Situated just off the coast of western Africa lies Cape Verde, a fascinating archipelago of 10 islands, their craggy peaks rising dramatically out of the frothing, indigo-blue Atlantic. Just under six hours away from the UK, this collection of islands has recently become a popular spot for Brits to escape the chills of the colder months and soak up some much-needed winter sun.
The islands boast a year-round sunny climate with a rainy season which begins in July and lasts until the end of October (though some years it hardly rains at all). However, they are at their most verdant from September to January when the majestic mountains are dressed in greenery and present a wild yet scenic landscape that has captured the imagination of many a traveller.
A unique culture in its own right, the individual islands of Cape Verde also offer their own distinct personalities to match those of the visitors taking their pick. Santo Antão is one for the hikers with its rugged peaks and sweeping valleys whilst São Vincente and Sao Tiago are renowned for being the cultural hotspots the Cape. If you feel like a holiday isn’t a holiday without paradisal white sands than Boa Vista, Sal and Maio are the islands for you but wherever you choose to base yourself, you won’t fail to be charmed by the warm hospitality of the Creole people.
In Cape Verde, two very different cultures collide to form something particularly special. The people are part African and part Portuguese and you can see the influences of both cultures blending effortlessly throughout the region, from the delicious cuisine to the musical styles which provide a soundtrack to the Cape Verde experience.
Those looking for a unique gastronomical experience can sample dishes that smack of both Portuguese fare and African influences. Expect succulent seafood laced with garlic and olive oil, wholesome stews and dishes built around ingredients such as maize, beans and a whole host of tantalisingly tropical crops.
Travellers that would like to experience the varied musical styles of the islands in all their glory would do well to plan their visit around one of Cape Verde’s exuberant carnivals. The Baia das Gatas Festival is one of the most popular. During your stay you might expect to hear music tinged with the notes of Portugal, the rhythms of Brazil and the iconic beats of the Caribbean and Africa. However, you may also come across the rather more doleful tones of the islands’ famous singer, Cesaria Evoria. She sings a mournful type of folk tune similar to the traditional Portuguese music known as ‘fado’.
There is enough of a range of things to do in Cape Verde to cater to a variety of tastes. As well as seeking out traditional music - and even enjoying a turn or two on the dance-floor if you fancy testing out your samba or tango skills - culture vultures might wish to explore the Cidade Velha in Sao Tiago. This location is famed for being the first European settlement in the tropics and is a designated UNESCO Word Heritage site. Look out for Fortaleza Real de Sao Filipe, a majestic fort perched on the edge of a cliff.
Nature lovers will be delighted by the abundance of birdlife that call Cape Verde their home. Bring your binoculars and look out for warblers, swifts and sparrows as well as the rare African breeds that nest on the islands.
Those that enjoy staying active might enjoy one of the many treks the islands offer. Fogo offers a particularly scenic volcanic peak where those that reach the summit will be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views, while the windswept and constantly shifting sand dunes of Boa Vista offer trekkers a magically changeable landscape, dotted with exotic palm trees.
Of course, for some people, heading off on holiday means one thing and one thing alone - doing as little as is humanly possible. If relaxing on a beach and soaking up the sun, sea and sand sounds heavenly to you then rest assured, in Cape Verde you can take your pick of a beautiful bunch. Sal offers fine, milk-white crescents of sand whilst Sao Nicolau offers a unique coastline of black sand beaches - ideal for sitting back with a rum cocktail and watching those blissful sunsets.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip for some winter sun this year, don’t forget to book your travel insurance. Medical Travel Compared compares a variety of different insurance providers, including those that cover travellers with existing medical conditions, to help you secure the best deal for your holiday.