Top Things To Do in Fogo Island, Cape Verde
The landscape of Fogo, Ilha do Fogo, is one of the most dramatic ones of the Cape Verdean archipelago. The entire island is dominated by the imposing volcano Pico do Fogo. The highly active volcano has a strong impact on agriculture, lifestyle, and daily grind. Indeed, life under the threat of a volcanic eruption can be extreme!
With its 2,829 meters, Fogo does not only have the highest peak of the Cape Verdean archipelago, but it’s also one of the highest islands in the world!
The Pico do Fogo is also one of the most active volcanoes on this planet! Its last eruption dates only back to 2014! Living under the threat of a volcanic eruption obviously shapes daily life and even the local’s sense of humor (according to my guide).
During the last eruption in 2014, the village of Chã das Caldeiras (built inside the volcanic crater on black sand) has been entirely destroyed! However, the people from Chã have such a deep connection with this area that they decided to go back to the crater and rebuilt the village from scratch! Some even built their new houses on top of their former, now destroyed ones!
The “lost” village of Chã das Caldeiras is thus an absolute must on your trip to Fogo. Even though the island has a diameter of only 25 km, it’s extreme when it comes to height!
Read more about the most dramatic landscape in Cape Verde and about the 9 top things to do on Fogo.
In order to make the most of your time, check the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book filled with local, hidden gems.
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Even though it might be hard to get around on the other Cape Verdean islands, please do visit the periphery islands. Don’t stay in Sal or Boa Vista all the time. Every island is very different and has its own charm.
Where To Stay on Fogo, Cape Verde
Stay in the volcano crater
Note on Traveling to Cape Verde as a Solo Female Traveler
You don’t need to be worried to travel to Cape Verde as a solo female traveler when it comes to the peripheral islands. I just had a few concerns at night in Sao Vicente (Mindelo) and in Sal (in the offbeat streets of Santa Maria). Otherwise, all the people I met were genuinely kind and I often had the impression that some were even “intimidated” like on Brava and Maio.
1. Hike the Pico do Fogo Volcano
The moonscape and colossal shape of the Pico do Fogo will impact you from the first moment you spot it! The contorted lava flows will let you feel very, very tiny. Indeed, I never felt as small as in Fogo. The imposing power of the peak, the crater and the lava flows were absolutely overwhelming.
The Fogo Natural Park is about a 45 min drive from the colorful capital of São Felipe. If you want to hike up the volcano, I recommend contacting the local guide Alcindo Silva (email@example.com / +2389921409).
He lives in the volcanic village of Cha das Caldeiras and knows the volcano-like his pocket. His knowledge about Fogo’s endemic plants and his kindness do the rest. He offers guest rooms as well. – Book here your stay
Hikes to the volcano usually start very early (around 5 am) as there is no shape during the entire trail. The hikes can also be done by beginner/medium hikers. It takes about 3-4 hours to get up to the top and only 30 min to get down. It is great fun to run down in the volcanic sand.
2. Wine Tasting in Chã das Caldeiras
At the winery
The village of Chã das Caldeiras (Plain of the Caldeiras) is truly unique in the world! With a community of only 700 inhabitants, the village is located in the black crater of the volcano Pico do Fogo. It is the highest village of Cape Verde and it’s the only area in Cape Verde that produces a large quantity of qualitative wine.
The village has been totally destroyed during the last volcanic eruption in 2014. However, the locals have a very strong connection to this very unique place. They came back and re-built the village from scratch. Alcindo told me that some people re-built their homes on the lava covering their former homes!
In that sense, Chã das Caldeiras is a very special experience, even only to roam around and spot the typical round houses. However, you can’t leave this unusual place without visiting the cooperative and doing a wine tasting.
Indeed, Chã das Caldeiras is one of the very few places producing qualitative wine, a tradition that is more than 100 years old! It is only exported to the other Cape Verdean islands, not internationally.
It might be surprising that grapes (as well as apples, cactus fruit, etc.) grow in this bare, black landscape. However, the cool and humid nights, as well as the hot and dry days are perfect for viticulture. The volcanic soils are particularly rich.
The Associaçao has rooms for guests, offers guided tours of their wine cellar, and organizes wine tastings. It’s definitely a must and a highlight when visiting Fogo. The wine cellars are located on your left when coming from Sao Felipe and after passing the Pico do Fogo.
3. Cape Verdean Food Tasting
Goat cheese is a must when on Fogo
Even if it might sound contradictory, the dark black land of Fogo has one of the richest soils on the Cape Verdean archipelago! Indeed, the volcanic soil is particularly fertile and it’s the main reason why people take the high risk to live so close to the crater.
This richness manifests itself mainly via a large variety of typical Cabo Verde food.
Each of the 3 municipalities is famous for a particular product. Sao Felipe and the surrounding villages are famous for their goat cheese, Santa Catarina is well known for its wine and goat cheese and Mosteiros is the fruit garden of the island. Here, you can find all kinds of fruits like mangoes, and the town also produces most of Fogo’s coffee.
Besides cachupa (a slow-cooked stew of corn, beans, cassava, sweet potato, fish, or meat), two of the most typical dishes of the island are djagacida (made of corn, fish, and beans), and pastel de milho (corn cake). When it comes to drinks, you can’t miss trying bissap (a fruit juice made of hibiscus flower) and calabaceira, a juice gained from the baobab fruit.
Related: Typical Cape Verde Creole phrases
You can also enjoy a typical Cape Verdean meal in Sao Felipe. I recommend the Center 7Sois7Luas, in the city center of Sao Filipe. In this way, you’ll support the local community and have sustainable holidays in Cape Verde.
4. Visit São Felipe
Colorful Sao Felipe
The capital of Fogo, São Felipe, will lure you with its colonial charm. It is the largest municipality of the island and it is easy to fall in love with its relaxing vibe. It is also the perfect base to explore the island. On top, São Felipe is only 20 minutes away from the airport and 10 minutes from the harbor which connects Fogo to Praia and Brava.
São Felipe is considered to be the second oldest town of the Cape Verdean archipelago. During the 19th century, São Felipe was particularly wealthy due to its cotton, wine, and coffee exports. Still, nowadays, 70 % of the existing houses in São Felipe date back from this golden age.
My favorite parts of São Felipe are the soft, pastel-colored housefronts and the quaint plazas. Since 2000, many of the houses have been carefully renovated. I was lucky enough to meet the mayor of São Felipe and blown away by his energy and the innovative projects that he’s developing in São Felipe.
Due to its vast renovations, the colonial city center of São Felipe (also known as Bila Baixa) reminds me of the colonial towns of La Laguna, Tenerife and Granada, Nicaragua. Some of the house fronts have been decorated with colorful street art.
Learn more about things to do in the capital of Fogo with the Ultimate Cape Verde Travel Guide Book filled with local gems.
The wooden balconies, richly decorated house fronts, and colorful squares are creating a particularly picturesque scene. The most emblematic square is the Praca 12 de septembro with its wooden pavilion and the majestic city hall. Two other places that you can’t miss are the light-blue church of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao and the busy market hall.
The square of Francisco de Assis is key as it hosts the post office and the most important bus stop in town.
5. Enjoy the Cape Verdean Music
Cape Verdean artist performing in the 7Sois7Luas Center
São Felipe is also home to the 7Sois7Luas center, a cultural hub supporting local musicians and painters. The center does not only serve typical Cape Verdean food but also organizes many events throughout the year. It’s a vital place to promote and support local artists.
Indeed, the local cultural scene is threatened by emigration to other islands or even the US. As salaries might be more attractive abroad, many artists from Fogo choose money over the local art scene.
The Center of 7Sois7Luas wants to counterbalance this trend and offers a perspective to local artists and musicians.
Feel free to contact Carlos (+2389779565) to organize an unforgettable evening in São Felipe (estimated cost: 100 €).
6. Taste Goat Cheese
Home-made goat cheese. Yummy!
Ilha do Fogo is synonymous with goat cheese when it comes to food. Even though goat cheese is produced on many Cape Verdean islands, the cheese of Fogo is particularly famous.
Goat cheese is a production process with a long tradition. No additives besides milk and the fermentation trigger (a liquid gained of the baby goat’s stomach) are used. The cheese that you can buy is often only 24-48 hours old!
You can easily buy goat cheese on the little farms along the road. Just stop at the “queijo” signs. Buying at small, independent shops is a key part of sustainable holidays in Cape Verde.
7. Around the island tour
Typical house in the volcano crater
Thanks to the circular road, you can easily do an around-the-island tour. It will be a spectacular trip, as you’ll appreciate the diversity of the island ranging from vibrant green plantations to dark lava soil and a lovely countryside with farmhouses.
You can, either ask one of the local tour agencies to organize the trip or ask your host if she/he knows somebody who could take you around. The local agencies are Qualitur, Zebra Travel, and ONG Cospe. Some of their offers include packages to Santo Antao and Brava.
Some of the unmissable stops during your island roundtrip are Mosteiros and Sao Lourenco, which offers a great view on the neighbor island Brava.
8. Hike from Cha das Caldeiras to Mostreiros
If you think that hiking up the Mount Fogo volcano would be the only hike to do on Fogo, you couldn’t be more wrong!
There’s another spectacular trail waiting for you from Cha das Caldeiras to Mostreiros.
I particularly liked the extremely saturated green colors of Mother Nature. They seemed even brighter after experiencing the baren, black sands of the Mount Fogo crater.
The hike takes 5 hrs and intermediate level. Ask your host in Cha das Caldeiras to bring your luggage to Mostreiros.
A taxi from Mostreiros to Sao Filipe costs 6000 CVE (60 €).
Map of the Mostreiros hike:
9. Visit the Beaches on Fogo
Who doesn’t love Fogo?
Even though Fogo is not particularly famous for its beaches, you don’t have to abstain from a refreshing bath! If you’re based in Sao Felipe, you’ll be tempted to go to the small beach of Praia da Bila, consisting of black sand, and located below the emblematic Praça Serpa Pinto square.
However, the locals prefer the beach at the harbor Vale de Cavaleiros, about 4 km north of Sao Filipe, which is the island’s westernmost point. In spite of the harbor, the water is cleaner and the sea is not so rough.
The most popular beach on the island is Ponta da Salina in São Jorge. It can be reached by the Sao Jorge aluguer (collective taxi). Ask the driver to be dropped off there and check what time the aluguer (collective taxi) is returning.
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my visit to Fogo, Cape Verde could convince you to include the beautiful north of the Archipel in your travel plans.
Have you been to Fogo, Cape Verde? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Map of the attractions of Fogo
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot, even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
To make the most of your trip, I recommend the Lonely Planet Cape Verde (get a 10% discount with the code “PAULINA10”)
Disclaimer: I have been a guest of the 7Sois7Luas Festival. All my opinions are, as always, my own. This post contains affiliate links. In case you purchase one of the items, I’ll receive a small commission. The price remains the same for you.