lush and green. Coffee plantations are to be found on the sides of the mountains.
The volcanic landscape
The islands a volcanic and whilst most are inactive, the volcano on Fogo island erupted as recently as 2014. The peak on Fogo reaches 2,829 m above sea level. There is a community living in the crater and the wine is produced there and is certainly worth tasting.
Island hopping opportunities
Cape Verde comprises 10 islands and each has its own distinct character and landscape. The easterly islands of Boa Vista, Sal and Maio are flatter and contain areas of desert. The western islands such as Santo Antão, São Nicolau and Brava are rugged, mountainous and ideal for the more energetic hiker. A holiday in Cape Verde should take in at least a couple of islands.
Water sports galore
There are many opportunities to enjoy water sports, from swimming to kite surfing. The winter season is the windiest and provides excellent conditions for sailing, wind surfing and kite surfing. One beach on Sal island has been renamed Kite Beach, because of its popularity for kite surfing. In addition, there are opportunities to dive and experience the marine life, which is abundant in the waters around these islands.
For accommodation on each of the nine inhabited islands, see the following links:
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.