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Adrift in the Atlantic, some 500km off the coast of Senegal, Sal is home to splendid beaches, year-round warm weather and a laid-back “no stress” attitude.
Relatively unknown to the package holiday mass market, Sal holidays offer a taste of the exotic without the jet lag – in under six hours, you can be flopped on the type of beach that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean.
Part of Cape Verde, Sal is the most popular and developed of a ten-island archipelago. Mostly, travellers head here for one of two things: its seemingly endless, sugar-white sandy beaches, or its world-class kite surfing conditions.
Its barren interior, meanwhile, is a windswept desert of rust-red dunes; while most tourists don’t stray too far from the shore, this Martian expanse is ideal for a bit of adventure – usually in the form of quad biking.
Due to its Atlantic location between Africa and South America, the Cape Verdean culture is a heady mix of Brazilian, Portuguese and West African culture. You’ll find it in Sal’s people, melancholic music (Cesária Évora is a must-listen before you go) and food – most notably cachupa, a hearty stew of fish, beans and cassava.
Most visitors stay in Santa Maria, a colourful coastal town at the southern tip of the island. Besides having some of the best beaches, it’s got a decent nightlife, a handful of good restaurants and enough small craft shops to keep you busy in between beach days. Esparagos, the largest town on the island, doesn’t usually draw too many tourists but it offers a glimpse of everyday life on Sal.
While hotel development has gone into overdrive in recent years, Sal is still one of the best islands – along with nearby Boa Vista – for a no-nonsense beach holiday.
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