I visited 'no stress island' - and it was the perfect antidote to Newcastle's winter blues

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
I travelled from Newcastle to Sal, Cape Verde on TUI's inaugural flight. Here's what I thought.

I wasn’t aware there was such a place as ‘no stress island’ until I was floating on a salt lake in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It turns out there is, and more and more people are beginning to discover it.

Pedra de Lume, Sal's Dead Sea (Credit: Andrew White)Pedra de Lume, Sal's Dead Sea (Credit: Andrew White)
Pedra de Lume, Sal's Dead Sea (Credit: Andrew White)

Over 500 km off the West Coast of Africa lies the archipelago of Cape Verde, ten islands scattered by the southern Atlantic Ocean. Once considered off the beaten track, the nation has become increasingly popular as a prime destination to escape the winter gloom experienced by northern Europe.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
The beach at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)The beach at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)
The beach at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)

Before going, all I knew about Cape Verde was that it is a former Portuguese colony and Charles Darwin’s first stop on the HMS Beagle. I surprised myself by knowing the latter. Unlike Darwin, however, my destination was Sal, or, as it came to be known, ‘no stress island.’

Palmeira town (Credit: Andrew White)Palmeira town (Credit: Andrew White)
Palmeira town (Credit: Andrew White)

Found in the north east of the archipelago, Sal is known for its desert-like environment made up of beaches, extinct volcanoes and island breezes. Translating directly to ‘salt,’ the mineral used to be the economy’s main source of income, along with fishing. Now resorts line Sal’s south coast, with the island heavily reliant on its tourism. 

Palmeria (Credit: Andrew White)Palmeria (Credit: Andrew White)
Palmeria (Credit: Andrew White)

But it’s easy to see why the island is becoming a success story. 

I flew from Newcastle International Airport with TUI on the first flight heading from the North East to the Atlantic isle. Getting off the plane, it was a view that was jokingly compared to Mars: reddish rock, craters and extinct volcanoes poking out in the distance. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Fishermen at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)Fishermen at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)
Fishermen at sunrise (Credit: Andrew White)

It was only a short journey to the resort, the Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria which boasted numerous pools, a water park and direct beach access. If relaxing in the sun and taking full advantage of the all-inclusive food, drinks and entertainment is what you’re after, the Palace is a good option. Complete with a spa, gym and sports bar, to some it feels unnecessary to leave the resort.

The Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria, Sal, Cape Verde (Credit: TUI)The Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria, Sal, Cape Verde (Credit: TUI)
The Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria, Sal, Cape Verde (Credit: TUI)

But my highlights came from exploring the island and discovering a new way of life. There is so much culture to experience and sights to see, a lot of which was covered in TUI’s day trip: Postcards of Sal. 

Sal is small, only 30 km in length, so it’s easy to see a lot in a day’s work. We got to visit the natural wonders of the blue-eye cave and float in the magical salt lake. Found in the crater of an old volcano, Pedra de Lume is where seawater turns into salt byway of a natural filtration system I’m not even going to attempt to explain. The water is Sal’s answer to the dead sea- so salty, you float. 

Palmeira town, Sal (Credit: Andrew White)Palmeira town, Sal (Credit: Andrew White)
Palmeira town, Sal (Credit: Andrew White)

Cape Verde’s motto is ‘no stress,’ something which at first felt unnatural and I know I wasn’t alone in that. But it really is quite impossible to feel anything but relaxation while floating in a moon-like crater. The way of life on the island is slow and meaningful which is reflected in the friendliness of the locals. After a day of exploring and talking to them it felt silly to be stressed about anything. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The towns and villages of Sal are colourful and full of life. One morning we woke up with the sun and ventured along the beach to Santa Maria pier to watch the fishermen come in with their morning catch.

Fisherman coming in with their morning catch (Credit: Andrew White)Fisherman coming in with their morning catch (Credit: Andrew White)
Fisherman coming in with their morning catch (Credit: Andrew White)

And sea creatures played a part in the trip in other ways. Attached to the neighbouring hotel is a Loggerhead Turtle hatchery and from August to mid-December people are able to go along, learn about their protection programme and, if you’re lucky, see some of the baby turtles emerge from their underground nests.

There are also opportunities to explore the ocean yourself. TUI’s Catamaran Cruise is the perfect option to relax and enjoy the coastline from a different perspective. 

On watch by the blue-eye cave (Credit: Andrew White)On watch by the blue-eye cave (Credit: Andrew White)
On watch by the blue-eye cave (Credit: Andrew White)

Sal is the perfect antidote to the winter blues and I'd return to Cape Verde in a heartbeat. Whether you want to kick back and relax on the beach with a cocktail or explore the wonders of the island there is something for everyone.

But if you're looking for no stress, look no further.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

TUI offers a seven night package holiday to Sal, Cape Verde staying at the 5T Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria on an all inclusive basis. Prices from £1268pp. Price is based on two adults sharing a Superior Twin Room with Balcony or Terrace, flights departing from Newcastle Airport on 13th February 2024 with 20kg of luggage per person and transfers. To find out more about this holiday or to book go to tui.co.uk, visit your local travel agent or download our app.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.