26 interesting facts about São Tomé and Príncipe

with No Comments

The most interesting facts about São Tomé and Príncipe, the continent’s second-smallest country known as the “the African Galápagos”.

Cão Grande peak on São Tomé and Príncipe
Interesting facts about São Tomé and Príncipe include its volcanic geology (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe
Population: 964 sq km
Area: 964 sq km
Capital city: São Tomé
Major languages: Portuguese, Forro, Cabo Verdian, French, Angolar, English
Major religions: Catholic, Adventist
Time zone: UTC 0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about São Tomé and Príncipe

1. São Tomé and Príncipe is an island nation located off the west coast of Africa.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. By area and population, São Tomé and Príncipe is the second-smallest country in Africa after Seychelles.
– Source: World Bank1, World Bank2

3. São Tomé and Príncipe is made up of two main islands – São Tomé and Príncipe – along with several rocky islets.
– Source: BBC News

a map of  São Tomé and Príncipe with a pin in its location
São Tomé and Príncipe is located off the coast of Africa (Shutterstock)

4. São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited when they were discovered by Portuguese explorers around 1470.
– Source: Britannica

5. The two main islands São Tomé and Príncipe form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are mountainous.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

6. São Tomé and Príncipe is one of the least visited countries in the world, only receiving around 29,000 tourists in 2017 (the latest available data).
– Source: UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

A drone shot of a resort in São Tomé and Príncipe
A beach resort in São Tomé and Príncipe (Shutterstock)

7. São Tomé was colonised by the Portuguese during the 16th century. They imported slaves to work on the sugar plantations and the island became an important staging post for the slave trade.
– Source: BBC News

8. In 1975, following years of political struggle for independence and a 1974 military coup in Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe eventually became an independent country.
– Source: BBC News

9. The flag of São Tomé and Príncipe is made up of green and yellow horizontal stripes, a red triangle and two black stars. The red triangle represents equality and the independence movement, the two stars denote the two main islands, green represents vegetation and yellow the sun. 
– Source: Britannica

the country's flag flying
The flag of São Tomé and Príncipe (Shutterstock)

10. São Tomé and Príncipe is one of 27 countries that does not have a single UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, it doesn’t even have a single property on the Tentative List of sites to be submitted for nomination.
– Source: UNESCOThe Telegraph

11. However, the entire island of Príncipe and its surrounding islets and is a UNESCO biosphere reserve because of its wide range of terrestrial and marine biodiversity including a number of endemic species of plants, molluscs, insects, birds, reptiles and bats. It is also a refug for marine life such as sea turtles, seabirds, cetaceans and coral reefs.
– Source: UNESCO, WWF

12. Due to its high density of endemic species, São Tomé and Príncipe has been nicknamed “the African Galápagos”.
– Source: The Guardian

A Newton's sunbird on a palm leaf
Newton’s sunbird – an endemic species of bird to São Tomé (Shutterstock)

13. In 2019, São Tomé and Príncipe was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 countries in the world to visit thanks to its “world-class” beaches, biodiversity and ecotourism credentials.
– Source: Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel (2019) Lonely Planet: London

14. São Tomé and Príncipe is often abbreviated to just STP.
– Source: The Telegraph, World Bank

15. Sao Tome was named after St. Thomas the Apostle by the Portuguese explores who discovered the island on 21 December 1470 – the saint’s feast day. Príncipe is a shortened version of the Portuguese name of “Ilha do Principe” (Isle of the Prince) in reference to the Prince of Portugal.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

16. One of the most famous sights in São Tomé and Príncipe is the Cão Grande or Great Canine (dog). The 663m high pinnacle of rock is a hardened column of magma, the remains of an ancient volcano.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Cão Grande peak on São Tomé and Príncipe
The distinctive peak of Cão Grande (Shutterstock)

17. In the late 15th century, Portugal sent settlers to São Tomé which included convicts and Jewish children separated from their parents and deported from Portugal as well as importing enslaved Africans to the islands to grow sugar.
– Source: Britannica

18 During the 16th century, São Tomé was briefly the world’s largest sugar producer. However, the rise of competition in Brazil and the poor quality of São Tomé’s badly dried product essentially ruined this industry.
– Source: Britannica

19. During the 1800s, cocoa was introduced to São Tomé and by 1908, the island had developed into the world’s largest producer of cocoa with 800 plantations. The industry declined after the Portuguese left and there are only 150 remaining today.
– Source: BBC News, Lonely Planet

cocoa beans on a tray in São Tomé and Príncipe
Drying cocoa beans (Shutterstock)

20. There is just one “grower, maker and exporter of fine chocolate” left in STP. Claudio Corallo has been described as the “best chocolate-maker on the planet” as he exports his chocolate to high-end department stores and chefs around the world.
– Source: Lonely Planet

21. Even though historically, São Tomé and Príncipe has relied on exports of crops such as sugar and cocoa beans, recently it has transitioned to exporting gas turbines, aircraft parts and iron springs and fasteners. Cocoa beans remain its second-biggest export and largest crop.
– Source: Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)

22. The national symbol of São Tomé and Príncipe is the palm tree.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A drone shot of a beautiful beach with palm tress in São Tomé and Príncipe
A palm-finged beach in São Tomé and Príncipe (Shutterstock)

23. São Tomé and Príncipe is yet to win a medal in the Olympic Games and or participate in the Winter Olympics.
– Source: Olympian Database

24. The Obô Natural Park conservation area is spread across the two main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe and protects over 300km2 of land – around 30% of the entire country.
– Source: Bradt Guides

25. São Tomé and Príncipe signature dish is calulu, a stew made with okra (lady’s fingers), palm oil, chilli and lots of fresh herbs.
– Source: Wanderlust Magazine

26. The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are actually part of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, a 1,600km (990mi) chain of volcanoes stretching from Lake Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and the West Region the Gulf of Guinea.
– Source: Kevin Burke (2001) Origin of the Cameroon Line of Volcano-Capped Swells. University of Houston: Houston


Every effort has been made to verify these facts about São Tomé and Príncipe. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.