São Tomé & Príncipe

An island nation of pristine beaches, rainforest, colonial architecture and friendly locals

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.

Walking

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.  

  • Flying time: 8 hours via Lisbon with touchdown in Accra
  • Time difference: 0 hours
  • Currency: Dobra
  • Best time of year to travel: Year round but dry season June to September

Ideas for a trip to São Tomé & Príncipe

Here are some ideas for trips to São Tomé & Príncipe all of which can be adapted for you and we are always happy to create a bespoke trip from scratch.

São Tomé & Príncipe Island Retreat

from £2950 per person
Nine-night stay starting with a three-night stay at Omali Lodge. Set within pretty gardens full of coconut palms and not too far from Obo National Park – and also just across from the white sands and crashing waves of Lagarto Beach – Omali Lodge is the perfect base from which to acquaint yourself with what the island has to offer. On day four, head to Príncipe for five nights, a beautiful island with a relaxed ambience. Despite its small size, Príncipe contains diverse ecosystems and its people have an interesting culture, with African roots mixed with elements of Portuguese.

Best of São Tomé & Príncipe

from £2880 per person
Experience the highlights of São Tomé and Príncipe on this twelve-day itinerary. You will spend the first three nights at Omali Lodge on São Tomé, to experience the history and culture of the island. Hop over to the Island of Príncipe for four nights at Bom Bom Island Resort. Being on a protected biosphere, this resort is extremely peaceful and naturally beautiful. You can go whale watching, see the dolphins and even turtles nesting. Bird watching here is also brilliant. Finish off your stay with three nights at Roça Sundy – a restored plantation house.

Active São Tomé & Príncipe holiday

from £3098 per person
Nine-night holiday including a couple of nights in Lisbon and then seeing all the sights of these lovely islands including a boat trip to the bay of Needles, a cultural tour of Príncipe Island, turtle watching between September and April, a half day hike on the wild trails in Príncipe ending with a refreshing dip in a waterfall, watersports at island retreat including stand-up paddle boarding, snorkelling and kayaking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions that haven't been answered here? Send your questions to enquiries@shearwatertravel.co.uk and we'll try our best to help.

No visa needed for UK citizens for stays of 15 days or less.  More details available on the FCO Travel Advice pages

Usual immunisations should be up to date and Hepatitis A and Tetanus are also advised.  For latest advice visit the NHS travel pages 

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