The prehistory of the island had a very large eruption around 73,000 years ago that collapsed the eastern side into the ocean and produced a 170-metre (560-foot) megatsunami that struck Santiago Island. The mountain elevation was between 3,500 and 4,000 metres (11,500 and 13,100 feet) tall.
Fogo was first sighted in 1456 by Vicente Dias along with Alvise Cadamosto and Antoniotto Usodimare, Fogo was fully discovered in 1460 by a Genovese captain António Noli on behalf of Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese Crown, and was first called São Filipe, meaning Saint Philip in Portuguese. It gained its current fiery name before the 1680 eruption, since a madrigal "The Andalusian Merchant" by Thomas Weelkes, who died in 1623, sings "how strangely Fogo burns, amidst an ocean full of flying fishes". It also appeared in an 1598 map titled Insulae Capitis Viridis which is now at the National Library of France.
There are now two cities in the island: São Filipe and Mosteiros.
The Portuguese settled the island in 1500. Emigration started in 1850, mainly to North America. The 1910 civil revolution in Portugal drew aristocracy and large land-owners back to Portugal and left civilians behind. A small museum on Fogo explains many of these connections.
Volcanic eruptions have occurred in 1680, 1769, 1785, 1799, 1847, 1852, 1857, 1951, 1995, and 2014. The first recorded eruption was in 1680 in which was the last time it erupted from the top, it devastated much of the island, many inhabitants fled to the nearby island of Brava, the eruption continued for a few years and would act as a natural lighthouse for ships. The black color of the soil from the previous eruptions are still seen today. The 1769 eruption was the last time it erupted from the top of the peak. The 1995 eruption began on April 2–3 and nearby residents were evacuated, it was preceded by small earthquakes which began six days prior to the first eruption lava, it intensified on April 18 with large, explosive bursts, by morning, the activity returned to lava fountaining. In 2014, another eruption occurred from near the same vent as the last, the population was evacuated again, it was slightly greater and much of Portela would be destroyed and much of Bangaeira had suffered minor damages though the lava went to the area, a part of the road was destroyed.
São Filipe became the seat of the municipality of Fogo in 1854 which existed until 1991, before it administered Brava. Its first president was El-Rei Márcio Cardoso, later he was succeeded by his brother El-Rei Carlos Cardoso III (The Strong).
One of the southernmost islands in Cape Verde, Fogo is located between the islands of Santiago and Brava. Practically the whole island is a stratovolcano that has been periodically active: it last erupted in 2014. The largest volcanic feature is a nine kilometres (5.6 miles) caldera, which has walls one kilometre (0.62 miles) high. The caldera has a breach in its eastern rim, and in the centre a resurgent dome with an ash cone that forms the highest point of the island: its summit is about one hundred m higher than the surrounding caldera wall. Lava from the volcano has reached the eastern coast of the island within historical times.
Two small villages, Portela and Bangaeira, exist in the floor of the caldera (Chã das Caldeiras); the residents were evacuated during eruptions.
The island's main city is São Filipe, near which is an airport. Fogo is largely an agricultural island. It has fertile land in the south-west with a slope of about ten to fifteen degrees. The north and the east are steeper. The island rises abruptly from the ocean, which can be as deep as 5,300 metres (17,400 feet) at a distance of five kilometres (3.1 miles) from the shoreline. In the south and west parts of the island, there are numerous hills and small mountains that were formed out of different small volcanoes such as Achada Furna, Monte Largo, Monte Grande and Lagariça, tiny small underwater hills that were volcanoes surrounding the islands are rarely founded. The exception is to the west, where the island is connected to another seamount; further west in Brava.
The steep slopes in the north-eastern part are green and grassy all year round. The rest of the mountain is dry and barren, its dry creeks and streams are dry washes.
São Filipe's buildings use classic Portuguese colonial architecture. Mosteiros in the north-east is the island's second most important town.
A violent eruption took place in 1680, forming a new cone that was visible over hundreds of kilometres but lasted only for a few years. It was during this eruption that the island earned its name.
There are various endemic plants on Fogo:
Being one stratovolcano and extremely mountainous, this island has quite a diverse climate and many various microclimates. Along the coast Fogo has a moderate dry tropical climate according to the Köppen–Geiger climate classification system; higher on the slopes (~ 800 metres or 2,600 feet A.S.L.) it has a semiarid mild tropical climate (Köppen–Geiger Bsh_ with very balanced temperatures year round; above 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) it has a cool highland subtropical steppe climate (Köppen–Geiger BskL). The average annual temperature on the coast is about 23–25 °C (73–77 °F), decreasing to some 12–14 °C (54–57 °F) on the highest ground.
There can be remarkably cool weather in the interior, with the warmer wet season starting in July and ending in November, with the colder dry season starting in December and ending in May. Drought, the major climate risk of Cape Verdean islands, is much less pronounced on Fogo, due to the mountain's ability to gain moisture from clouds. During the mid-nineteenth century, Fogo suffered from severe droughts. Death from starvation was common in the population as of 1832.
As of 1832, Fogo had an estimated human population of 10,000. The official language of Fogo is Portuguese; yet mostly Fogo Creole is spoken. According to the 2013 national demographic census, Fogo was the fourth most populous island in the Cape Verde archipelago.
The economy of the island is based on agriculture and fishing, with coffee and wine among the main products. In the 1830s, Fogo's wine was described as being "very superior." Due to its volcanic soil Fogo's coffee also has a good reputation. The island has experienced a substantial diaspora. Many households live off remittances from emigrants in the U.S. and in European countries (Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Italy). Fogo fosters strong connections to Rhode Island and to Massachusetts (U.S.), where many people with Cape Verdean origin live.
Tourism is steadily becoming popular. The volcano (allowed only accompanied by a local guide) is the island's major attraction but many visitors also come to see relatives. The historic city of São Filipe and Chã das Caldeiras in the volcanic crater receive the bulk of visitors. No great tourism facilities exist, but there are small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts and local guides offer hiking tours (e.g..
The island is divided in three municipalities, which are subdivided into civil parishes:
The most notable route on the island is the Fogo Circular Road (Rodovía Circular do Fogo) which is EN1-FG01 and passes through the island capital, Cova Figueira, Mosteiros and Ribeira do Ilhéu and the road linking the capital and the island's port (EN2-FG01). Lesser roads include the road (EN3-FG01) linking Ponta Verde, Lomba, Achada Furna and Cova Figueira running up to 1,100 above sea level, the road connecting Fonte Aleixo, Achada Furna and Chã das Caldeiras (EN3-FG05), the northernmost terminus almost entirely affected by the 2014-15 eruption and the São Filipe-São Lourenço Lomba route (EN3-FG02).
Fogo has the southwest of the country's only airport (São Filipe Airport) in the island capital which also serves Brava (with the exception of from 1992 to 2004), it serves just three other islands, Santiago São Vicente and Boa Vista. Fogo once had another airfield northwest of Mosteiros but has been closed. It also has its main port located at Porto de Vale Cavaleiros (Knight's Valley) just 4 km northwest of the island capital. It was renovated and expanded in 2000 and has a depth of 5 metres. The port handles the island's ferry services and serves the nearby islands of Brava and Fogo, from Santiago, it also accesses other parts of Cape Verde, the Praia-Fogo-Brava ferry route runs every day of the year. Since 2011, the Kriola ferry is the only few boats serving Brava and primarily serves with that island than with Santiago-Brava.
Fogo has many yasis running the routes between São Filipe and Mosteiros, São Filipe and Chã das Calderas, however unlike many other islands, these buses all depart at roughly the same time every day, and despite the presence of multiple vehicles running each route, passengers can find themselves stranded if they do not board a vehicle during the limited departure window. Yasis tend to depart Mosteiros headed to São Filipe around 6am, and tend to Depart São Filipe headed to Chã around noon.