Guide to FOGO, Cape Verde’s most varied island

Which island was my favorite? Argh, do you really make me choose again?

I dislike comparing. I detest better or poorer.

I like different! I like the beauty and the excitement that comes with diversity.

Woman overlooking the sea
On the way to São Jorge.

This said, if again, you point a gun to my head, I’ll say Fogo was my favorite. Fogo, because it is the most varied one. It has beaches and greeneries, but also rocks and lava. It is lovely and bizarre. Full of stories and history – a true inspiration.

The islands of Cape Verde are of an astonishing variety, and Fogo alone unites many of the treasures.

The only downside is that the ocean here is dangerous due to the unpredictable currents. But the landscape is splendid, you see lush bushes, amazing rocks, and geological formations.

Fogo’s Capital São Filipe

Like in all other Cape Verdian cities, there are not many designated attractions to check out in Fogo’s capital São Filipe. However, you can walk for hours through the cobblestone paved streets and take in the exotic and very cultural vibes.

Downtown street on Fogo
In front of the old colonial houses, the Sobrados, a mild bustle.

There are many well preserved colonial buildings, the so-called Sobrados, that the wealthy Portuguese left behind.

Praça Câmara
Overlooking the cute little Praça Câmara. In the backdrop, you can spot the twin towers of the Catholic Church Paroquia Ns Conceição. Catholicism is another trace the Portuguese colonialists left behind.

Let the colorful Mercado Municipal baffle you and get some profound information on Cape Verde in general and Fogo in particular at the Casa da Memoria where you’ll find artifacts and literature and most of all lovely, swiss-born Ms. Monique Widmer who’ll be happy to answer all your questions regarding the archipelago.

Women buying clothes on the street
Fashion at every corner: As soon as the barrel filled with goods from the relatives overseas comes in, the outdoor fashion boutique opens. Another custom you can inquire about at the Casa da Memoria.

São Jorge

tree formed by the wind on the island of Fogo
On my way to  São Jorge – bus ride with a view. I love these wind dodgers that you find all over Cape Verde.

An easy half-day tour by minibus is a trip to São Jorge. On the way, you’ll have these grand views of the lush greenery and the endless ocean from above. You pass cute little settlements, small bridges over little creeks flowing down between the majestic, eternal walls of rocks and you keep asking yourself how this rough’n’rocky place can still be so sumptuously green.

Beach in Sao Filipe on the island of Fogo
It’s all about contrasts: The black sand underneath the lush greenery, leading into the Atlantic ocean’s many shades of blue – well done, nature – #nofilterneeded

While bathing at São Filipe’s city beach Praia da Bila can be really dangerous due to the unpredictable undercurrent, a trip to the natural pools at the Ponta da Salina, located about one mile from São Jorge, can be a real treat – even if you only get there to watch the local boys jumping off the lava-arch into the deep blue waters.

Chã das Caldeiras

Yes, the bushes are the freshest green, the ocean is the coolest blue, the sobrados are flashing many colors – but you come to Fogo for the black!

Pico do Fogo under the clouds
Even seen through the clouds, the volcano Pico do Fogo is very impressive.

The black of the volcanos and the surrounding lava landscape. Just walking around feels like you’ve entered another planet – just surreal.
Even more memorable – albeit pretty challenging – is an ascent to the peak of the almost 3.000 meters respectively a little less than 10,000 feet high Pico de Fogo. For safety reasons, you have to go up there with a local guide.

Volcanos on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde
What a surreal walk!

Compared to that, climbing the 2.000 meters or 6,500 feet to the top of the Pico Pequeno seems like a walk in the park.

Volcanic Eruption in 2014

However, it actually was this smaller dude that broke out in 2014. The two villages Portela and Bangaeira were severely damaged by the ash and lava. Blessedly, nobody was injured, however many of the local families did not return to rebuild the villages which is very sad since the Chã das Caldeiras used to be such an incredible place, an almost surreal settlement in the midst of the lava.

Houses made of Lava on the Island of Fogo
Meager plants add a little color to the monochrome surroundings.

Not only the landscape is dark grey and black and extremely bare. Also, the buildings are mainly made of lava and combined with the clouds hanging over the mountainous region, it feels like visiting another planet.

Little girl selling pepper on the island of Fogo
This little lady with her blond locks and clear eyes is definitely one of Monsieur Montrond’s offsprings.

French Traces

As if this beauty of nature wasn’t enough, there is the story of Armand Montrond, a French man who came to this area in 1917 and left – let’s call it ‘traces’. Lots of traces, since he had a dozen of more or less legal wives.

A boy selling pepper picked from the trees growing on the Cha's fertile soil.
A boy selling pepper picked from the trees growing on the Cha’s fertile soil.

So now there are all these people with dark complexion but blondish hair and blue eyes here in these black, austere housings. All this is sort of mind-bending and seems so out of place.

Women Grinding local coffee beans
Grinding local coffee beans – they are said to be among the world’s finest.

But lava offers a fertile ground, so there is all sort of vegetables growing here; and wine, dark, strong wine whose effect is increased by the altitude.

I wasn’t that fond of the wine so I didn’t buy any to take home. As a souvenir, I purchased some pepper from the kids and one of these super-cute little houses the people of the Cha make from the lava.

Toy lava house from Fogo
My holiday-home from Fogo.

If you don’t visit the Cha, you might as well not going to Fogo at all.

Fogo’s Jungle Mosteiros

Mosteiros is another village in a mysterious area. Due to the height of the coffee region, the area is often covered by huge clouds so that you feel like walking through an enchanted forest.

There are minibusses and aluguers going from São Filipe to Mosteiros, but before you go, inquire about the options to come back the same day; or just stay the night.

Yapp, two days for Fogo were definitely not enough.

Practical Information on Fogo

How to get there and around

Once you are in Cape Verde, the most convenient way to travel from island to island is, obviously, flying. At this moment, the best option seems to be going by Binter, a Spanish airline serving mainly the Canary Islands, but also other destination in that region, i. e. also North and Northwest Africa.

Plane at the airport on the island of Fogo.
The airport on the island of Fogo.

However, not every island has an airport, hence, there are ferries connecting all the islands.

You can check the ferry schedule on their website, but stay flexible and avoid at any cost tight schedules at the end of your stay when you depend on reliable transport to an international airport.

I will not lie to you, if you don’t travel Cape Verde on an organized trip, your itinerary shouldn’t be too tight. It can also happen that an island cannot be accessed by ferry due to bad weather condition; and this can also happen while you are on that very island.

Most of the time, things are fine and everything runs smoothly, however, you should be aware of small unexpected bumps.

There is an okay-ish system of public transportation on Fogo. Mini-busses are cruising around São Filipe’s until they find enough passengers.

However, before you joyfully head for a place, make sure that there will be a bus going back the same day so you don’t get stuck. Local people are very nice and helpful, so ask if you aren’t sure.

Money

Another remnant from the Portuguese colonial times is the name of the local currency which is called – just like in Portugal until the installment of the €uro – Escudo respectively Escudo de Cabo Verde, abbreviated CVE. For 1 US$ you get 100,01 CVE, for a €uro 110,27 CVE (as per January 2020). You can check the current rate here.

Bills from Cape Verde
They don’t have only one of the most beautiful countries, they also have the most beautiful money, decorated with poems by local poet and musician Eugénio Tavares – and his portrait on the other side.

Credit cards are not as widely accepted as e. g. in Europe or Asia, even some small guest houses do take only cash. Some businesses add a small percentage if you pay by credit card – which can become a quite high amount if you pay for instance for a couple of nights at a hotel.

There are ATMs on Fogo so that you won’t have a problem getting cash.

Some businesses even accept €uros. Since I didn’t do it, I cannot tell you if you pay a hidden surcharge.

Language

As Cape Verde used to be a Portuguese colony, the official language is Portuguese, but people speaks krioulo. This is a local patois and, like many dialects, differs a tiny bit even from island to island.

People do speak some English and French, but it is certainly helpful to have some basic knowledge of the local language.

Before my trip, I’d practiced using babbel. The first lesson is free and supplies you with the most important words to interact with people.

Where to stay

The Cape Verde islands are not a cheap country to travel. You can compare prices to those in southern Europe such as Spain or Portugal. Especially cabs are not a bargain. Since they are not metered, you should agree on the price before your trip. However, in general, Cape Verdeans don’t try to dupe tourists.
Also, you won’t get a great room at a cheap price.

A hotelbed in Boa Vista island of Cape Verde
Accommodation on Boa Vista.

Recommending one place for both in São Filipe is really easy: Stay with Ms Pipi, an energetic lady from Senegal. First, her bar and restaurant became an institution on Fogo, then she added a couple of rooms and now runs a guest house. There is no nicer place better located and run by a more interesting personality….as well as a better cook.

Get more details, check out availability and the rates of Pipi’s Guest House *

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful islands I’ve visited in Cape Verde? Then go to the main post and take your pick!

Pinnable Pictures

If you choose to pin this post for later, please make sure to use one of these pictures:

Pinnable Picture for the post on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde
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VIEW OF A VOLCANO ON THE WAY TO THE ISLAND OF FOGO; CAPE VERDE
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VIEW OF THE OCEAN AT THE ISLAND OF FOGO; CAPE VERDE
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* This is an affiliate link. If you do book through this page, not only do you get the best rate, I’ll receive a small commission without any extra cost for you that helps me run this blog.

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