Africa’s second smallest nation after the Seychelles, the former Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe can be found on the Equator, 225 km west of Gabon in West Africa. These islands are virtually untouched by tourism and if you choose to visit you will definitely feel you are on the road less travelled. Despite this, the islands have lovely boutique luxury hotel choices, plenty of activities and gorgeous landscapes and wildlife. Not to be missed are:
- The larger island of São Tomé, once the world’s largest cocoa exporter where you can still visit cocoa plantations.
- A visit to São Tomé in mid August for the Auto de Felipes annual street theatre clash between the fiery Moors and cool Christians – more carnival than performance.
- The impenetrable forests of Príncipe with over 25 endemic bird species including parrots and kingfishers. Jungle has overtaken many old plantation buildings and you can find churches enclosed by the roots of trees like in Angkor Wat.
- A hike to the summit of Pico Papagaio – its name means Parrot Mountain and en route you will definitely see parrots and kingfishers.
- Stunning golden sand beaches on Príncipe, especially the photogenic Praia Boi and Praia Banana.
- From September to April, Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles lay their eggs in the sands of Praia Grande on Príncipe.
- From August to October you can see humpback whales cruise past in the offshore waters of Príncipe.
- All flights to São Tomé and Príncipe go via Lisbon, so tack on a few days in the lively Portuguese capital as part of your trip.
The most beautiful side of São Tomé and Príncipe is its forests and national parks. In fact huge parts of each island are devoted to these. As a result there is some lovely and varied hiking. Hiking is best done with a guide although the more adventurous might do some walking alone. A hike to the summit of Pico do Papagaio on Príncipe (the island’s Macchu Pichu) will take around six hours but reward you with sightings of endemic monkeys and birds and at the top a jaw dropping 360 degree view. Also on the islands you can do shorter walks taking you to waterfalls for wild swimming, along beaches and through countryside where you will see the ruins of plantation houses.
São Tomé & Príncipe in luxury
from £3796 per person
Best of São Tomé & Príncipe
from £2880 per person
Active São Tomé & Príncipe holiday
from £4540 per person
No visa needed for UK citizens for stays of 15 days or less. More details available on the FCO Travel Advice pages