Comparing the lesser known Cape Verde islands

Updated on Jun 04, 2020 by Clarabel Jones

Blog > Comparing the lesser known Cape Verde islands

There's so much more to Cape Verde than its two most popular islands. Here, we take a look at the lesser known Cape Verde islands: Santiago, Fogo, São Vicente, Santo Antão and São Nicolau.

When you first think of Cape Verde, it's quite likely you're thinking of the powdery white-sand beaches of Sal and Boa Vista, the archipelago's two most popular and well-known islands.

What many holidaymakers may not know is that the lesser known islands of Cape Verde have plenty to offer too. Sitting to the west of Sal and Boa Vista, the islands of Santiago, Fogo, São Vicente, Santo Antão and São Nicolau all boast staggering diversity, with lush, emerald mountains and looming volcanoes being key features on some, and vibrant festivals bursting with culture taking place on another.

At Cape Verde Experience, we offer the opportunity to explore these lesser known holiday destinations with our exciting island hopping tours - a great way to discover the many faces of Cape Verde.

Intrigued? Read on to discover which of the 'other islands' might be the best Cape Verde island for your next holiday.



The largest of the Cape Verde islands, and also the greenest, Santiago is home to the country's capital, Praia, making it the main hub for inter-island transport across the archipelago.

Here, green valleys and plush plantations nudge shoulders with rugged mountains and bustling towns, making it one of the most beautiful islands in the whole of Cape Verde.


Things to do in Santiago

1. Set off on a guided hike. Walk amongst dense mango and coconut trees, take a dip in a spectacular waterfall and explore the craggy mountains of the island’s interior. You can also trek to the largest and most spectacular tree in Cape Verde, thought to be around 800 years old.

2. Visit Cape Verde's old capital, Cidade Velha. The first city to be built by Europeans in West Africa, it's a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site today, having once acted as the main slave trading point between Africa, Europe and America.

3.  Explore Praia, Cape Verde's capital. One of the liveliest cities in the archipelago, Praia is home to colourful African markets, beautiful colonial buildings and a vibrant nightlife scene. 

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View of Cidade Velha from the city's fort




Located in the south-west of the archipelago, Fogo is best known for its 2,829 metre-high volcano, Pico do Fogo, which dominates the island's landscape.

Beyond the volcano however, there's plenty in the way of tasty local coffee and wine - perfect for any keen foodie.


Things to do in Fogo

1. Climb Pico do Fogo. No trip to Fogo would be complete without conquering this active volcano, where you'll be rewarded with a view of the Chã das Caldeiras.

2. Take a tour around Salinas. The northern area of the island is home to a natural lava harbour, a black sandy beach and a number of coffee plantations. You can also stop off at the island’s oldest church, the São Lourenco Church, dating back to the 16th century.

3. Sample some local wine. Fogo is known for its fine local wine, thanks to the extremely fertile volcanic soil that's found inside the crater.

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Pico do Fogo | Sabine Hortebusch | Shutterstock



São Vicente

Cape Verde's vibrant cultural capital, São Vicente's capital city of Mindelo is home to the famed annual Carnival - an explosion of colour, music and culture that takes place each February.

Elsewhere on the island, green valleys and plush plantations meet rugged mountains and bustling African towns, offering the chance to soak up the very best of Cape Verde's culture.


Things to do in São Vicente

1. Carnival, of course! At Cape Verde Experience, we sell a highly popular Carnival package, a 4-night add on to your main holiday in Sal that showcases the festival's vibrant and exciting celebrations.

2. Journey up Monte Verde. The island's highest peak offers 360 degree panoramas that will truly take your breath away.

3. Relax on the beach. São Vicente is a wonderful choice for a beach holiday, and Laginha Beach in Mindelo is one of the best. Views of Santo Antão are met with turquoise waters and bright white sand. There's also a fantastic beach bar, Kalimba.

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View from Monte Verde



Santo Antão

Santo Antão couldn't be further away from the glistening beaches of Sal and Boa Vista.

Easily accessible from São Vicente, this is an island where towering green peaks and craters meet cliff-hanging towns, offering visitors a new adventure at every turn.

Relatively untouched by tourism, Santo Antão is the place to go for spectacular hiking and sightseeing opportunities; picture breathtaking panoramas and deep ribeiras (riversides) set against a bright blue sky. 


Things to do in Santo Antão

1. Embark on a guided trek. Ranging from four hours upward, explore the rugged mountains, precarious cliff-hanging towns and rocky sculptures of Santo Antão.

2. Visit the Vale do Paúl. This spectacular lush valley opens into the sea at the village of Vila das Pombas and is full of banana, mango and papaya trees.

3. Visit the cliff-hugging village of Fontainhas. Set 2km south-west from Ponta do Sol, this tiny, picturesque village is perched on a rock above a deep ribeira. A sheer drop sits behind the houses of several hundred metres!

Discover hotels in Santo Antão >>
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São Nicolau

An island in its infancy as far as tourism is concerned, São Nicolau is stunning and completely unspoilt. While first impressions may be of a barren island, the island actually boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the archipelago.

It’s São Nicolau's tranquil atmosphere that make it so special, offering adventure in the shape of mountain walks or horse riding trails.


Things to do in São Nicolau

1. Visit the island’s capital, Ribeira Brava. A colourful colonial town home, Ribeira Brava was built inland in the 1600s to protect it from pirates. Wander its narrow, winding streets, admiring striking architecture, before walking through its beautiful gardens.

2. Admire Carbeirinho cliff. This beautiful and otherworldly limestone rock formation, carved by the wind sea over many centuries, looks like something you'd find on the moon, but actually sits on the coast.

3. Hike Monte Gordo To the west of the island sits Monte Gordo, a magnificent mountain rising 1,312 metres. Pine forests cover the hillsides, and while village houses cluster around the mountain’s base. The area is important because of its rich biodiversity and is now recognised as a national park.

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Monte Gordo National Park


Which island do you like the look of the most?

Let us know in the comments below! Remember, you can visit all of these islands on our tailor-made island hopping tours. Whether you want to spend time on just two islands, embark on a beach hopping adventure, or explore each of the seven islands in our programme, we can craft a holiday that suits you.


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