Visiting the Island of Fogo, Cape Verde
Fogo, which means fire, is the southernmost island of Cape Verde, settled in between the islands of Santiago and Brava. The island of Fogo is basically a conical and active volcano which rises above the sea to a towering peak of almost 10,000 feet. Fogo is home to the highest peak of the archipelago, called Pico do Fogo (Peak of Fogo). This high peak along with its other mountainous characteristics makes Fogo the most geographically dominant Island in all of Cape Verde. On clear days, neighboring islands of Santiago and Brava along with other relatively remote islands such Sao Nicolau can witness a silhouette of Fogo and on some occasions, Fogo’s peak can be seen to be levitating in the skies. Its volcanic properties have had many effects on the local life. The islands favorite wine is produced from vines grown inside the volcanic craters of the mountains. Despite the soil being rich and highly fertile to support life, the local people frequently move due to the nature of the volcanic mountains, as well as lack of overall resources and opportunities.
Fogo was first discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1456, but it took an additional four years for them to fully discover the island in its entirety. Upon its discovery, the island was named after Saint Philip (Sao Filipe). However after observing volcanic activity on the island, it was renamed to Fogo sometime around the major eruption of 1680. The largest eruption is estimated to have occurred approximately 70,000 years ago and was likely the cause of a 500 foot mega-tsunami that resulted in massive truck-sized boulder deposits on the island of Santiago. After renaming the island to Fogo, Sao Filipe came to be known as its capital. Sao Filipe is the island’s main municipality where approximately 20,000 of Fogo’s 40,000 population live. In addition to Sao Filipe, Fogo consists of two additional municipalities which are named Mosteiros and Santa Catarina do Fogo. The three municipalities are divided into 31 civil parishes (freguesia) altogether which are further subdivided into smaller towns and villages, each serving a distinct and unique experience to tourists and visitors.
A visit to Fogo will most likely convince you with no doubt that it is the most visually mesmerizing of all Cape Verde islands as it serves as a resort for any hiker who can brave the journey to get closer to nature. Despite its incredible scenic atmosphere, it remains pristine largely to the fact that relatively few tourists end up visiting the island compared to the other islands. Currently, the most popular way to get to Fogo is by airplane.
Once you are on the island, private and shared taxi (aluguers) are available to take you around the islands. Shared aluguers are preferred and provide a more economical way of getting around the island. Guides are also available to show you the best routes and to help you plan activities that are unique to the island.
Trekking and Hiking
Although Fogo can accommodate many activities, it is well known for providing an attractive landscape for hikers. Fogo actually offers various types of terrain that can appeal to all levels of hikers. The most popular hiking destination is located in Fogo’s Natural Park in Cha Das Caldeiras. Curious adventurers can decide to explore mind-captivating lava tubes or wander around the lunar-like landscape and imagine walking on the craters of the moon. Regardless of hiking experience, however, it is recommended that all hikers seek guidance from local tour guides if they wish to hike up towards the volcano’s crater or the summit of Pico de Fogo. Those willing to commit to this hike should be prepared for a physically demanding journey as the steep climb can take up to four hours and if not planned accordingly with the timing of the sunrise will have to deal with the intense heat from the sun. Contrary to the time it takes to climb however, it usually takes less than 30 minutes to descend.
Vineyards in Cha Das Calderas and wine tasting
In addition to the volcanic moonscape that Cha Das Caldeiras offers its tourists, it is also home to a 140-year tradition of winemaking, where grapes are locally harvested from the fertile grounds of the volcanic craters for production of various types of chemically-free wine, such as the traditional Manecon. Although the recent eruption of November 2014 destroyed the village of Cha Das Caldeiras entirely, some vineyards remained intact and the winemaking tradition, although threatened and halted by the eruption, still remains today and the proud inhabitants who were forced to evacuate their homes are determined to rebuild their life and village in Cha Das Caldeiras. So while you are in Fogo, you won’t want to miss visiting the vineyards and sampling its homemade wine.
Do not let the vastly rugged terrain of Fogo fool you – Fogo is home to some exotic beaches that have their characteristics determined by its volcanic properties. The sandy beaches of Fogo are uniquely the color black due to volcanic eruptions. The non-sandy beaches such as the Salina beach or Ponta Da Salina, which is equivalent to a large but natural swimming pool that is surrounded by cliffs, can also provide an immersing swimming experience that will be one for the books.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about things to do and sites to see in Fogo, Cape Verde. We welcome you to share your thoughts and experiences with us and be a featured guest on our blog!