São Tomé e Príncipe

The little-known islands of São Tomé e Príncipe provide unspoiled beauty and isolation from the world, in a way that’s now rarely found anywhere else.

The remote two island nation of Sao Tome & Principe is situated 250km off the coast of Gabon in West Africa. The islands are close to the equator, so hot and humid all year round. They were first discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century and, unlike so many other tropical paradises, have largely remained as they were then. There have long been cocoa plantations, most now long since abandoned, but the vast majority of these islands, especially Principe, are still covered in pristine primeval rainforest with the interiors. Very recently indeed there’s been some careful development enabling outsiders to experience a unique experience in this tiny African country.

Inland it’s a nature lover’s dream. You’re bound to see the island nation’s noisy national bird, the African Grey parrot, flying by with a flash of its bright red rump. There are also hundreds of other endemic species of bird, like the Principe kingfisher, also types of orchid found nowhere else and numerous other luxuriant tropical plants. If you’re a keen hiker, try climbing the misty-topped Pico do Sao Tome, or Pico do Príncipe for an adventurous excursion.

Sao Tome is by far the larger of the two islands and for most is a stopping off place for the onward short flight to the less developed Principe. There are less than a handful of options to stay there including a couple high above the gorgeous beaches which had a former life as cocoa plantations. These have been beautifully restored but have been careful to retain all their historic charm and local character. There’s a breathtakingly scenic walk between Roca Sundy, one of the former cocoa plantation hotels, down the hill to its sister establishment on the beach Praia Sundy, where you’ll find exquisite accommodation on the beach and superb cuisine.

Santo António, the main town on Principe, is a charming little colonial town where you can hear the locals singing hymns in the pretty church in their local creole language. In the evening you are likely to see lots of partying going on in the streets. Out of town the relaxed population like to hang out at each other’s brightly painted houses to enjoy a beer or two together.

Sao Tome & Principe is not that easy to get to but as is often the case with distant hard-to-reach places the journey is rewarded by a truly unique tropical paradise experience. You should go to this little slice of heaven before too many others find it.

From volcanic peaks to underwater caves, São Tomé and Príncipe is the perfect destination for a tropical holiday.

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