Photo story: the landscapes of Cape Verde

The landscape of this scattered Atlantic archipelago veers from one extreme to another.  Lush peaks brood over desolate ashy desert, Martian-red canyons run into white-sand bays, and towns and villages bubble with a distinctive Afro-Portuguese culture.

By Massimo Ripani
photographs by Massimo Ripani
Published 11 Jul 2019, 07:00 BST
Cape Verde.
Cape Verde.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani

“There’s nothing here!” exclaim two girls on a beach on the island of Santo Antão. And it’s true. West of here, the next landfall is the Caribbean, separated by some 2,000 miles of open Atlantic Ocean. Still, there’s plenty of life on this archipelago, from Sal island’s ramshackle desert bars, kite surfers and barefoot fishermen landing their daily catch, to Boa Vista’s vibrant, Portuguese colonial streets.

Santo Antão.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
A colourful sign.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
Boa Vista.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
Street in Boa Vista.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani

The abandoned saltworks of Pedra de Lume, in Sal island’s northeastern corner, is reminiscent of the Dead Sea. The ocean infiltrates the crater of an extinct volcano, forming lunar salt flats and super-buoyant saline pools.

Pedra de Lume.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
Houses by the beach.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani

São Vicente reveals more of Cape Verde’s Creole soul: a blend of Portuguese and African cultures that makes these islands unique. Here, bars play melancholy melodies by Cesária Évora — nicknamed the ‘Barefoot Diva’ — as locals play dominoes and sip glasses of grogue (sugar cane rum) in the streets. While in Sal’s mural-painted capital, Santa Maria, you’ll find few tourists, but plenty of impromptu games of beach football, which are only marginally less noisy than the daily fish market.

Playing football in the waves.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
A local transports fresh produce.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani
Terraced mountains in Santo Antão.
Photograph by Massimo Ripani

See more images in our gallery:

Published in the March 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media 


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved