The two islands of Sao Tome and Principe hover just above the equator, 250km off the coast of Gabon. While other tropical paradises have been taken over by resorts, Sao Tome and Principe remain thankfully much as they were when the Portuguese first discovered them in 1470, save for the addition of the odd cocoa plantation and charmingly crumbling colonial town.
The interior of the two islands is still predominately primaeval rainforest and is a nature lover’s dream. Here you can spot over 100 types of orchid, giant snails, luminous tree frogs and dozens of endemic birds such as the iridescent purple and blue Giant sunbird. There’s also a fascinating collection of mist-shrouded volcanic peaks to test the avid hiker.
As is evidenced by the São Tomé’s history, the main cultural influences are Portuguese – as a result of the country’s long colonial ties with the European nation. The country’s music is a wonderful amalgamation of African rhythms and Portuguese styles. The African beats are particularly West African in nature, boasting such styles as ussua and socope, and relying heavily on drumming and percussion.
São Toméan cuisine is based in equal parts on African traditions and Portuguese influence. Common ingredients are roots like cassava, plantains, and bananas. Unsurprisingly, seafood is a favourite here and there are many seafood dishes which speak loudly of the country’s Portuguese heritage.
The climate is equatorial and maritime, so hot and humid all year round. There are two rainy seasons, February to May and October to December. The main dry season from June to September tends to be cloudier with moderate temperatures.
The rainy season is best for spotting orchids, but for comfortable hiking, come in January when the orchids are still in bloom above 800m.
You should spend 9 nights in total on our São Tomé and Príncipe holiday:
São Tomé may be best known for its beautiful beaches and perfect weather, but venture off the sand and check out fun attractions. You’ll find an island full of history, culture, rugged landscapes, exotic local dishes and even more fun activities.
If you are looking for adventure, cultural experiences, places to try exotic food or want to know where to buy some cool paint there is a chance to find it here.
There is a short flight between the islands in a comfortable two-propeller plane and flights run most days. There is currently no real regular, boat service between the two islands.
There are a few tarmacked roads on the two islands, supplemented by countless roads and tracks. Most of the locals use shared yellow taxis. These can also be hired individually by paying for all the seats. Yellow taxis are also available to take you around but these might not be the most convenient for day trips, especially if you would like to explore some remote areas where a 4X4 car is recommended. The station for taxis and buses is located next to the market area in the capital city. For more flexibility, you can hire a vehicle with 4WD or a mountain bike.
Sao Tome and Principe is generally very safe. All travellers are required to have a PCR COVID-19 Clearance Certificate issued by a recognised facility within 48 hours from the date of departure, in line with WHO guidelines. Although the cases of malaria are diminishing on both islands, the disease is still present so it’s recommended you take anti-malarial.
Minimise the risk of being bitten by taking insect repellent with you, and, if you’re staying in budget accommodation consider buying an insect net. Furthermore, you should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover you while you are away.