Overview

Introduction

The verdant, Atlantic islands of Sao Tome and Principe are two destinations that, once visited, will change your outlook on the world forever.

Sao Tome and Principe at a glance:

  • Just north of the equator, this lesser-known archipelago has an immense natural, experience-rich and deep-rooted cultural appeal
  • Dense rainforests, lofty volcanic peaks, phonolitic rock towers, glorious stretches of empty beach, colonial architecture and a cool vibe
  • The island of Principe has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve and is home to a great biodiversity in terrestrial as well as in marine ecosystems. Diving here is world-class
  • Visit between October and January to observe the nesting of leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. Turtle hatching takes place from December to April. Whale watching is available from July to October
  • A year-round destination with activities and experiences on offer to suit all interests. Of course, Sao Tome and Principe will feel like paradise should you wish to do little more than relax, swim and read

If you draw a line along the Greenwich meridian to the spot where the line crosses the equator, then close by, at Africa’s westernmost point and 250km off the coast of Gabon, is where you will find the verdant, Atlantic islands of Sao Tome and Principe; two destinations that, once visited, will change your outlook on the world forever.

At just 1001km2 this little-visited archipelago is Africa’s second smallest country. What it lacks in size, these islands, and their satellite isles, make up for with their immense natural, experience-rich and deep-rooted cultural appeal. ‘Packs a punch’ would be one sentiment we would use to describe a holiday to São Tomé and Príncipe; another would be ‘takes your breath away’.

Nature:

Products of a long-extinct volcano, the landscape of the islands is dramatic, beautiful and unforgiving: black basalt rocks, thundering waterfalls, glorious stretches of golden sand, warm turquoise water, mountain peaks and dense rainforests - packed so thickly that visible pathways are hard to find. From the air they have the distinct look of deserted paradise islands; from the land, you realise this initial impression is not far from the truth.

Birdlife on Sao Tome and Principe is exceptional, boasting the highest density of endemic species in the world - more per km2 than the Galapagos archipelago. Some 25, single-island species can be found here and a further 14 species are endemic to the country. The abundance of forest and lack of development ensure a pristine environment in which these birds can thrive, separate from their human neighbours. With a local guide it is possible to explore the islands’ interior and hear the calls of the prinia, blue waxbills, kingfishers, starlings, Sao Tome green pigeons, Principe drongo and the African grey parrot. Soaring above, the black kite can often be seen.

Off shore, the waters of the archipelago, amidst the Bay of Guinea, are considered a marine hotspot. Three species of sea turtle nest here (green turtle, hawksbill and leatherback) between October and January, with hatching from December to April, and the Loggerhead turtle can be observed in the islands' waters. Humpback whales migrate past the isles in July and August.

Cultural:

One hundred years ago, Sao Tome and Principe, under Portuguese colonisation, were the largest cocoa producers in the world. Former plantations now lie largely abandoned, reclaimed by nature. However, their heritage and products live on (to a lesser extent).

The primary language, Portuguese, can be traced back to this period. Cape Verdean creole, on the other hand, spoken by over 15,000 people, was introduced, and passed on, by plantation contract workers. The majority of Principe’s residents are of Cape Verdean descent, their ancestors left behind at the time of independence.

A visit to a plantation house (Roça) is a must, in our opinion. The crumbling estates will transport you back in time. Close your eyes and it’s not hard to imagine the sounds and smells of these former communities. Slowly but steadily, trees and vegetation are obliterating the legacy of colonisation - enabling excellent photographic opportunities - but, at a few, the plantation manors now house artist workshops and stores selling local products.

These islands are not stuck in the past. Times are changing on Sao Tome and Principe; improvements in infrastructure, communication and education, increased job opportunities and the introduction of new industries - tourism being one - are aiding social mobility. The islands’ capitals, Sao Tome (Sao Tome) and Santo Antonio (Principe), are vibrant communities with a fascinating architectural mix and warmly welcoming to those who visit. Explore the food markets to discover for yourself the vast array of locally colourful herbs, spices and vegetables. Be sure to stop and converse with those you meet; the more you engage the deeper and more enriching the experience (limited English is spoken but hand signals, smiles and basic words can make all of the difference).

Holiday:

With idyllic beach after idyllic beach, fringed by almond, coconut, bamboo and begonia, you could be forgiven for spending your days by the sea. Snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking and diving are all popular activities along the coast.

A variety of boat excursions operate, and are highly recommended by the Sunvil team. It is from the water the drama of the landscape unfolds.

With a walking guide it is possible to explore the islands’ natural parks and to discover cocoa trees almost eclipsed by a medley of ferns, banana trees, palms, breadfruit trees and more. At their roots, medicinal and aromatic herbs, including wild coriander, wild ginger and lemongrass can be harvested. 

With minimal light pollution, the constellations of the night sky shine brightly. Find your own tranquil spot or book a local guide to understand more.  

Read more

Sao Tome

1 Properties

Principe

3 Properties

Getting There

Getting To Sao Tome and Principe

  • Flights from the UK to Sao Tome and Principe operate via Lisbon. From Lisbon the flight continues to Sao Tome, with a touchdown in Accra (Ghana) en route. A 35-minute domestic flight connects Sao Tome with the smaller island of Principe.

When To Go

When to go to Sao Tome and Principe

Whilst the temperature and daylight hours remain constant all-year, the archipelago has two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season (June to September and December to March). The wet season results in heavy tropical showers, quickly replaced by clear blue skies. The dry season has cooler temperatures and cloud cover. 

Walkers should choose to travel in the dry season if they wish to explore the inland trails.

Accommodation

Accommodation on Sao Tome and Principe

To launch our holiday programme, Sunvil has handpicked one property on Sao Tome and three differing hotels on Principe. Whether searching for a beach resort, to step back in time at a former plantation hotel or sleep amidst the forest in a luxury tented bungalow, we have a property for you. As always our programme is flexible and our holidays handcrafted to suit your requirements.

 

Vaccinations

Vaccinations for Sao Tome and Principe

It is recommended that any traveller to Sao Tome and Principe consults with a travel healthcare practitioner 6-8 weeks prior to departure. Immunisations for Hepatitus A, Tetanus and Malaria are usually advised. Yellow Fever is also recommended as the flight operates via a country of risk.

Useful information

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Get in touch

A destination like no-other on Sunvil's portfolio. Sao Tome and Principe has immense appeal for nature lovers - especially those who appreciate lesser-known destinations and have explored the densely forested regions of Latin America; bird watchers, divers, visitors wishing to observe humpback whales in their natural habitat and those wishing to relax and unwind in an unspoiled and uncommercialised setting.

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi
Best time to go
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
Time Difference

GMT+0

Currency

Santomean Dobra

Language

Portuguese

Average flight times

8 hours via Lisbon and Accra

  • Average temperature

    Average rainfall

Talk to our Sao Tome and Principe expert

Yasmin Zaidi
Yasmin Zaidi

A destination like no-other on Sunvil's portfolio. Sao Tome and Principe has immense appeal for nature lovers - especially those who appreciate lesser-known destinations and have explored the densely forested regions of Latin America; bird watchers, divers, visitors wishing to observe humpback whales in their natural habitat and those wishing to relax and unwind in an unspoiled and uncommercialised setting.

Call one of our experts to discuss your next holiday with Sunvil on

020 8758 4722

We open today at 9:00 AM

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

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Principe, West Africa

Sao Tome and Principe

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

Required Information

* Mandatory Information
Title *
First name *
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Telephone number *
Alternative telephone number
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Confirm email address
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If you would like to be called during a specific period, please specify
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Thank you for your enquiry. A member of our specialist reservation teams will be in touch shortly.

If your enquiry is of an urgent nature, please telephone our dedicated reservation teams on the numbers listed below.

Our lines are open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday and from 9.30am to 4.30pm Saturday.

  • Greece: 020 8758 4758
  • Cyprus: 020 8758 4759
  • Portugal, the Azores, Italy, Sicily and Scandinavia: 020 8758 4722
  • Latin America: 020 8758 4774

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