If you are planning to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, take a trip to São Tomé & Príncipe, Africa's second-smallest country.

This small island nation off the Atlantic coast of Central Africa is located in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon, winning the hearts of its visitors with its Portuguese-Creole flavour and relaxed vibes.

The sublime easy-going tempo is enriched by an affluence of natural attractions with miles of flawless palm-trimmed beaches, huge expanses of bright gold rainforest, towering volcanic mountains and tranquil fishing communities. The birdlife is outstanding, and endemic flora (especially orchids) is abundant. In season, turtle- and whale-watching opportunities abound.

This two-island country has its cultural treasures as well, with a remarkable number of traditional buildings dating back to the colonial era, including striking plantation estates.

Happily, and unusually in the 21st century, tourism is still low-key and is advancing in a carefully controlled, ecologically minded manner. There are no tacky resorts, just a number of locally run, enticing, nature-oriented lodges and hotels including two luxury properties, which work well together, allowing guests to explore both islands in tropical comfort.