Sao Tome



Renowned for its beautiful white beaches and clear blue waters, the country's main island offers a perfect setting for those wishing to sunbathe, snorkel, scuba dive or go deep-sea fishing. If you want to swim, head to Praia Grande, Praia das Sete Ondas (best waves on Sao Tome), Praia das Pombas, Praia Piscina or Praia Jale. Divers and snorkelers will prefer the reefs off Lagua Azul, Ilheu das Cabras, Praia Pequena and Praia das Conchas.

But sand and surf aren't the whole story: At the southern end of the island, Pico de Ana Chaves—an extinct volcano that rises 5,300 ft/1,630 m—offers a challenging hike, a cool atmosphere and a beautiful view of the island. The one main road on the eastern side of the island takes about four to five hours to drive and passes many small, colorful villages.

The main city, also called Sao Tome, is attractive, quiet, clean and has many old (and decaying) Portuguese colonial buildings. Tour the 16th-century cathedral and 400-year-old Ft. Sao Sebastiao, which now houses the National Museum (lots of displays about the colonial era). Outside town, excursions can be made to the Boca de Inferno (the Mouth of Hell), a natural waterspout flowing from volcanic rock. Also worth visiting is the expansive Agustinho Neto manor house, an old colonial plantation outside of town. For a good day trip, head to Pousada Boa Vista for a bird's-eye view of the coastline and the 80-ft/25-m Sao Nicolau waterfall.

South of the capital is the village of Sao Joao dos Angolare, which has traditional bamboo homes with thatched roofs. Near Angolares is Roca Sao Joao, an estate run by local artist Joao Carlos. It contains a coffee plantation, a comfortable guest house and a restaurant serving authentic local cuisine. Porto Alegre, another plantation farther south, also has a guest house. Set on a bluff overlooking the ocean, Porto Alegre is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. (While food must be arranged in advance, aguadente—the local rum—is always available.) Just offshore from Porto Alegre is Ilheu das Rolas, a tiny island with traditional thatched huts, a blow hole and a monument marking the location of the equator. The island of Sao Tome merits three nights.

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