Like so many countries in Africa, tiny Guinea-Bissau is clinging to a fragile peace between factions that not long ago were at each other's throats. In the late 1990s, a civil war between the army and the government displaced hundreds of thousands of people and accomplished nothing. Even if those factions continue to coexist peacefully, Guinea-Bissau will have a long way to go before it can attract more than the most-adventurous tourists.

The most appealing part of Guinea-Bissau (pronounced geenee-bee-SAOW) is just offshore: the Bijagos Archipelago. The mainland is thick with jungle, and its cities are decaying. But the Bijagos Islands, with lots of sandy beaches and fresh seafood, retain a simplicity and easeā€”life has remained virtually unchanged in the past 100 years. For travelers, this can be a mixed blessing because the modern world also includes such conveniences as hot water, electricity and air-conditioning. But for those looking to truly escape modern living, the Bijagos can be a perfect hideaway.

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