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Cape Verde > Pictures and travelogues > Bay of Porto Grande in São Vicente

Pictures from the Bay of Porto Grande and Mindelo in São Vicente, Cape Verde: the beach, the marina, and the lighthouse (Ilhéu dos Pássaros).

Mindelo beach in São Vicente
Praia da Laginha, the main beach of Mindelo in São Vicente, Cape Verde. The beach is located at a short distance from the ferry terminal.

The island of São Vicente is part of the Barlavento ("windward") Islands, i.e. the northern islands of the Cape Verde archipelago. The highest point of that 227 km² large volcanic island is Monte Verde, which culminates 774 m above the sea level. Notwithstanding this peak and a few others over 500 m, the island is, for the rest, relatively flat.

The island is served by the Cesária Évora International Airport which is located in São Pedro to the west coast of the island, a bit less than 15 minutes by car from Mindelo. The airport is connected with Lisbon (and, in season, Amsterdam and Paris) as well as with some other islands of the archipelago, namely Santiago, Sal and São Nicolau.

The bulk (over 90%) of the population of the island lives in the port city of Mindelo, which lies in the Bay of Porto Grande. This beautiful and large Bay is shaped like a perfect semicircle. It is located in the northwestern part of the island. It is actually a 4 km wide underwater crater of a former volcano.

The port of Mindelo grew considerably in the 19th century when it was a major coal station. It was indeed home to several coal deposits, mostly at the hands of British companies. Many steamboats called at the coal station of Mindelo. This was the golden age of the Bay of Porto Grande. Although this activity has stopped for a long time, Mindelo remains the main port of Cape Verde.

Currently, it serves mainly as distribution center to the other islands of the archipelago. It is also a very busy fishing harbor. In addition, since the airport of the nearby island of Santo Antão is out of use, the port of Mindelo is the main gateway to Santo Antão. Travelers and trucks to/from Santo Antão embark/debark at Mindelo's ferry terminal.

For decades, Mindelo also served as link station for transatlantic telegraph cables. At the end of the XIX century when Mindelo was just a large village, not less than a hundred British citizens worked in the telegraph industry in Mindelo.

Because of those activities and the subsequent development of trade, the population of Mindelo has grown considerably. With about 80,000 inhabitants, São Vicente becomes the most populated island in the north of the archipelago and the second nationwide, after Santiago. São Vicente is also the island of Cape Verde which is the most open to the world. Foreign - especially English and Portuguese - presence in Mindelo was and still remains noticeable.

Culture is the main tourist attraction of the city. Mindelo is widely regarded as the cultural capital of the archipelago. The city keeps a remarkable architectural heritage from its prosperous past. It offers various cultural activities (music, dance, theater, and more). The Mindelo Carnival and, just a few kilometers away from Mindelo, the Bahía das Gatas music festival are known far beyond the archipelago. The famous singer Cesária Évora is born and started to work in Mindelo. Music and sports play an important role in the city. Mindelo has a large football stadium.

Mindelo Marina in São Vicente
Mindelo Marina in the island of São Vicente, Cape Verde.

In addition to the port, its industrial facilities (containers, cold storage, silo, and more), the fishing harbour, and the ferry terminal, Mindelo has a large marina where many yachts can shelter. Mindelo is often the only place in the region where significant damages to boats can be repaired.

As for beach holidays, the main beach (Praia da Laginha) of Mindelo is located east of downtown near the ferry terminal. There are other beaches in the island of São Vicente, namely in the Bay of Salamansa to the north, in Baias das Gatas to the east, and in San Pedro to the west.

Porto Grande Bay, São Vicente
Ilhéu dos Pássaros in the Bay of Porto Grande in São Vicente, Cape Verde.

Ilhéu dos Pássaros (literally "island of birds"), called in creole "Djeu" by locals, is a small uninhabited island in the Bay of Porto, about 2 km off the coast of Mindelo. This 40 m high islet is a survival from the edge of the underwater crater that forms the Bay of Porto Grande. A lighthouse has been set up on the islet.


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Pictures from the Bay of Porto Grande and Mindelo in São Vicente, Cape Verde: the beach, the marina, and the lighthouse (Ilhéu dos Pássaros).