Sao Tome and Principe, which lies 140 miles off the coast of Africa, is an undiscovered gem for tourists keen to beat the well-trodden beaches of the Seychelles.
The two-island African country boasts beautiful white sand beaches, gorgeous mountain hikes, and incredible chocolate.
However, only 15,000 tourists visit the volcanic islands each year.
Lonely Planet said the beaches of the second-smallest African country “are as idyllic as the Seychelles”.
It is also renowned for being a safe destination for visitors, with its safety risk equivalent to visiting France.
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Sao Tome and Principe is also known as one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries. The islands lay uninhabited and undiscovered until 1470 when Portuguese explorers came across the islands.
The national language of the islands remains Portuguese to this day.
The legacy of Portuguese rule is evident in the predominately Catholic population and a culture that fuses European and African influences.
Curious tourists can book a stay at one of the several large resorts that have been built in recent years on the beaches of the islands.
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Floating in the Gulf of Guinea, the island of Príncipe, which has a population of just 7,000 people, is emerging as a destination for eco-tourists.
Visitors flock to the unspoiled jungles of what is labelled as the ‘Galapagos of Africa’. Rainforests cover 90 per cent of the island, which is also a Unesco biosphere.
There are also a range of strange fruits and exotic animals that can only be found on the islands, with a range of wildlife that baffles scientists to this day.
A trip to Principe also offers sun-soaked beaches, jungle hikes, snorkeling, fishing and birdwatching. Meanwhile, the more populous island of Sao Tome was once the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
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A rich tradition of cocoa remains on the island and tourists can taste some at Claudio Corallo’s cocoa plantation, which is often praised as one of the best chocolate-makers in the world.
A local chef in Sao Tome, João Carlos Silva, told Lonely Planet that “happiness is our richest income” on the island.
He said that food was important to the islanders, adding that the island’s national dish, calulu – dried smoked fish cooked in a soup with breadfruit, palm oil, mosquito herb and okra – takes an incredible six hours to cook.
Eager tourists can travel from the UK to Sao Tome with a stopover in Lisbon, with flights provided by TAP Air Portugal.
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