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Praia Café in São ToméPraia Café in São Tomé
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São Tomé and Príncipe is the name of an island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, on the west cost of Central Africa. It comprises the two namesake islands, São Tomé and Príncipe. The islands have a total area of about 1,001 sq km (372 sq mi). They are located 140 km (87 mi) from each other, and are 250 and 225 km (155 and 140 mi) from the coast of Gabon. Its capital and largest city is on São Tomé and and is also known as São Tomé.

São Tomé and Príncipe has a population of 163,000. It is the second smallest country in Africa in terms of population, after the Seychelles, and the smallest country in the world that is not a British Overseas Territory, a former United States trusteeship or a European microstate. It is also the smallest country in the world where Portuguese is the official language.

The presidential palace in São ToméThe presidential palace in São Tomé
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authorshipHenryk Kotowski
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São Tomé and Príncipe is today a republic with a president as head of state and prime minister as head of government. The country is on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+0). Traffic here is driven on the right. The electricity is 220V/50Hz using European plug.

São Tomé and Príncipe is located just north of the Equator. Although there is an equator marker in São Tomé, it is actually at a latitude of 0°20'. The equator itself passed to the south of the island. The country experiences a tropical climate with temperatures that are quite uniform across the year. It averages around 27°C (80.6°F). The wettest months here are October to May.

The economy of São Tomé and Príncipe is very much dependent on agriculture. Its principal export is cocoa. In 2009, the country had an estimated nominal GDP of $191 million, equivalent to a per capita nominal GDP of $1,174. Its per capita GDP at purchasing power parity stood at $1,814.

Praia de Santo António in Ilhéu das RolasPraia de Santo António in Ilhéu das Rolas
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authorshipRui Almeida
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Until the Portuguese arrived in 1470, the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited. São Tomé was discovered on 21 December, 1471, the feast day of St. Thomas, while Príncipe was discovered on 17 January, 1472, the feast day of St. Anthony. Príncipe was initially known as Santo Antãon, until its name was changed to Ilha do Príncipe, meaning "Prince's Island" in 1502.

Initial settlement began on São Tomé in 1493, when a land grant was given to Álvaro Caminha. The settlers found that the volcanic soil of the island was suitable for farming, especially the growing of sugar cane. This resulted in a sugar industry for the islands, with slave labor brought in from mainland Africa.

Coffee and cocoa were new cash crops introduced to São Tomé and Príncipe in the early 19th century. Cocoa in particular became a major source of income, and continues to dominate the country's economy to this day.

The equator marker on São ToméThe equator marker on São Tomé
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authorship© Husond

São Tomé and Príncipe attained its independence from Portugal on 12 July, 1975. Initially a one-party system, its constitution was amended in 1990 to allow for opposition parties. The government can be regarded as democratically elected. It has however faced a number of coup attempts.

Planning your visit to São Tomé and Príncipe

You are required to get a visa before you arrive in the country. A visa is only issued to you on arrival if you have made prior arrangement for it from the foreign ministry of the country.

The Portuguese Airline TAP flies to São Tomé from Lisbon twice a week.

Major Cities in São Tomé and Príncipe

  1. São Tomé
  2. Santo António

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