Ilha De Moçambique

The former capital of Portuguese East Africa, the historic island town of Ilha de Moçambique was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

Highlights and main attractions of Ilha de Moçambique

Highlights and main attractions of Ilha de Moçambique

Despite its small size, reaching barely two miles in length and a few hundred metres in width, the small crescent-shaped island of Ilha de Moçambique is a hidden gem that is bursting with a vibrant history and culture. Located in the northern province of Nampula, the island is connected to the mainland by a narrow 3km bridge and in 1991 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

For four centuries Ilha de Moçambique acted as the capital of Portuguese East Africa, but it had long been an important trading port along the Swahili coast. The resulting blend of European, Arab and Indian cultures is evident in the islands faded colonial architecture and eclectic mix of churches, mosques and Hindu temples. The island is now broadly divided into the historic Portuguese Stone Town in the north and Macuti Town in the south, a haphazard collection of colourful thatched houses and busy street markets.

 

Where is Ilha de Moçambique?

The Island That Time Forgot

A visit to the narrow streets and elegant, if slightly weathered, Portuguese villas of Ilha de Moçambique’s Stone Town has been likened to taking a step back in time; the relaxed vibe of the island gives the sense that very little has changed here over the past hundred years. Now a quiet fishing town, this peaceful façade hides a tumultuous history stretching as far back as the 8th century.

On the northernmost tip of the island, the imposing fortress of São Sebastião provides an insight into the colonial-era conflicts that took place here. The forts 65ft thick walls have withstood attacks from British, Dutch and Omani naval forces and remain largely intact today. Hidden within the fort is the small chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, believed to be the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere. Also worth noting are the palace of São Paulo, the former Portuguese governor’s residence, and the distinctive whitewashed churches of San Antonio and Misericórdia.

In contrast to the quiet atmosphere of Stone Town, the bustling streets of Macuti Town are home to most of the island’s 14,000 inhabitants and are awash with street vendors selling brightly coloured fabrics and freshly-caught seafood. 

Several smaller islands can be accessed by boat from Ilha de Moçambique, including the ilha de goa which contains the country's oldest lighthouse.

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