São Tomé and Principe is a tiny island nation in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa. Sitting just above the Equator, the islands are carpeted in the virgin rainforest and encircled by black volcanic shores and turquoise ocean waters. Trips here are all about hiking through the dense jungle on biosphere trails, snorkelling off secluded sandy beaches and visiting the mysterious ruined buildings of deserted plantations dotted all over the islands. Tourism is still in its infancy here, so it’s the perfect location for adventurers wanting to get well and truly off the beaten track. It’s quite likely that the only place you’ll see another tourist is your hotel.
Discovered by Portuguese explorers back in 1470, and the archipelago became famous for its prosperous cocoa, coffee and sugar cane plantations. With the settlers came slaves from Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde, and the inhabitants today are descended from all these different cultures. As you travel around the islands, you’ll notice that there are several different languages spoken, and residents in one village often can’t understand those in the next settlement just down the road.
Some of the best things to do in Sao Tome and Principe include seeing the dramatic stone pinnacle of Pico Cao Grande that looms out of the mist on Sao Tome; picnicking on Praia Banana which is a fruit-shaped beach on Principe made famous by a Bacardi advert in the 90s; and exploring Roca Aqua Ize, an abandoned plantation hospital building on the main island.
Sao Tome and Principe gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and since then a small handful of visitors have been coming to see this tropical gem for themselves. Despite being so remote it is actually quite easy to get to the islands, with direct flights from Lisbon a few times a week. There’s not a lot of accommodation to choose from, so it’s best to book your hotel, guest house or hostel well in advance, although excursions can be arranged once you are on the islands.
Loved reading about Sao Tome and Principe? This article was submitted by Heather Cole of @Conversant Traveller. If you would like to share where you Venture | Explore | Conquer, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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