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The Cape Verde Islands are remote, about 500 km from the African mainland. Despite this distance the country's rugged beauty and distinct music attract more and more visitors to the islands every year.

The Cape Verde Islands were formed in a series of volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago. As far as it is known, the islands were uninhabited until 1462. As Europeans gradually settled over the next 100 years, Cape Verde became a center of trade in the Atlantic. Cotton became Cape Verde's main commercial crop, and slaves were brought in from the African mainland to work the plantations.

The Portuguese colony then served as a massive military base beginning in 1963, as the islands stationed Portuguese troops traveling back and forth from wars of independence in nearby Guinea-Bissau and also Angola and Mozambique. After its war with Guinea-Bissau, Portugal withdrew in1974, paving the way for Cape Verde's independence one year later. Cape Verde would remain united with Guinea-Bissau until factional issues split them in 1982. Multiparty reforms throughout the late 1980s led to legislative elections in 1991, in which the opposition was swept into power. Politics in Cape Verde have remained democratic and peaceful.

Although Cape Verde has a population of 424,000, most of its people live abroad and send money back home. Many people have emigrated in recent years because of persistent drought. The local language is Crioulo, a mix of Portuguese and West African words, and the official language is Portuguese. Most visitors can get by with a little bit of Portuguese, or even French.

Cape Verde consists of nine main islands in two groups, the Barlaventos (windward) and Sotaventos (leeward). Six of the islands - Santiago, Fogo, Brava, Sao Nicolau, Sao Vincente and Santo Antao - are volcanic, and three - Maio, Boa Vista and Sal - are flat. The islands are not difficult to get around due to regular air service and ferry service.

The largest town is Praia, located on the island of Santiago, and also your arrival point if you are coming from Dakar. Praia offers good nightlife and visitors can enjoy trips out of town to the scenic mountains in the central region and beaches in the northwest. Other top destinations include the cultural capital of Mindelo, which hosts an annual carnival in February. The island of Sal is among the most frequently visited in Cape Verde because it has an international airport and serves as the base for European package tours. The island of Fogo offers the hiking destination of Mt. Fogo, a volcano that rises to nearly 3,000 meters.