Tiny São Tomé and Príncipe can be found off the coast of West Africa, some 225 kilometres west of Gabon in the Gulf of Guinea. This duo of Equatorial islands is Africa’s second smallest nation – only the Seychelles is smaller – and is part of a volcanic range now reduced to a cluster of archipelagos around the two main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. The islands are characterised by striking rock formations, coral reefs, rainforests and beautiful beaches, as well as the remains of a vast cocoa production centre. Thanks to economic and political upheaval since the islands’ independence from Portugal in 1975, São Tomé and Príncipe holidays have remained off-radar to most tourists and are accessible only by four weekly flights from Lisbon. Holidays to the islands are incredibly rewarding, particularly for those interested in ecotourism and immersing themselves in local culture.
The larger island of São Tomé is where many choose to stay, and offers everything you need for a tropical island holiday – beaches, swaying palms, delicious food – but with an additional sprinkling of something extra. It could well be the influence of Portuguese rule, such as the Creole-inspired cuisine, and indeed most holidays to São Tomé and Príncipe will include a little Portuguese flavour, for it remains the official language and hotel rooms are priced in Euros. Or it could be the crumbling plantation mansions, decaying colonial townhouses or wide, tree-lined avenues, relics of a bygone era before the sugar, coffee and cacao boom collapsed.
Príncipe is the smaller of the two, home to just 7,000 people who live around the columns of rock and dense rainforest. Unspoiled Príncipe feels like a lost paradise, with plenty of birds to spot in the canopy, fantastic beaches, jungles to explore, snorkelling and fishing in its clear; tourism is minimal and natural rewards are bountiful here. The entire island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, meaning a rich diversity of wildlife including 28 endemic species of bird.
Despite its far-flung location, these twin specks in the Atlantic are surprisingly easy to get to. A short flight to Lisbon and a quick change to Portugal’s flag carrier airline TAP will bring you the rest of the way to São Tomé and Príncipe, with a brief stop in Accra. Thanks to its location there’s no jet lag either, meaning São Tomé and Príncipe holidays can easily be managed in seven days.
To see the incredible islands of São Tomé and Príncipe before everyone else, call our Destination Experts now to discuss our range of holidays to São Tomé and Príncipe.