Festivals & Traditions in Cape Verde

Festivals in the Cape Verdes take place during Saints days and as such include church services, wonderfully colourful processions, a lot of drumming and lively music which all culminates in a huge party where people enjoy delicious traditional dishes especially prepared for the occasion. It’s a time to have fun and enjoy yourself with lots of other revellers who arrive on the islands for the festivities.


On all the islands:

  • January 1st – New Year
  • January 20th – National Heroes´ day
  • March 8th – Women´s day
  • March 30th – Capeverdean women´s day
  • March/April – Easter, as in Europe
  • May 1st – International Labour day
  • June 1st – International Children´s day
  • June 24th – São João (Saint John the Baptist)
  • July 5th – Independence day (since 1975)
  • September 12th – National holiday (commemorating the death of Amilcar Cabral)
  • November 1st – All Saint’s Day
  • December 25th – Christmas
  • December 31st – New Years Eve
  • On national holidays the banks and other official institutions as well as shops and pharmacy’s are closed. Only tourist complexes are open.


Boa Vista:

  • January 6th – A festival for the three wise men, celebrated in the villages João Galego, Funda das Figueiras and Cabeça dos Tarrafes, with dances and various other social activities.
  • May 3rd – Santa Cruz: the liberation of the slaves.
  • May 4th – Pidrona, Povoação Velha
  • June 13th – Santo António
  • July 4th – Santa Isabel, patron saint of Boa Vista.
  • August 15th- “Nossa Senhora de Piedade”
  • August 16th - S. Roque.
  • August – Musical festival in Praia de Santa Cruz, local and international artists.



  • April 30th - São Filipe´s flag festivities, commemorating the discovery of the island in 1460
  • August 10th – Festival in São Lourenço
  • December 16th – Community festival in São Filipe


  • December – Festivities of Cristo-rei, Christ, Our Lord.


  • August – Festival de Santa Maria: one of the three major musical festivals in Cape Verde
  • September 15th – Sal´s own music festival


  • January 15th – Santo Amaro comes out to the streets to give mantenhas (greetings) to the inhabitants of Tarrafal during a procession.
  • January 17th – Cidade Velha
  • 15 days following Easter - São Jorge. Celebrating of the patron saint in the parish of S. Lourenço dos Orgãos, Municipality of Sta. Cruz.
  • June – Tabanka takes place on several days
  • May 13th – Nossa Senhora da Fátima, local festival in Assomada (county of Santa Catarina)
  • May – Festival de Gamboa: One of the three major musical festivals in Cape Verde. Takes place on or near the beach Gamboa, in Praia, around the festivities of the Municipality Day, May 19th.
  • June 25th – Santiago is celebrated in Santa Cruz and Pedra Badejo
  • July 25th – County festival in Santa Cruz and Pedra Badejo, celebrating Saint Laurentius
  • August 15th – Nossa Senhora da Graça, celebrated in Praia
  • November 25th – Local festival for the Holy Catharina and Saviour in the counties Santa Catarina and Assomada

Santo Antão:

  • January 17th – village festival in Ribeira Grande
  • May 13th – city festival in Ribeira do Paúl
  • June – violin festival
  • June 13th – Local festival in Paúl
  • June 14th – Local festival in Porto Novo
  • August 15th – Village festival in Janela
  • November – Sete sóis e sete luas in Ribeira Grande

São Nicolau:

  • December 6th – Local festival in Ribeira Brava
  • December – Festivities for Mr S. Nicolau (Nhô S. Nicolau). Might include storytelling, cooking (of course!), drumming and traditional dancing contests.

São Vicente:

  • January 22nd – Mindelo´s own festival
  • February/March – Carnival!
  • May 3rd – Holiday in Santa Cruz
  • June 13th – Village festival in Santo António
  • June 29th – Festival in São Pedro
  • August – Baia das Gatas – musical festival
  • September – Mindelact – Theatre festival in Mindelo

Carnival (February/March)

The most famous festival in Cape Verde is Carnival, normally held on most of the islands in February, close to Ash Wednesday. The streets are awash with revelers in fancy dress and the atmosphere is electrifying. Feel the beat of the music and watch the entertaining float procession with its incredible flamboyant costumes against the backdrop of clear blue sky. The mood is also competitive as local districts compete for the attention of the judges to be crowned the winner of the best street float. With its Brazilian influence, spontaneous street parties and electrifying atmosphere, Mindelo Carnival on the Island of Sao Vicente is by far the biggest with tens of thousands of people taking part.


The Flag Feast – Fogo (30th April)

The flag feast is held on the Island of Fogo on April 30th in the city of Sao Filipe named after the patron saint of Fogo. It starts with the ritual of women peeling and pounding maize in a pestle to the beat of the drum. The flags are important symbols and are blessed in water. Fogo males compete in horse races to have the honour of organizing next year’s event. The event combines a ceremonial mass and street party.


Tabanka – Santiago (June)


Tabanka means village in Guinea-Bissau. In Cape Verde, or more specifically Santiago island, it is a half religious, half social organisation, with participants basically among the poorest part of the population, a reminiscence of its origin among the slaves that were importet from the coast of West Africa.

A tabanka is like a theatre, with the act being played out over a period of more or less a month, starting in June. The tabanka includes the stealing of a saint, from the heavily guarded (with wooden guns!) “capela do santo”, or the saint’s chapel, on a night with batuku dancing, and ends with recapturing it and catching the thieves. This is of course celebrated with processions, dance, music and lots of good grogue – the local sugar cane bases booze. A conch provides a tremendous sound to the tabanka, spanning ca. 12 different notes. The band Ferro Gaita has taken up the use of it. The Tabanka museum is located in the town Assomada.



The Festival of São João (24th June)

São João=Saint John is celebrated on all the islands. The festival of Sao Joao is a passionate affair involving folk dancing, singing and street parties. A fire is lit to warn off evil spirits and protect the fertile land as women dance the sensual Kola Dance while calling out their song as the sound of the drums becomes louder and more intense.

The jovial street parties involve a symbolic representation of pirates who stole from the local people. Performers dress up in costumes representing ships, demanding gifts from passers by.



Music festivals

Gamboa Festival – Santiago (May)

The Gambôa Festival happens in Santiago’s capital Praia. This superb event draws crowds who enjoy a musical extravaganza of local talented musicians and others wonderfully entertaining their audiences with salsa as well as Latino music that gets everyone’s toes tapping.


Violin Festival – Santo Antão (June)

In June, on the island of Santo Antao the Violin Festival in Ponta do Sol takes place. Santo Antao is the lushest of the islands and is one of the best places to hike around offering superb landscapes and stunning vistas. The wonderful violin festival draws musicians from far afield to this gorgeous island that’s just an hour away from Mindelo on the ferry.


Baia das Gatas – São Vicente (August)

The event was started in 1984 by a group of friends who wanted to create a way to meet and share musical ideas, but also as a way to create solidarity and peace throughout Cape Verde. The event now involves not only Cape Verdean musicians but also international artists, and attracts tens of thousands of people not only from Cape Verde but also from across the globe.

The music festival of Baia das Gatas is held on the beach over a long weekend in August close to the full moon. It’s one of the Largest open air music festivals in West Africa, and has become a celebration of Cape Verean culture.There are numerous food stalls where you can try Catchupa, fagalada and of course lots of beer and Grogue. The night eventually turns in to one big party and giant disco.

This music festival is seen as the blueprint for the others on Sal and Santiago for example the Gamboa music Festival normally held in May.

Just one short week after the the Baía das Gatas Festival of Sao Vicente, the fabulous festival of Boa Vista takes place.


Sal Music festival (September)

The Sal Music festival in Santa Maria is held in September over a weekend and has also evolved into a big event attracting local and international artists. The music played is a fusion of many different styles and influences and is a great spectacle. Cape Verdean people from across the Islands as well as tourists flock to Santa Maria beach and generally camp out on the beach for the duration of the festival. When the sun goes down bonfires are lit and the party goes on through the night.



Sete Sóis e Sete Luas – Santo Antão (November)

On the island of Santo Antao, in Ribeira Grande there is the superb Music and Culture International Festival called Sete Sóis e Sete Luas, the translation of which is the delightful ‘Seven Suns and Seven Moons’ .