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São Vicente

Published on 27 October 2019 at 02:06

São Vicente

The Island that breathes music, culture and has the 2nd biggest city of the country, Mindelo. We were curious about getting to know the island, because of the city feeling, old colonial houses and it's modernity compared to the desert islands. The most important part in Mindelo is the harbour. Over the years the harbour grew out from a stop for big ships who introduced new cultures and music to a terminal for big cargo ships, yachts, small cruises and ferrys sailing to surrounding islands. Everywhere in town you feel the presence and importance of the maritime world.

We did some research online about the second island we would discover. We were convinced going there first since there are direct flights coming from Amsterdam. 

São Vicente, February 16  2018

The day we arrived in São Vicente, we still felt a bit uncomfortable. We were tired from the long, early flight, the sky was grey and we weren't feeling the Cape Verdian rhytm yet. 


We stayed in a small appartment in a local area on the hills of Mindelo and decided to go out and explore. We left on flip-flops, because that's what you do when you come from a European winter and want to feel like you are on holiday. We walked past the marina, the artificial white sand beach of Laginha and the old cultural centre. We had dinner in a nice restaurant and decided to go to bed early, since we were confused in time and space.


Fresh and in a good mood we started day 2. It was only then we realised; yes the holiday has begun. We came with the idea of going on an island tour with a local tour company. A tour had just started and we joined the group on one of the markets. With a group of Dutch people and our local guide we walked past the fish market, the replica of the tower of Belem, the covered vegetable- and fruitmarket and the old centre of Mindelo. I remembered a few old ladys sitting on the doorstep of the church smoking cigares and I felt like I was in Cuba. In Santa Maria, Sal island the average age of the inhabitants isn't above 40, so it was interesting seeing people of all different age. 

The bus took us to Monte Verde, the highest mountain on the island. Verde means green, not that the mountain was so green, but the view over Mindelo was impressive. We drove around the hills, past a cow that escaped from the kid who was chasing the animal barefoot. In Salamansa we visited the kitesurfschool/bar, but apart from that there are no touristic facilities. In Calhau we saw a few typical fishing boats painted in rasta colours. It felt like an abandoned fishermans village with amazing views over the ocean and the 10th island Santa Luzia which is uninhabited, but where fishermen go on land now and then. We had lunch in Baia das Gatas, a small village by the coast with some restaurants, pensions, large houses of Cape verdeans living abroad and a beautiful bay with such clear water that shines in the sunlight. We drove back through the rough inland with some green parts where the locals live of agriculture. 


We are usually the ones always planning our own tour without joining other groups, but this time we quite enjoyed being tourists for a day without any worries.  


Later that day we went to Mindelo's hotspot: Caravela. The perfect place to have a drink and watch the sunset over the beach of Laginha. We relaxed and observed other peoples conversations (one thing we love to do) and started speaking to a Dutch Cape Verdian. He wanted to show us some other bars around town and before we knew it we arrived in a local bar with a few Caipirinhas in front of us. The music in this place was so loud and all over the walls were written lines. The vibe was good and we went to a club, where we danced Kizomba all night long. Happy and back in our positive Cape Verdean mood we fell asleep in the early morning.

Lazy Sunday is definitely the right name for this third day. In Cape Verde Sundays are still seen as a day without work and you'll find less people walking in the streets. We decided to get lunch by Laginha beach in the cosy beachclub, Kalimba. This place gave us instant holiday vibes.


Did you know that São Vicente hosts one of the best carnivals in the world, themed in a Rio de Janeiro style, with a colourful parade and a big party? We knew, but we just missed it and we were quite upset about it. But that Sunday was the last day of the carnival, Mandingas. A tribute to their African heritage where the people rub themselves in with black oil and dress up as 'warriors'. 

We walked through town when we heard some drum & African music coming from far away. Soon followed by a massive crowd of people, the Mandinga warriors, a parade with dressed up people playing music instruments and a truck with a band on top of it playing. We missed the carnival, but to see this event felt quite special as well. 


A new week started and we took the ferry boat to Santo Antão island at 7 am. The receptionist in our pension arranged us a taxi which never showed up. We started panicking a bit since we bought the boat tickets already. We decided to start walking downhill in the early morning, still dark outside. The funny part here is that Lina wanted to travel smart, but still walked around with a big backpack, normal backpack and a hand luggage suitcase. Sanne carried a heavy suitcase of 29 kg because she couldn't leave without bringing her iron. Faith was with us that morning as we found a transformed old Mercedes that served as a taxi these days and brought us for 2 euro on time to the harbour. 


(Find the story about the green, tropical Island Santo Antão here).


One day later we arrived again in the harbour of Mindelo; We left the town for what it was and stayed in São Pedro, a small village built in a bay by the ocean close to the airport. We slept in an ecological hotel, constructed mainly with wood. We noticed the tourist potential for the future developments. There is a small centre with several places to eat, some fishing boats on land, a perfect spot to practice windsurf in the bay and a family  friendly beach with white sand and small waves. 


There was 1 sight I definitely wanted to visit. You should know that I have got a weak spot for old towers, lighthouses, mountains and rocks with great views. On every destination I travel to, I include a walk with a finish point like this. 

Luckily for me there was an old, abandoned lighthouse in São Pedro (farol de Dona Amelia) standing all the way down on a steep cliff. We walked on the white beach direction to the rocks on the right side. The route is advertised as a short hike tour and we noticed why. I've had mortal fears walking on the tiny, small paths on the rocks without fence. But with the motivation and will to get to the finish, Cape Verdian music and some encouragement from Sanne we made it to the farol. We climbed up the stairs of the building and felt on top of the world. It's one of the best memories, with such an immense feeling of freedom. We realised how happy we feel whenever we are in Cape Verde. 


The next day we had lunch in a pension of a Belgian couple. On their roof terrace we had a nice view over the bay and the airport. By our big surprise we were served fresh potato croquettes and fresh green beans with parsley. It was funny to have a typical Belgian dish in this small local village. We relaxed on the beach, drunk a cup of Italian coffee in the hotel and left the island with our flip-flops covered in sand. We took the national flight to experience Sal again, the island where we worked for a while and had an amazing time together.

São Vicente in general:

  • The most cultural island, with lots of live music and their carnival in February/March. 
  • The most beautiful marine of the country in Mindelo. 
  • Relive the local history between the colonial houses in Mindelo. 
  • A diverse island, ideal to combine a beach holiday with some action and culture. 


Do's on São Vicente: 

  • Book an island tour or discover the island by yourself with a rented car. 
  • Dine in a restaurant with live music in the cultural centre of Mindelo (Casa Cafe Mindelo is a good example).
  • Stay in an accommodation at a walking distance of Laginha and the centre. 
  • Relax at Laginha beach and have lunch in Kalimba beach club.
  • Travel in February/March to experience the colourful carnival.
  • Experience the night life in club Caravela. 
  • Climb the fortress Fortim de Rei by sunset and enjoy the view over the city. 


Dont's on São Vicente: 

  • Mindelo is a safe town, but not in the suburbs. Don't go there at night and avoid troubles. Pickpockets happen in the old centre, so stay discrete and always keep an eye on your personal belongings.
  • Not the best island to discover by quad or scooter
  • No possibilty of paying with euros. Take some escudos out the cash machine on arrival in the airport.  

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