The waters around São Tomé are clear and rich with life. Consequently, diving, fishing and boat tours provide much to see. The forests of both islands lend themselves wonderfully to hiking.
São Tomé is 50 km (30 mi) long and 30 km (20 mi) wide and the more mountainous of the two islands. Its peaks reach 2,024 m (6,640 ft) – Pico de São Tomé (map).
Príncipe is about 30 km (20 mi) long and 6 km (4 mi) wide. Its peaks reach 948 m (3,110 ft) – Pico de Príncipe. Swift streams radiating down the mountains through lush forest and cropland to the sea cross both islands. The Equator lies immediately south of São Tomé Island, passing through the islet Ilhéu das Rolas.
*São Tomé (Saint Thomas) – the capital city and largest city in the country, home to a 15th-century cathedral, the national museum, and the Presidential Palace.
*Santo António (Saint Anthony) – the main city of Príncipe Island, it is known for its colonial architecture and for its churches.
The interior of São Tomé island contains *Obo National Park (map). The isolated beaches on Príncipe are breathtakingly beautiful and romantic… don’t blame yourself for feeling like you’re on a deserted island in the South Pacific.
Among the few human-made sights on the islands is Fort São Sebastião (map). Built in 1575, the fort was refurbished in 2006 and is now the São Tomé National Museum.
The Portuguese were the first settlers of these previously uninhabited islands in the late 15th century. Attracting settlers proved difficult, however, and most of the earliest inhabitants were “undesirables” sent from Portugal, mostly Jews. The Portuguese brought in slaves from Africa to cultivate sugar, coffee and cocoa. Nearly all of its current residents are descended from people from different countries taken to the islands by the Portuguese from 1470 onwards.
On São Tomé Island, there are many taxis, including shared ones that depart to other cities when enough people are there. It is common for tourists to rent a car or scooter to better explore all that the island has to offer.
To get to Príncipe, the most common choice for tourists are commercial flights (STP Airways) connecting São Tomé International Airport to Príncipe Airport. Beware that the planes are very small. Locals instead typically hop on a cargo boat, but the 10 hour overnight journey is not considered particularly safe.