Raw, untamed and utterly gorgeous
A stunning pair of tropical islands off the coast of West Africa, perfect for an off-the-beaten-track bespoke beach holiday.
These islands are so incredible we almost want to keep them a secret. There are very few places left in the world that are truly remote and untouched, but São Tomé and Príncipe is one of them. Or two, to be precise. Located off the coast of West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, these tropical islands that make up Africa's second smallest country offer an enchanting choice for travellers in search of a new and unique destination, with plenty of untamed nature, exquisite beaches, and wild places to explore. This is a place for beach lovers, nature enthusiasts and history buffs, and it's rare that you'll come across another tourist outside your resort. If you want to experience what the early explorers must have felt upon reaching new and distant lands, then we imagine this comes pretty close!
The landscapes here are like nothing you'll have ever seen before. The slopes of the mountainous interiors are swathed in lush rainforest, which tumbles dramatically down to the black volcanic shoreline and the deserted swathes of golden sand, lined with swaying coconut palms. Rare endemic birds flit between the trees, and bats perform aerial acrobatics before the sun has even sunk below the horizon.
Settlements on the islands are few and far between, with Santo Antonio on Príncipe being the smallest capital city in the world. A former Portuguese colony, the islands are home to hundreds of aesthetically appealing, crumbling plantation buildings, which are fun to explore, and there are some you can even stay in.
São Tomé is the largest of the two islands, and this is where you'll start your adventure after flying from Lisbon. If you're interested in taking in the culture, visiting plantations and hiking to waterfalls, then you'll want to spend a few days exploring São Tomé. There are some excellent beaches for seeing turtles come to lay their eggs here too. Then we recommend taking the short 35 minute flight to Príncipe for beach relaxation, boat trips with diving and snorkelling, as well as whale watching. It's here that you can stay at some of the most beautiful beach lodges we've ever seen. Príncipe is a world biosphere reserve, and feels even more remote and pristine than São Tomé.
The tropical climate means you can visit year round, and the 1 hour time difference from the UK makes this remote destination really quite an easy trip to make.
Our São Tomé & Príncipe Island Escape is a sample itinerary which can be tailored to suit individual interests and special requirements.
When to visit Sao Tome & Principe
Find out the best time to visit Sao Tome & Principe with our month by month guide.Read more
The short dry season continues through to March. This is a great time for exploring Obo National Park on Sao Tome, as well as scuba diving, hiking and seeing turtles nesting and hatching. Bird watching is superb for those who want to see the bright breeding plumage.
The dry weather continues throughout February, meaning hiking in Obo National Park on Sao Tome is particularly good, although the heat can be quite intense. Scuba divers will delight at the water clarity, whilst those down at the beach may catch the end of the turtle nesting season. Bird watchers will enjoy seeing the bright breeding plumage of local species.
The long wet season begins with daily rain showers and intense humidity. However the rain doesn't last all day, and the showers leave behind clear blue skies, making this an ideal time for photography. March is good for orchid spotting too.
The wet season continues with daily rain showers and high humidity. Hiking becomes tricky on the muddy terrain. April is actually a great time to visit as it's not quite as hot as in February and March, and the rain showers clear the clouds leaving sunny blue skies, which is ideal for photography. Orchids are flourishing at this time of year
May sees the end of the long wet season with daily rainfall showers and intense humidity. It's a good month for orchid spotting and photography, but hiking remains difficult on the muddy terrain.
The main dry season runs from June through to the beginning of September. It's the perfect time for hiking, exploring beaches and swimming in the turquoise sea. This is the hottest time of year, but the cloudy skies offer some protection from the sun.
July is the heart of the long dry period, defined by the absence of rain, and the presence of cloudy skies, which will give some respite from the heat. Hiking and swimming is particularly good at this time of year.
The dry season continues into August, an ideal time for beaches, swimming and hiking the trails around the islands. There's no rain, but no blue skies either. Humpback Whales, Killer Whales and dolphins begin migrating along the north east shores. August is a month of Saints' feast days with several cultural celebratory events where the streets come alive with open air food stalls, music and entertainment.
September sees the dry weather period drawing to an end. It's still a good time for hiking, walking along the beaches and taking a tip in the ocean. Temperatures are still soaring, but the cloudy skies offer some protection from the heat. It's a great time for whale and dolphin watching as they migrate along the north east shores.
October is a bit of a mixed bag, with the short wet season beginning in earnest. Hiking becomes more difficult but it doesn't rain all day, so it's still a good month for most island activities. The whale and dolphin migration continues along the north east coastline.
In recent years November has been the month with the highest rainfall, heralding the beginning of the short wet season. Skies are grey, but the bird nesting season begins which is good news for bird watchers, and from mid-November turtles start nesting on the beaches.
December sees the beginning of the short dry season. There's still a bit of rain around, but nothing to really disrupt activities. It's a great time for bird watching and seeing the bright breeding plumage, and the turtles continue to nest on the beaches.
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