About the Bijagos Archipelago

The Bijagos Islands are the jewel in Guinea-Bissau’s crown, an archipelago of 88 islands that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their isolated location means they are home to some of West Africa’s least adulterated cultural traditions, unspoiled by colonial influence. 



A number of the inhabited islands have matrilineal societies, where women traditionally wield power, manage the household and instigate marriage proceedings. When it comes to marriage, women offer a fish platter (traditionally in red palm oil) to their chosen husband-to-be, who accepts by eating it.


Best time to go

The year is divided into two seasons: the dry season from December to May, when the harmattan blows, and the rainy season between June and November when the wind comes from the southwest. November to April is the best time to visit Guinea-Bissau.


How many days do I need in Bijagos Archipelago?

To visit Guinea-Bissau and the Bijagos Archipelago you need around 9 days to enjoy the full experience of this unique destination. Bissau, Diola dancing masks (Bissau to Varela), Villages of the flooded forest (Varela to Bissau). Animistic Pepel (Bissau to Quinhamel), From the ghost capital to the Bijagos Archipelago, (Bissau to Rubane), and Dolphins & Hippos, are some of the many activities you can do during those 9 days in this incredible Archipelago!

Things to do in Bijagos Archipelago

Guinea-Bissau’s Bijagos Islands make up Africa’s most numerous yet least well-known coastal archipelago. With untouched beaches, tropical forests, turquoise waters, saltwater hippos, pygmy cows and traditional beliefs, the Bjiagos is a unique paradise that is very much off the radar.


Getting around Bijagos Archipelago

By Plane

Osvaldo Vieira International Airport (OXB), receives both local and international flights.

By Bus

To Guinea, bush taxis usually go to the border daily from Gabú and Koundara, just a 100 kilometers which can take most of the day. A less-travelled route, open only in the dry season, links the southeast of Guinea-Bissau with the west of Guinea via Quebo and Boké.

By Boat

Boats travel between Kamsar in Guinea and Bissau in Guinea Bissau. The boat stops in Cacine and Kamkhonde in Guinea Bissau as well

Ferry: The boat does not pass every day of the week and the schedules are variable according to the tides.

Private taxi boat: The private taxi boat is available for short trips within some islands of the Archipelago, or to go from one point to another in the same island itself


Health & Safety

All travellers are required to have a PCR COVID-19 Clearance Certificate issued by a recognized facility within 48 hours from the date of departure, in line with WHO guidelines. Yellow fever and Malaria vaccination certificate are required from those travellers coming from areas of risk. Furthermore, you should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover you while you are away.

Interesting places to visit in Bijagos Archipelago

Bubaque Island

The main island of the Bijagos, Bubaque is home to the archipelago’s administrative capital. This is the largest village in the islands and the only one connected to the continent, via a weekly ferry (it’s a four to five hour journey). There’s a tiny colorful market here, local bars and traders and a small ethnographic museum dedicated to Bijagos culture.

It’s also home to a well-designed eco hotel, Dakosta Eco-Resort – one of the few places developed for tourists on these islands.

Canhabaque Island

This inhabited island is matriarchal and still leans heavily on ancient ritual. Young men take part in elaborate and lengthy initiation rituals. The welcome here is always warm and, as visitors are few, they are greeted with high spirited hospitality and curiosity.

Orango Island

Part of the Parque Natural do Grupo das Ilhas de Orango, Orango is covered by savannah and is known for its unique saltwater hippos. From October to early February it is possible to follow their tracks as they move around the island searching for saltwater ponds and swampy lagoons.

The hippos also sometimes munch on the rice planted by islanders and ransack their fields. If you’re lucky you might spot them on the beaches, too. You can also visit the grave of Okinka Pampa, the last queen-priestess of the Bijago people and a legendary heroine who negotiated with the Portuguese for her people’s safety in the early 1900s.

Poilao Island

This is one of the archipelago’s southernmost islands. It’s uninhabited and its wild interior is used for male initiation ceremonies and strictly off-limits to all but select elders and tribal leaders. Its beaches are a key nesting site for green sea turtles.

Between August and February, turtles come to lay their eggs with upwards of 2,500 reproducing females visiting Poilao alone, some travelling from as far as Mauritania,and returning to the exact same beach on which they were born.

Rubane Island

Part of the Boloma Bijagos Biosphere Reserve, Rubane Island lies northeast of the larger island of Bubaque, across a narrow strait.

It’s also home to a well-designed eco hotel, Ponta Anchaca – one of the few places developed for tourists on these islands.

Responsible Tourism

Join us in supporting small independent businesses which may have struggled for tourism licences, planning permission and, sometimes, to appear on the national tourism marketing campaigns.

Stay at locally owned lodges in out of the way locations; eat out at locally owned restaurants with just a phrasebook and a smile; haggle in the souks and support smaller cottage industries. By travelling differently, you will be changing tourism for better! Be part of our community.