Where are the best places to visit in Africa?
When it comes to talking about travel in Africa, many people still think about this:
Or maybe even this:
And while there’s no doubt that catching the Big Five on safari (in a philosophical way) really is a stand-out, once in a lifetime event, there’s really more, so much more to be said about travel in Africa.
For a start, it’s big. Really big, with over 20% of the world’s land mass, population of over one billion and growing. It has over 2000 languages, more than 50 nations, and as many different races and religions as you can probably think of.
So why am I telling you this? Surely you already know that Africa refers to more than just a few lions, hippos and cheetahs. You don’t need me to tell you that the cultural legacy extends beyond the Pyramids, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela (even if the man himself was one of the most impressive we’ve seen.)
No, I’m not here to patronise you.
I’m just here to maybe make you reconsider your ideas about travel to and within Africa.
Tourism reports suggest that when foreign travellers visit Africa, they go on safari. Or they stop, as well they might, in the world-class city at the tip of the teardrop in Cape Town.
But that’s often about it.
So, it got me thinking.
And joining a movement that tries to share more stories about Africa.
To try to break down some stereotypes and “move the online conversation” beyond war, famine and the Lion King.
Yes, I’m sure you know this already.
But indulge me for a minute, won’t you?
Here are 7 of the Best Places to visit in Africa beyond Cape Town and safaris, bearing in mind that in a place this big, it’s pretty hard to only come up with seven.
And, of course, I long to see more. To return to update this list, with luck, at least ten times over.
But in the meantime? Share your own ideas about the best places to visit in Africa!
Bye for now,
Ooh, Okavango, you beautiful place, you.
All aswish in blues and greens, the Okavango Delta offers safaris from the level of the water instead of the dust of the road.
This is the largest delta in the world and yet it’s hundreds of miles from the ocean (800 miles from the Atlantic and more than a thousand miles away from the Indian ocean.)
You will find large animals here, like elephants and the snorting hippo, but you’ll see them from a mokoro: a fragile, water canoe.
When to go: The best time to see wildlife or go on a safari is between July and October. The rainy months are from January to March. During the rainy season, some areas may flood and can be inaccessible. If you want to beat the really hot days, you will want to travel between May and August.
How to get there: take a small plane from Maun into the delta itself
Few things fire up the imagination as much as the relics of ancient Egypt. And what’s even better than that is the realisation when you visit that, well, these ruins dazzle more than it was ever possible to dream.
They really are that good.
The pyramids sit in the sands outside of Cairo but to see the towering stone at Aswan and the Valley of the Kings requires a journey along the Nile.
See if you can solve the mystery of the Temple of Aswan.
When to go: the heat in Egypt can be absolutely crushing. For this reason, the best time of year to visit any part of Egypt is between October and April because the weather is at its most pleasant. Many people chose to tour the pyramids in December and January so the lines to the Pyramids of Giza will be long and the sights will be crowded.
How to get there: You can visit the pyramids as a day trip from Cairo but for the rest, you’ll need to arrange transport from Cairo in advance (sometimes in convoy.)
Morocco wears many colours designed to make you fall in love: her beautiful beaches, rust red film backdrops and the impossible ceramic blue found in the narrow streets of Essaouira.
But the fragrant Atlas Mountains stand out on the edge of the Sahara.
With hairpin curves, dusty lanes and orchard upon orchard of peach, prickly pear and plum, the Atlas mountains are perfect for hiking, resting, thinking and dreaming. You can walk through Berber villages, watching goats cling to treetops and seeing peak after peak layer up in the distance.
When to go: the best time to visit the Atlas Mountains is in April, May, and September. At this time it’s warm but not too hot, and the highest peaks will have a little snow, adding to the beauty of the views on offer.
How to get there: Fly into Marrakesh and take a 90-minute drive via taxi or rent a 4×4 if you are feeling adventurous.
Whichever way you look at it, 55 million years is a long time.
That’s how long these ripe red sands have slid one over the other in this part of the world and if you haven’t guessed it yet, here’s the main title: the oldest desert in the world.
The Namib desert gives the country, Namibia, its name. It means wide open space yet a few small pockets deserve a special mention.
Dune 45 is the most accessible in the Namib Naukluft National Park. And it lies within a day’s reach of the haunting Death Valley, the area so dry the trees can’t even rot.
When to go: for wildlife, travel during the dry season which runs from June to October.
How to get there: Most people fly into the Hosea Kitako International Airport located in Windhoek byway of Johannesburg. Namibia is a popular self-drive destination so you can hire a car and drive to the Namib desert yourself. However, you’ll need to arrange permits so it can be easier to travel with a guide.
From the hot and dusty streets of Moshi, the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro overlooks the town. The hike takes several days, through lush green plantations, scraggy bare rock and finally snow and ice before reaching 5895 metres, a point higher than the base camp on Everest.
This photo is small, because I was small when I went there – well, younger in any case. No digital cameras. Certainly no iPhones. Not even a degree, I travelled to Moshi as part of my medical student placement.
Tanzania offers incredible safari experiences and soft white beaches ripe with cinnamon and vanilla in Zanzibar.
But it is the sight of snow in the centre of Africa and the mysterious lure of the mountain that stood out in my heart the most.
When to go: visit between January and March if you enjoy the cold and possibly snowy weather. If you prefer to stay warm, you can also visit the area between June and October when the weather is more forgiving.
How to get there: fly direct to Kilimanjaro International Airport or into the capital Dar Es Salaam and travel up by road.
Madagascar excels in striking, mesmerising wildlife and landscapes, from the rust-red sharp-toothed rocky tsingy to the curious chameleons and the lemurs that leap through the air.
However, it’s those bulbous baobab trees that really captured my heart. These magnificent works of art from nature can grow up to 30 metres tall and 11 metres wide. They store thousands of gallons of water within their trunks to allow them to survive through the dry periods.
When to go: Since the rainy season can cause floods, travel betweenMay until October.
How to get there: Baobab trees are found across Madagascar, however the famous avenue lives between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. Fly into Tana and travel on from there.
The Seychelles are probably best known for their white sandy beaches but they have an eco-system like nowhere else in the world. Have you heard of Coco de Mer? It’s a rare palm tree native to the Seychelles with an iconic, voluptuously shaped giant seed.
Then there are volcanic boulders that sit on the beach and a growing ecotourism business.
When to go: April, May, October, and November are best to avoid the more intense weather.
How to get there: Fly into Seychelles International Airport on Mahe and then island hop from there.
Read More on Travel in Africa here
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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