An archipelago of ten islands off the west coast of Africa, Cape Verde is a captivating country only just becoming recognized by travellers for its beauty. A meld of Portuguese and African influences make the culture of Cape Verde unique. Its volcanic origins can be seen in the mountainous landscapes of the islands and in the last remaining active volcano on the island of Fogo. However, each of the islands has its own personality and scenery. From the dramatic mountains of Santo Antão to the extensive beaches of Boa Vista and the musical culture of São Vincente exploring Cape Verde will be an experience anyone would enjoy. The people of each island are as different as the setting, with different lifestyles, traditions and even their own Creole languages. This archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean is an authentic and unspoilt place that cannot be missed.
The islands of Cape Verde each have their own culture. The most African of the nine that are inhabited is Santiago, which is also the most populated. The capital Praia is a bustling city full of Cape Verdeans going about their daily life, tourists are rare, walking the streets of Praia shows the true soul of Santiago.
A short walk from my hotel, the Pestana Trópico, lies a local street market recommended by a member of the helpful hotel staff. Here you will pass through stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes to fresh produce and fish. You can snack on a locally grown mango as you stroll through the aisles of vendors looking for something that catches your eye. You may not see any other tourists on your visit, and many of the sellers do not speak much English, but that makes the experience more interesting.
Wandering through the streets in search of a restaurant we were lucky enough to experience the warmth and hospitality of Praia. A local family and their friends invited us in to sit and try the local speciality: ponche. Their own recipe of this sweet mix of fruit, spices and grogue was delicious and fitted perfectly with the flavourful homemade cachupa they insisted we try. If you spend time in Cape Verde make sure you try both specialities, but be warned you will be craving them when you are home. Hearing the passion of this family for their homeland and for helping others in their community made Praia a very special place that I think would speak to anyone lucky enough to visit it.