The islands of Cape Verde are a bewitching blend of Portuguese and African influences. You'll see it in the many European-style buildings and the curious musical styles, but it's particularly noticeable in the food. Portuguese fare – especially seafood dishes laden with garlic and olive oil – and more African-style fare – such as stews, beans, maize and tropical crops – comfortably combined on most menus.
Many associate Cape Verde with the mournful songs of Cesaria Evoria, the island's best-known singer. The ‘barefoot diva' is the best exponent of morna, a lovelorn type of folk music similar to Portuguese fado. Music is a key component of life on Cape Verde, and several of the island's stage exuberant carnivals, with the best known being the Baia das Gatas Festival. São Vicente is also renowned for its exuberant festivities.
Once a colony and slave trade outpost, Cape Verde varies wildly in character and scenery through its 10 islands and five tiny islets. From spectacular verdant mountain ranges to deserted beaches, with a few volcanic landscapes thrown in for good measure, it's the variety that makes Cape Verde such an unusual and appealing destination.
There’s lush and lively Santiago, the biggest of the islands, which boasts verdant hillsides, jungle and plenty of remarkable wildlife. It’s also the cultural heart of Cape Verde, home to the UNESCO-listed old fort at Cidade da Ribeira Grande de Santiagog (previously called Cidade Velha).
Near Santiago, divers will discover 16th century shipwrecks littering the sea floor. Blue marlin, yellowfin tuna and the odd humpback whale can be seen in the clear blue waters off Boa Vista. The island of Sal is popular for watersports and white sandy beaches, while Fogo is a hiker’s paradise, where volcanic peaks tower 2,829m (9,821 ft) above sea level.
Cape Verde may have struggled economically since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, but many argue that its isolation is a blessing, leaving these islands comparatively unspoiled. The economy is currently stable and investing in modernised infrastructure, service, commerce, foreign investment and tourism. Get there before the crowds inevitably catch on.