Just off the northern coast and linked to it by a motorable causeway, this historic island served as the Portuguese capital in East Africa from 1530 until it was usurped by Lourenco Marques (Maputo) in 1898. It was more recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its trove of magnificent architecture. The island is 800 mi/1,300 km northeast of the country's capital of Maputo.
Conveniently, most of the major sites are on the northern half of the island. These include the Palace of Sao Paolo (full of artifacts from the time when the island was home to numerous wealthy traders) and the Nossa Senhora do Baluarte chapel (the oldest standing European buildings in the Southern Hemisphere). The massive fort built with stone shipped from Portugal dates from the late 16th century, and several times was all that stood between the Portuguese and other European powers that attacked the island.
Be sure to leave some time to just stroll the streets. The island has a truly diverse population, giving it an atmosphere that's easier to absorb if you're not in a hurry.
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