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 in luxury

from £3796 per person
Although relatively undeveloped from a tourism point of fire these islands contain some truly luxurious accommodation. After a night on São Tomé you will take a short flight to the island of Príncipe and its eco lodge. 18 tastefully decorated bungalows are set between two private beaches and you can spend your time relaxing in the luxurious grounds or by exploring the island. Knowing that you would be very reluctant to leave, we have added two more nights at another luxurious boutique hotel, Roca Belo Monte before you return to the UK.

Best of São Tomé & Príncipe

from £2880 per person
During this 12-night trip you will split your time between Lisbon, São Tomé and Principe. Included is a cocoa tour in the north of São Tomé, a coffee tour to the Monte Cafe plantation, an island tour of Principe, a cooking workshop and a traditional and local meal at the five-star resort of Sundy Praia on Principe. The islands are blessed with an array of natural produce, its forests filled with fruit and nuts, its waters brimming with tuna and Wahoo. International chefs refine the best of the island’s produce and traditions, creating seasonal menus bursting with great flavours and fresh ingredients. A great tour for foodies

Active São Tomé & Príncipe holiday

from £4540 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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