Fogo (Portuguese for “fire”) is the most prominent island of the Sotavento group of Cape Verde: it rises to nearly 3,000 m above sea level at its summit, Pico do Fogo. From sea level it drops another 5,300 m at a distance of only 5 km from the shoreline making it nearly twice the height of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It last erupted 2014, forming a new crater called Pico Pequeno, the “little peak”. The largest volcanic feature is a 9 km wide caldera, which has walls 1 km high. Lava from the volcano has reached the eastern coast of the island within historical times.
The largest city of the island, São Filipe, is located to the west of Fogo. With about 20,000 inhabitants, it’s the fourth-largest city of Cape Verde after Praia, Mindelo and Assomada. The island is becoming progressively more popular with tourists looking for something a little out of the ordinary for their holiday. The beaches, which are black from the volcanic lava, may not be as stunning as those on other Cape Verde islands but the landscape throughout is quite spectacular and a trek up to the top of Pico de Fogo makes for a highly memorable trip. What’s more, the island produces its very own delightful and highly intoxicating wine from grapes grown inside the volcano’s crater.
There are no international flights to Fogo, but the island can be reached by either plane or ferry from Praia, the Capital city on the island of Santiago.
São Felipe airport has daily connections with Praia and the flight takes 30 minutes.
CV Fast Ferry operates between Praia and the Southern Islands, including Fogo.
On Fogo, being one of the smaller islands, tourism is relatively modest, but is slowly expanding. The island’s natural terrain offers some of the main activities. Hiking and trekking are popular and attract people to the island. If you are principally after beaches and swimming, then Fogo may not be the most appropriate island to choose.
Visit Pico do Fogo
In the centre of the island is Pico do Fogo, a mountain that rises almost 3000m. The giant crater at Chã das Caldeiras is some 67km2 in area and contains two small villages and a vineyard. The walls of the crater are approximately 1km high. This unique feature is worth a visit and can be reached by road from São Felipe and is worthy of a visit. The wine produced is excellent.
Parque Natural de Monte Velha
The Parque Natural de Monte Velha includes the crater and the Monte Velha forest is another area to visit as part of a hike. The northern edge of the park is between 1000 and 1,400m above sea level, but the southern perimeter is at about 1,800m above sea level. This park is in fact the largest of the 47 designated areas within the Cape Verde archipelago. The eco-system of Fogo means that this is the most important rainforest within Cape Verde.
Visit São Felipe
The historic town of São Felipe, the island’s capital, is worth visiting and is considered one of the most attractive towns in Cape Verde; along with the Chã das Caldeiras these are the prime tourist attractions. The town is one of the oldest in Cape Verde, dating from the 16th Century. The oldest being Ribeira Grande in Santo Antão. In 1655 pirates destroyed the town.
Another place to visit is Mosteiros on the north east of the island, which is the second largest town by population. Several coffee plantations can be found nearby and the main production in this area is coffee, papayas, grapes, oranges, mangoes and guavas. The church (Igreja Nossa Senhora da Ajuda) in Mosteiros is worth a visit. The town is southwest of Monte Velha an area rich in forest.
Fogo is located on one the migratory routes for whales. If you visit in February would should expect to see these magnificent creatures just a short distance from the beach. This is possible through to until June, but the likelihood reduces slightly as time goes on.
Although the biggest carnival takes place in Mindelo on the island of São Vicente, every island enjoy carnival and that includes Fogo. It is a community affair with the whole village participating and it culminates in a Mardi Gras parade. It is a time to party and takes place around the beginning of Lent (Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day in the UK).
Between July and Early September, the grape harvest takes place in Fogo. Fogo produces very nice wine (Chã) which is limited in volume, and therefore only available within Cape Verde. During the harvest the women can be seen carrying baskets of grapes on their heads, or on a donkey and the grapes are sold in the São Felipe market. The grapes are grown in the caldera (crater) of the volcano.
Festival of São Felipe
The feast of São Felipe is celebrated at the end of April and is the most important festival on Fogo. During the last week of April numerous activities take place including sport, recreational and cultural events. In the evenings there is Cape Verdean music and dancing and kiosks selling grilled chicken, beer and grogue (the local spirit). Then the finale on 1st May is a a parade of horse through the centre of the village, known as the ‘Cavalhada Final’. The horses are brought from other islands
For a quiet holiday with options for walking and hiking, Fogo is a great destination ….
Guess house in São Felipe (guest rooms and bungalow)
Tortuga Bed and Breakfast is in São Felipe and has lovely sea views and is located at the black beach. There are four bedrooms and also a separate bungalow. Lunch and dinner are served when booked in advance. Internet is available and they can assist with organised trips, internal flights and ferry reservations.
Tortuga is keen to promote ecotourism. The building has solar panels which provide hot water and electricity, and fruit and vegetables are grown in the garden. In addition they make their own cheese, jam and liqueurs. Fresh fish is bought from the fishermen and includes some varieties that are less common, such as triggerfish, scorpion fish and file fish and then served at dinner in the evenings.
Photos of Fogo island