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São Tomé and Príncipe  (often called just "São Tomé" for short) is a small island nation off the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, located in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon. Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century -- all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975,
 
São Tomé seems to embody a kind of lush tropical paradise usually associated with the South Pacific. The atmosphere here is palpably luxury and it is an intoxicating blend of sunlight, sea, air and fantastically abundant vegetation.
 
São Tomé and Príncipe is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Africa. It consists of two islands: São Tomé and Príncipe, located about 87 miles (140 kilometres) apart and about 155 and 140 miles (250 and 225 kilometres), respectively, off the northwestern coast of Gabon. Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range.
 
São Tomé, the sizable southern island, is situated just north of the equator. It was named in honour of Saint Thomas by Portuguese explorers who happened to arrive at the island on his feast day.
 
São Toméan culture is a mixture of African and Portuguese influences. São Toméans are known for ússua and socopé rhythms, while Principe is home to the dêxa beat. Portuguese ballroom dancing may have played an integral part in the development of these rhythms and their associated dances.
 
Tchiloli is a musical dance performance that tells a dramatic story. The danço-congo is similarly a combination of music, dance and theatre.
 

The attractions in São Tomé are an exciting mixed bag of sights, ranging from those based in the country’s vast and beautiful natural environment, to those which help travelers to delve deeper into the region’s political and economic history. From national parks filled with amazing fauna and flora, to ancient fortresses that have seen so much of the country’s past, there are enough draws to keep even the most experienced traveler enthralled.

Attractions

Agostinho Neto

São Tomé Island is home to many cocoa plantations, or roças as they are known colloquially, a fact that is a clear reminder of the country’s long and tumultuous colonial past. One of the largest and most famous plantations is Agostinho Neto, which caretakers have purposefully left in its original, rustic condition. While many other plantations have been renovated and refurbished, the colonial style buildings at Agostinho Neto are covered in vines and creepers that change color with the seasons. Visitors can embark on tours of the facility and, if they’re lucky, even get to sample some of the produce.

Boca de Inferno
Southern coast of São Tomé Island Boca de Inferno, which translates into ‘Mouth of Hell’, is one of the most popular spots on the islands. The mouth refers to a section of the coastline which displays a narrow passage in the basaltic rocks. Water wades into the opening under a bridge of rocks but exits the tunnel much more fiercely, making a roaring sound. The sights and sounds are something to witness but once the fanfare has subsided, this part of the coastline is simply a gorgeous place to rest and watch the sunset.

Pico de São Tomé
The highest mountain on the islands, Pico de São Tomé, stands at an impressive 6,800-feet high. The mountain is located in the center of São Tomé Island, in the stunning Obo National Park. It is covered in thick forest and makes for great hiking and trekking adventures. The forested area is home to many different species of plant and animal, and there are plenty of opportunities to go bird watching or simply take in the mystical nature of a forest that is so compact that it is only accessible on foot.
São João dos Angolares
A tiny town on the eastern coast of São Tomé Island, São João dos Angolares is one of the oldest settlements in the country and home to a few great historical and archeological sites. The town’s main draws are the fishing and the people, and the atmosphere here really does exemplify what it means to live in a small fishing village. Perhaps the most popular historical site in the town is the fortress of São Sebastião, which was built in 1575 to guard over the area. The fort is in great condition, after having been restored many times, and is open for public exploration.

Lagoa Azul
While the country’s coastline is a major attraction northern coast of São Tomé Island, there are also several other bodies of water which are worth a visit. Lagoa Azul, or the Blue Lagoon, lies behind the secluded beaches of Praia dos Tamarindos and Praia das Conchas. Many travelers to the area have remarked that walking into the Blue Lagoon is like walking into paradise. Lagoa Azul is surrounded by massive baobab trees filled with birds chirping their lungs out and the water is a gorgeous shade of blue. This area is not only easy on the eyes but is one of the prime snorkeling and diving spots in the country.

Ilhéu das Rolas
Off the southern coast of São Tomé Island many travelers don’t realize that there are several tiny islands surrounding the main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. One of the most beautiful set of islets, but also one of the more secluded, is Ilhéu das Rolas. Located just south of São Tomé, these islands are easy to get to and make a nice reprieve from the business of the ‘mainland’. There are a few resorts here which organize great boat trips and water sport excursions.
 
Cuisine
Cornmeal, millet, rice, and hot stews, so common in the African diet, are mainstays in this region. The Portuguese influence is much in evidence, particularly in the use of wine. One such dish is Matata: clams cooked in port wine with finely chopped peanuts and tender young greens or fruits. A favourite dish of the interior is Frango a Calrial which means "Chicken, the African way." Chickens heavily rubbed down with Piri-piri are roasted over charcoals. There is also "Chicken, the Portuguese way," made with tomatoes and wine. Caril is the name for curries, also served very "hot" with Manga Achar, a special mango chutney that is one of the little dishes accompanying it. The other little dishes contain chopped peanuts, coconut, cucumber, bananas, etc. They are similar to the Chutneys (relishes) of India
 
Shopping
Shopping in Sao Tome and Principe is restricted to buying the local coffee or the handicrafts that includes baskets. This apart, there is a shop called Ossobbo, which caters to the tourists visiting the country. Some of the things you can buy here include coffee, chocolates, cinnamon, and vanilla along with carvings, and T-shirts among other things.



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