What’s the story with Sao Tome and Principe? I’ll get to that in a bit, but a few years ago, I wrote an article on the least visited countries in the world. Quite what the 2020 list will look like is a whole other ball game!
The country came in as the 9th least visited country with a mere 30,000 visitors per year. The list led us to create the Least Visited Countries Tour. Sadly Sao Tome and Nauru (the least visited country in the world) are not exactly close, so it didn’t make the cut. To read about the fascinating tale of Nauru, click here.
What’s the Story then?
The Portuguese were some of the first colonisers in the world, and they were pretty good at it. You have heard of Brazil, right? Brazil was the biggest and most important colony until they left the fold in the late 19th century. As fate would have it, Portugal, one of the last dictatorships in Western Europe, would also be some of the world’s last colonisers. When most of the planet were dismantling their overseas empires, the Portuguese doubled down. This led famously to wars in Angola and Mozambique. Sao Tome and Principe, though, is much less well known.
The Battle for Independence
The battle for independence for Sao Tome and Principe was in many ways similar to that of the other Portuguese African colonies, and there was a lot of collaboration between them. They were all also pawns in what in many cases was a three-way Cold War proxy between the west, the Soviet Union and Chinese backed groups.
Independence was eventually gained in 1975, led by the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe/Social Democratic Party. Under the name the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. It was a one-party Marxist state in the fashion of Angola.
In 1990 it became one of the first African countries to go through a peaceful democratic reform and is now a functioning multi-party democracy. In fact, it is the most successful former Portuguese colony when it comes to democracy.
So Why Does No One Visit Sao Tome and Principe?
This is mostly down to it being a rather difficult country to reach. Although it is visa-free for most nationals, it only has a few direct flights between Lisbon (Portugal), Luanda (Angola) and Cape Verde. We’ve therefore decided to help boost the numbers by planning our annual tour there!