Boa Vista, the easternmost island of Cape Verde, is a fascinating symphony of glistening sand dunes, dry scree deserts, sleepy villages and the most beautiful and largest beaches of the archipelago.
Boa Vista is the third largest island of Cape Verde and is located in the very east of the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean about 455km off the African coast. This is where the desert and the Atlantic meet, for Boa Vista consists largely of shifting dunes brought by the wind from the Sahara, rugged scree, extensive beaches and small oases with shaggy date palms.
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PICTURES: Top Shots from Boa Vista, Cape Verde
Boa Vista lives up to its name "Beautiful View". Still spared from mass tourism, Boa Vista is unspoilt and cosy. But in the meantime, Boa Vista also has an airport and the first hotels are already rising into the sky above the Atlantic.
Tip: As a cheap alternative to renting a car, car rental companies on Boa Vista offer excursions for one or two people. To explore the entire island, you should allow two days.
Capital Sal Rei
Sal Rei, the quiet capital of Boa Vista in Cape Verde, offers a pretty town centre with the island's main tourist infrastructure. Its fine sandy beaches are ideal for swimming, diving and surfing.
Sal Rei is located in the northwest of the island. For a capital city with over 2,000 inhabitants, almost half of the entire island population, Sal Rei seems almost sleepy. The tranquil yet interesting town is one of our Top 10 Sights of Cape Verde.
PICTURES: Capital Sal Rei on Boa Vista
Sal Rei Centre
The centre of Sal Rei is the lively Praça de Santa Isabel. Here, batik fabrics, carvings, fruit and vegetables are sold against a picturesque backdrop of flowers and pavilions.
One of the most beautiful buildings on the Praça de Santa Isabel is the church of the same name, the "Igreja da Santa Isabel", an attractive, pale yellow colonial-style building with two massive towers. It is a good place for tourists to go, because here you will find not only the travel agency, but also a bank and the post office.
Walking along the waterfront in Sal Rei, you reach the old harbour and a boatyard. The signs of migration, hunger and crisis are mostly no longer visible, most of the pastel-coloured houses along the Avenida dos Pescadores have been renovated.
Sal Rei has what it takes to become a Mediterranean tourist town. It is still quiet in the streets - children play in the alleys and fishermen put out their nets.
From the shore, the view always falls on the small Ilheu de Sal Rei off the shore of Boa Vista, which protects Sal Rei from the wildness of the Atlantic and ensures that its bays are excellent for swimming and bathing.
Sal Rei Salt Works
To the northeast of Sal Rei are the salt flats that once gave the town its name "royal salt". A little further on, above the rocky coast, the ruins of the chapel of Nossa Senhora de Fátima can be discovered.
Hike to the wreck of the Cabo Santa Maria
The hike to the wreck of the Cabo Santa Maria takes about 6 hours from Sal Rei. The trail leads through partly impassable, steep and stony terrain and requires good physical condition, sturdy shoes, a hiking map and a sufficient supply of drinking water.
The trail leads from Riba d'Olt, a district in the north of Sal Rei, along a road heading north to Pico Vígia, from where you have a fantastic view of the roaring surf in the depths.
Red-billed tropicbirds show off their flying skills in the updraught and desert ravens complain loudly about the unwanted disturbance. Here, the wreck of the "Cabo Santa Maria" at Praia do Sobrado already appears in the distance to the east.
TheSpanish freighter stranded here in March 1968 due to a navigational error and was carrying cars, drinks, melons, cheese and cork. The rusty skeleton of the freighter has since broken in two and rises ghostly out of the sand.
Tip: There have already been several robberies of tourists travelling alone or in pairs near the wreck. In general, you should not take any (clearly visible) valuables into lonely areas on Boa Vista.
Beaches on Boa Vista
Almost the entire island of Boa Vista on Cape Verde is surrounded by extensive, fine-sand beaches, most of which are completely deserted. Besides endless beach walks, Boa Vista's coasts are also suitable for swimming, diving and surfing.
Boa Vista, like any island, offers a lot of beach, 55km to be exact. The beaches on Boa Vista are the largest and most beautiful in Cape Verde and are among our top 10 attractions in Cape Verde. Sun, sea and waves create excellent conditions for bathers and water sports enthusiasts.
PICTURES: Beaches on Boa Vista, Cape Verde
Beaches in the West of Boa Vista
Close to the capital Sal Rei is Praia de Cabral in the north and Praia do Estoril in the south. These are protected by the offshore island Ilhéu de Sal Rei and their bays are ideal for swimming.
Praia do Estoril merges directly into Praia de Carlota in the south, where there are beach restaurants as well as surfing and diving stations. Here, especially between November and April, mast-high waves crash onto the beach, where only professional sur fers should venture. This is followed by Praia da Chave, where large hotels provide something like mass tourism.
Beaches in the south of Boa Vista
Praia da Chave is followed by Praia da Varandinha with its lighthouse, limestone rocks and caves, and the endless Praia Santa Monica. With picturesque rocks and fine, light sand, both are considered the most beautiful beaches on Boa Vista.
Heading east along the south coast, you soon reach Praia do Curral Velho near the village of the same name. Here, date palms provide protection from the sun, and visitors often have to share their shade with goats. On the island off the coast, hundreds of brown boobies and the now rare black frigate birds with a wingspan of over 2 metres can be observed.
And speaking of nature observation: at the nearest beach, Praia de João Barrosa, up to 2,000 sea turtles lay their eggs during the summer nights.
Beaches in the north of Boa Vista
The beaches in the north-east of the island, Praia as Gatas ("Cat Shark Beach") and Praia do Galeão, are less suitable for swimming, but are ideal for long beach walks. Here you can watch fishermen at work and now and then even dolphins come right up to the beach.
Tip: With the rapid development of tourism, the number of muggings on the beaches has unfortunately also increased. For safety's sake, never go for long walks on the beach alone.
Villages on Boa Vista
If you want to explore the beautiful beaches of Boa Vista, you should also pay a visit to one or the other small village on Boa Vista. Apart from a few houses and colourful churches, you will mainly find peace and quiet in an environment where time seems to have stood still.
The now rather sleepy village of Rabil lies south of the capital Sal Rei and was once the main town of Boa Vista. The village offers a beautiful view of the fertile oases at the bottom of the Ribeira do Rabil.
Rabil's main attractions are the sturdy São Roque Church, the oldest church on the island dating from 1801, and a pottery school at the southern entrance to the village. Roof tiles used to be pressed here, today Cape Verdean vases, amphorae, water jugs and traditional pots are made.
Tip: If the pottery is closed, draw attention to yourselves, the neighbours will inform the pottery staff, who will open after a few minutes.
From Rabil, half an hour further south, you reach Povoação Velha ("old settlement"). It was, as its name suggests, the first free settlement of Boa Vista at the beginning of the salt trade. Povoação Velha is not visible from the beaches, so it was excellently protected from pirates. Today, from the vantage point Rocha Estânçia, it offers a fantastic view as far as the neighbouring islands of Maio and São Nicolau.
Otherwise, Povoação Velha has small houses around the central square Praçeta de Santo António, the small, colourfully decorated church Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição from 1828, a small bar and a few shops - nothing else.
For this reason, most of the visitors are soon gone again and turn further towards the coast to the wonderful beaches.
Curral Velho ("old pasture gate") is located in the very south of Boa Vista and has not much to offer apart from its dreamlike surroundings and the Praia de Curral Velho. On the way there, you pass through the idyllic oasis of Fonta Vicente, where vegetables and almond trees are grown.
Along the south coast of Boa Vista to the east is Praia de João Barrosa, which is used by up to 2,000 sea turtles to lay their eggs during the summer nights. Some of the species are already threatened with extinction and so the organisation "Turtle Foundation" has set itself the goal of protecting both the adult turtles and their clutches from human predators - with initial success.
The east of the island is very lonely and deserted, often you don't meet a soul for long stretches. Norte, in the north-eastern corner of Boa Vista, actually consists of the three villages João Galego, Fundo das Figueiras and Cabeço dos Tarafes. Their inhabitants are comparatively well off and provided with telephone, electricity and schools.
From Fundo das Figueiras, a road branches off to the north coast, to Praia das Gatas ("Cat Shark Beach"). Here a reef protects the coast of the island, fishermen spread their catch out to dry and dolphins come almost to the beach.
Southwest of Cabeço dos Tarafes lies the Oi d'Àgua ("Blue Eye"), the only freshwater lake on the island - in the middle of a breathtaking mountain desert.
Bofareira is located in the north of the island about halfway between Sal Rei and Norte. Embedded in a gentle dune landscape, you can get to know a piece of desert without orientation problems on the way to the beach or on the abandoned track towards Sal Rei.