The islands of the Cape Verde archipelago are windy, hilly, dry - almost lunar - and fairly sleepy. But there's beauty in them thar parched hills. And some of the islands are actually lush. There's good diving and hiking, lively nightlife and plenty of quiet corners to hide away in.
Islanders mix up African, Portuguese, Mediterranean and Latin influences and come out with a flavour that's distinctly 'Cabo'. Package tourism has gained a foothold, but Cape Verde is still independent and unspoiled, the perfect place to pretend that your real life doesn't exist.
Full country name: Republic of Cape Verde
Area: 4,030 sq km
Capital City: Praia
People: Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%
Religion: Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs), Protestant
Head of State: President Pedro Pires
Head of Government: Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves
GDP: US$581 million
GDP per capita: US$1,450
Annual Growth: 7%
Major Industries: food and beverages, fish processing, shoes and garments, salt mining, ship repair, bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, peanuts, fish
Major Trading Partners: Portugal, Germany, Spain, France, UK, Malaysia, The Netherlands, US
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Cape Verde has one of Africa's most vibrant Carnival celebrations. It's the country's major party, with street parades in February in Praia and Mindelo. On São Tiago and Fogo, Tabanka is celebrated in May and June and marked by music and abstinence. Each island also has its own festival, with the party going on for about a week.
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Currency: Escudo Caboverdiano
Luxury is not a conspicuous feature of Cape Verdean accommodation or dining. You could spend US$100 a day and nearly max out what's on offer, though islandhopping, scuba diving and souvenir hunting will all rachet up your budget. Moderate travel will run closer to US$50 a day, though you can get by for less if you pick your accommodation with care and do some self-catering. Budget travellers can squeak by for well under US$50 a day if they stick to inexpensive resthouses and restaurants.
Banks in the major towns can change money and travellers' cheques. Some hotels in Praia will also change US dollars into escudos. There's no bank at the Praia airport, so be sure to unload your excess escudos in town before you leave.
Expect to tip 10% in better restaurants, but check the bill carefully to be sure a service charge hasn't already been added.
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This flat desert island, home to the international airport, is a package-tour destination for Europeans with large wallets and a yen for the tropics without local involvement. The village of Santa Maria caters to the packagers; it's 18km (11mi) from the main village of Espargos.
Independent travellers should head for Espargos, where you'll have no difficulty finding a pensão (pension) or a restaurant. There are daily flights between Sal and Praia; there are also boats running between the islands that pick up passengers at Sal about twice a week.
São Tiago is the main island and home to the capital, Praia. The city isn't as beautiful as the archipelago's other city, Mindelo, but it's a pleasant place, with its centre perched on a rocky plateau known as Platô. This central area is surrounded by urban sprawl in three directions.
Some 20km (12mi) inland from Praia, the village of São Domingos is the closest green agricultural valley to the capital. There are one or two shops selling handicrafts. At the northern end of São Tiago is the island's second largest settlement, Tarrafal, which is famous for its beaches.
São Vicente is Cape Verde's second most important island and home to its liveliest city, Mindelo. Ships passing through Mindelo's port, the deepest in the area, attribute plenty to the high energy. Certainly the bars and nightclubs are more numerous and the restaurants a cut above those in Praia.
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