It's our 40th Birthday! Take a look at our birthday offers page here

Walking through captivating Cape Verde – in pictures

Just back from walking in Cape Verde, Alison takes us through its intoxicating highlights, from its welcoming people and delicious local produce to ... Read more
Walking through captivating Cape Verde – in pictures
Just back from walking in Cape Verde, Alison takes us through its intoxicating highlights, from its welcoming people and delicious local produce to the dizzy heights of its volcanic peaks.

When you tell people you are off walking in Cape Verde many look at you like you are a bit crazy, as there is a preconception of Cape Verde being resort hotels and sun-kissed sandy beaches...this could not be further from the truth. The islands that we visited and walked on - mainly Fogo and Santo Antao are rugged, rocky, volcanic, with steep valleys. Life is simple and it’s barely touched by tourism. This was an amazing experience – here are just a few snapshots from my time there to show you why.

For the best part of two weeks in Cape Verde we saw only two other British tourists, who we met in the bar pictured (there was a surprising amount of wall art everywhere and I loved it). They were on a three day trip to Sao Antao Island from the package resort island of Sal. During the rest of the duration of our holiday we met 2 or 3 parties of French walkers each day, at the most.

The one exception was on the ascent of Pico Fogo (2829m) where we probably had maybe 20 other walkers in the mountain with us. It was lovely to meet so few people from the outside world and really feel like you had walked into somewhere unique and special. We started here, with the volcanic crater pictured above at a newly built homestay (because everything was flattened by the 2014 lava flow).

Laticia who runs this accommodation is delightful and this is where we first sampled some of the fresh home cooked food that we would become accustomed to over the next 13 days. All produce was super fresh and was probably pulled out of the ground that morning.

When we walked on Sao Antao Island we passed fields of everything that we ate at meal times which included sweet potato, carrot, beans, cabbage, salad, bread fruit trees – and yam and bananas, both seen in the picture above.

We had fruit salad or fresh papaya (I suspect it'll be all about mango in the right season as the valleys are covered in mango trees), and another favourite dessert was crème caramel and sometimes the creamiest passion fruit ice cream...delicious. The Fogo red and white wine was also of excellent quality, made from the volcanic ash vines pictured.

Although the wine was a lovely surprise, Cape Verde is actually known for its rum, and we had plenty of opportunities to stop and try. It’s strong, drunk neat, and even comes in a variety of different flavours, pictured.

Due to the propensity of sugar cane on the isle, seen on the left side of the path here, rum is found everywhere.

Outside one distillery, we caught a little behind-the-scenes maintenance happening, where two workers were fixing one of the giant sugar pans used to refine raw cane juice into syrup to ferment. When I went, rum stores were depleted and the harvest was just around the corner, so they were getting their gear ready to go.

As for the walking in Cape Verde, the summit views were splendid. An immense amount of blue sea and the islands of Santiago and Brava in the distance. The scree run on the descent is the best and most fun way to come down, even the scree novices in our group got quickly into the hang of it!

A couple of flights, walks, homestays, excellent authentic meals, wine and beers later, we were on Santo Antao Island in the northwest of the archipelago. This is a true walker’s paradise.

The majority of the village communities still live in mountains with their livelihoods relying on their small holding agriculture. Most of these communities do not have roads to them as the terrain of steep sided rocky slopes does not lend itself easily to roads.

The trails are well maintained and many of them are cobbled for longevity, making it easier for the donkeys to carry up supplies to the villages. We were in awe of some of them, such as the winding road spilling down from the mountain to the floor of the valley seen here.

As tourism is in its infancy here the accommodation is often simple. Lots are actually homestays, although some rooms still have en suite facilities. In some, hot water is available on certain nights only. It’s rustic, but it’s all part of the experience and we felt the better for it.

Wifi is not prolific, and only really available in a couple of places, so we had to chat to each other like the good old days! Currently the best flight option is via Lisbon. But this is part of the beauty of the destination. No resort hotels, no direct flights, very few tourists, like wifi, super hosts, well prepared wholesome food (lots of it), winter sunshine and just splendid walking.

Only a couple of days did we get a packed lunch and on the other days we stopped in various ladies houses for a cooked lunch: Fatima (who you can see here), Philomena, Lizzy, to name just a few. All these ladies are paid in cash by the guide as we leave. This is perfect to ensure that as tourists here we’re contributing to a sustainable system, and the money is going directly to the people. It's also a great way to understand the people and the culture of these hard working folk.

Our guide, Odair, was from the islands too. He really made the trip. He’s been working as a guide for 6 years and really knows his stuff. Obviously, as Cape Verde is a small archipelago, opportunities are limited and people come and go, so guiding is a great way for people to stay on the island if they want to. He was so friendly – not just with us, but with everyone along the way. He was greeted as an old friend everywhere we went, which meant we were welcomed too.

The lack of tourists was probably the most astonishing for me, but the rugged beauty of the islands and the walking is what makes this a perfect destination for some winter sun and using those muscles on the steep ascents and descents. I would recommend all walkers to come here before other tourists do.

You can learn about all our walking holidays int he Cape Verde by clicking here.

Footer logos
Your Wishlist
No Wishlist Items

Start your next adventure.

Click the heart icon on the search or holiday pages to save a holiday to your wishlist.

Holiday Search