Hiking Volcanoes on Fogo Island in Cape Verde
Fogo Island, the land of fire, erupted back into life in 2014 when Pico de Fogo recorded one of the strongest eruptions ever recorded on the island. However, it’s highly likely you’ve never even heard of it due to Cape Verde’s isolation, I mean no-one cares because it isn’t affecting our air travel, right? We’re so fickle!
One of the main reasons I ventured to Cape Verde was so I could visit Fogo and in particular Pico de Fogo – the active volcano! The island itself consists of only one volcano that is almost round, this is because more than 73,000 years ago the eastern side of Fogo collapsed that caused a catastrophic tsunami that struck another of Cape Verde’s islands, Santiago.
Taken from an Airbus cockpit by the pilot
The amazing thing about this island, unlike the majority of Cape Verde’s other rather dry and flat neighbours is that it produces a large amount of not only fruit and vegetables but also beautiful coffee and wine. Although sadly the quantity isn’t significant enough to export, I was able to buy some coffee beans to bring back and believe me it’s some of the best I’ve tried as it has a raw natural sweetness that adds to its charm.
Cape Verde’s islands are all so unique and different, they could all in fact be different countries. Fogo reminded me of mainland Africa, from its cuisine of spicy chicken to the laid-back culture and frozen in time feeling, you will well and truly be on Africa-time. The languages spoken here are mostly French and Creole, due to many of its residents originating from Senegal and the mainland.
Since meeting my partner, things on my travels have slightly changed for me and I’ve had to think in very different ways when it comes to planning. This is because he has two children from a previous marriage and this often leads to me trying to figure out is it family friendly, is it LGBT+ friendly, will it be dangerous? Quite a culture shock considering some of the places I’ve previously visited, I don’t adapt very well but I can honestly say the two munchkins absolutely loved it!
You can in fact hike all the way to the top of Pico de Fogo, thankfully I’m not that insane, and as this trip was a family adventure we opted to do the slightly easier Pico Pequeno peak instead.
However, here’s how we got on…
Fogo is pretty much just straight up in the middle so to get there you’ll encounter some incredible scenery, and an amazingly good road to drive on!
As you begin to ascend you’ll notice the incredible crater landscape and the lava flow that occurred
Even looking straight up at the very top of Pico de Fogo is scary, let alone climbing it. Not for me!
Ok, so I didn’t climb the whole thing, but it certainly felt like it!
The View from Pico Piqueno
Walking along this path is fairly treacherous, especially if you aren’t very steady on your feet as the small stones move, a lot, meaning if you put one foot wrong you could slip all the way to the bottom.
The nearby villages were pretty much destroyed, this one was overcome by lava.
Even though they were completely destroyed, it appears that some people are beginning to venture back to their homes!
One of the most amazing and unique parts of Fogo is the fact that vines grow in the volcanic soil that helps the islanders to produce good-quality wine, make sure you head for a wine tasting and purchase some!
The best bit, no matter whether you do the small or big part of the volcano, reward yourself with a local Strela beer – YUM!
HOW CAN YOU VISIT FOGO ISLAND?
Well, unfortunately there’s only one airline that fly there, Binter CV, although they aren’t expensive they have some serious issues with time-keeping. Our return flight back to Praia was delayed by 2.5 hours and almost cancelled, which seems to be a regular occurrence on this route so be sure to not get stuck on this tiny island as there is only one flight!
As I was short on time I decided to hire a guide to find out more about the island, its volcano and their quirks but sadly it seems I didn’t pick a great one. His command of English was fairly limited and now I’ve returned to the U.K I’ve actually learned more about Fogo from the internet than I did from him, so sadly I won’t be recommending the “Fogo Guide” (sometimes known as Creole Guide on Fogo).
It is a 2829m hike to the top of Pico de Fogo, so it isn’t for the faint-hearted but thankfully the Pico Pequeno can easily be hiked in approximately 1-2 hours roundtrip. Other than seeing the volcano, sadly there isn’t a huge amount of other things to do so I’d spend a maximum two nights here, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Sao Filipe – the capital of Fogo Island, Cape Verde
It’s well worth spending an hour or so wandering aimlessly around the rather steep streets of the capital on Fogo Island, Sao Filipe. It easily reminded me of Havana in Cuba or Massawa in Eritrea with its slightly run down but charming buildings and architecture. It’s currently on the contender list for UNESCO World Heritage status, only time will tell whether they actually achieve a place.
One of its best features is the beautiful black sandy beach which stretches quite a way and it can easily feel like you it’s just you and the sea as very few people come down here, mostly thanks to the fact that the town is raised up above a rocky edge.
This place can seem very isolated so if you have a cancelled flight or the sea is too rough for the ferry to head over to Brava island, you might get a bit stuck. There’s also no ATMs anywhere and nowhere seemed to take cards so make sure you bring all of your money with you!
Praia da Bila is a beautiful black sand beach located just a short from the centre of Sao Filipe
Fancy exploring more of Cape Verde? Discover the top things to see on Sal Island in Cape Verde.
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