Ilha de Mozambique (Mozambique Island) is an island in the Nampula Province in Northern Mozambique with a historical heritage that's unmatched in the rest of Mozambique, and indeed the rest of Africa. It was the capital of Mozambique for nearly four centuries under Portuguese colonization before the move to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), and had been used as a major base for the Arab traders long before the arrival of the Portuguese. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tiny, roughly 1 sq km island is connected by a concrete bridge with the mainland and is said to be crowded by 16000 inhabitants, most of them living in shacks with dismal sanitary conditions.
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From fr:Île de Mozambique
The island can easily be reached by road from Nampula. If you're driving follow the road towards Nacala, and turn off at the signpost for Ilha de Mozambique (which is in Monapo). It'll take around 2 hours and the road is good. When you get there you'll need to cross the causeway which costs about Mts 5,000.
If you're taking a chapa (minibus) they leave from Ave de Trabhadores in Nampula near the railway station and cost Mts 80,000.
Ilha's is fairly tiny and you won't have any trouble walking around it - it's about a 20 minute walk from end to end, and only about 3 blocks wide. Gabriel's has bikes you can hire for the day.
Ilha's a mix of colonial Portuguese and old Swahili architecture. It basically divides into two halves - the old Stone Town in the north and the "Reed Town" in the south which is set down from the main streets.
- Fort São Sebastião. Also worth a visit is the fort at the northern tip of the island, which contains the church of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte, almost certainly the oldest surviving European building in the Southern Hemisphere, dating back to 1522. Be sure you pay the right attendant, or you will have to pay the entrance fee twice: Ask for a entrance ticket, if you don't get one, don't pay.
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte ( Capela de Nossa Senhora do Baluarte). Our Lady of Baluarte from 1522 is one of the oldest European structures in the Southern Hemisphere.
- The museum. The museum is in the old Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, a big red building up in Stone Town. In the same building is a tourist information office that sells really good street maps and has all sorts of other information about the various restaurants and pensões on the island.
- Capela de Santo António. In the Santo António fort, from the 16th century.
- rua da Contra Costa. Street following the northern coast of the island and featuring a statue of Luís de Camões
- Museu da Marinha.
- Igreja da Misericórdia. And the Arte Sacra museum.
- Igreja de N.S.ª da Saúde. And the small chapel of S. Francisco Xavier
- Rua dos Arcos.
- Mercado Municipal.
- Escola de Artes e Ofícios. Arts school.
- Antigo Hospital. Old hospital.
- Câmara Municipal.
- Mesquita Grande. And the fishing harbor.
- Templo Hindu. Hindu temple.
- Crematório baneane.
- Dive centre, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. There's a dive centre at the northern end of the island just down from the fort, but ask a lot of questions, and think twice if you aren't an experienced diver yourself. It's operated by the owner of the Case Caku guesthouse. They can also organize boat trips to other islands.
You can take boat trips or just laze on the beach. Swimming is however not advisable as the water is very dirty. If you're feeling adventurous take a dhow over to the mainland at Chaga or Mossuril and explore along the coast there.
Some great souvenirs to purchase here literally come from the sea. On one hand there are shells and corals and objects made of them, on the other hand there are remains from the many shipwrecks from the waters around the island that have been flushed onto shore. In addition, there are also old Portuguese silver and bronze coins, from the colonial age.
There aren't that many restaurants on the island, with Reliquias and Escondidinho heading the list up in Stone Town. But you can find a number of local places serving fish and rice or chima. Establishments in Drink also serve food.
- Reliquias ( opposite to Palácio-Museu de S. Paulo), ☎ . Interesting decor and exotic menu — try the matapa with coconut rice. The terrace is a beautiful place to enjoy the sunset.
- Escondidinho (Restaurante Íris).
- The restaurant at Hotel Omuhipiti. full meal 10€. Here you can eat well.
- Café-Restaurante Âncora d'Ouro (near the Museu de Arte Sacra).
- Bar Paladar. Local specialties.
- Esplanada do náuticos (next to the fortress). A great place to have a beer and look at the sea in the evening.
- Camping. The cheapest option is the camp site on the mainland next to the bridge. Self catering is possible from the nearby shops.. MZM 130 or $4/person.
- Casa Luis, Traversa dos Formos, ☎ . Dorm and private rooms with small breakfast from 12$. Laundry, cooking, air-condition etc. for pay. Very friendly owner. Located a bit outside from the main attractions in the Mud Town but just one minute from the green mosque MZM 203.
- Casa Branca, Rua dos combatantes, Stone Town (On the East side of the island near the Luis de Camões statue), ☎ . A very popular place with three rooms (with bathroom) for rent in an atmospheric 300 year old house. It is said that some rooms have marvellous views. $20-25 incl breakfast. Advance bookings are advised. MZM 508-634, including breakfast.
- Casa Oikos. Three rooms (with bathroom) for rent.
- Casa Caku. Guesthouse with a garden. Two single rooms, two double rooms. Shared bathrooms. Breakfast.
- Hotel Omuhi'piti ( Close to the fort in the north of Stone Town), ☎ . Now reopened following refurbishment and is the nicest (and only) hotel on the island. Air conditioned rooms. They also have a good and inexpensive restaurant. Prices start at MT2,600/night..
- Hotel Escondidinho, Stone town, Praca das Amoreiras, near the Marinha, ☎ . Tastefully renovated double storey building with 10 rooms, swimming pool and restaurant
- The Quitanda´s Terrace Guest House ( Casa de Hóspedes Terraço das Quitandas) (West side of the island next to Palacio de S. Paulo/Museum and between Reliquias Restaurant and Customs House building), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Is separated from the beach by a garden outside, has six exotic decorated suites, individually decorated, offering you every comfort in an air conditioned with king-size beds or twin size bed, private bathroom, and much space in an atmospheric 300 year old house. Rates from about 75 p.p.s incl breakfast. Advance bookings advised.
- Goa Island — has a beautiful lighthouse built in 1870 and a small but nice beach. 25 min by boat.
- Sena Island and St. Lawrence Island — possible to visit but not much to see.
- Chocas-Mar — on the mainland coast, this is one of the few beach resorts in the country. Often the beach is rather deserted.