Last updated on November 19th, 2023
Featured image: Discover the beauty in one of these less-travelled African destinations | Photo by TalentZukutu on Envato
16 countries in Africa worth visiting
by Rupi Mangat
With 54 sovereign countries, the African continent is vibrant with rich birdlife, big game like lions and elephants, cultures and so much more. When one says ‘Africa’ it so generalizes the continent where the north is completely different from the south, as is the east from the west.
In the words of Ryszard Kapuściński, the famous Polish journalist who covered Africa at the dawn of her country’s independence, “The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say ‘Africa’. In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.”
North Africa is largely Arabic covered by the Sahara Desert–Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia. The Egyptians, although they speak Arabic, are mostly Muslims and not Arabs. They are native to the Nile Valley.
Map of Africa / Map provided by Nick Roux and Peter Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons
16 Less-Travelled African Destinations
Egypt is synonymous with the pyramids, the pharaohs and the Nile. They are a must-see with Cairo hugging the Nile and the pyramids close to the city. A must do is the Museum of Antiquities and the Citadel.
Just as exciting is Alexandria, steeped in ancient history from the times of the Romans. The port city where the Nile enters the Mediterranean Sea was founded by Alexander the Great with its Roman-era amphitheatre and many more Sphinxes retrieved from the sea.
The Nile Cruise is the way to explore the world of the ancient pharaohs – there are packages from a day to more. Explore the bazaars and the perfumeries.
Taxis are affordable even for a day trip to Alexandria from Cairo with a tour guide. Walking in Cairo and Alexandria is fun. Being a Muslim country, wear clothes that reveal little and you are fine. Click here for even more things to do in Egypt!
It’s the place to be if you want to hike into the Atlas Mountains and spend nights on the steep sloped villages of the Berbers. Then there’s the white-washed city of Casablanca on the Med and you fall in love with her – think Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann.
Ambling through the narrow streets of the medinas in the cities of Rabat, Marrakesh or Fez takes you back in time with tiny stalls full of beautiful hand-woven carpets to flowing kaftans and spicy street food.
Egypt’s rich history is waiting to be explored / Photo via Envato
An aerial view of Tangier, Morocco / Photo by wirestockc on Envato
Cross over the Sahara to Mali with the twin cities of Timbuktu and Djenne that were the centre of Islamic learning between 1400 and 1600. It was the golden age with the cities on the trans-Saharan caravan route. Visit Timbuktu’s Koranic Sankore University and the centuries-old mud mosques including the Great Mosque of Djenne 220 kilometers away.
One of Africa’s most vibrant countries with her busy cities Lagos and Abuja, the one for the intrepid traveller is Benin city famous for its Benin bronzes from the 13th century. Most were stolen by the British forces in 1897 during a battle that should not have happened.
An hour’s drive from Lagos is the amazing floating village Ganvie, a floating village founded during the 17th century during the slave trade – complete with a post office, school and hospital.
Edging on to the Atlantic, this little country is famous for its beaches and forests and has one of the best-kept secrets: Africa’s forest elephants that come to the beach to swim at Loango National Park.
The bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria / Photo via Envato
6. South Africa
Featuring ultra-modern cities like Cape Town with its iconic Table Mountain and Durban with picturesque towns dotted along the roads, South Africa is vibrant with its apartheid history, people, landscapes and wildlife from the big mammals to the ocean secrets.
The ‘Rainbow Nation’ is where penguins frolic on the beaches and the mighty whales and sharks swim from the cold Antarctic along the eastern coast to spend summer months in East Africa. South Africa is also where the two oceans meet – the Indian and the Atlantic.
Include in your itinerary the Drakensberg mountains with the prehistoric rock art, the wine tour and for flower lovers, Namaqualand from early August to the end of September to see one of the world’s greatest NATURAL flower shows. Book day trips and activities in South Africa here.
While in South Africa, visit another country – Lesotho famous for the Maloti Mountains that is part of the Drakensberg in Sehlabathebe National Park. You may see one of the world’s rarest vultures – the Bearded vulture. Spend the night at Sani Mountain Escape which has the highest pub in Africa.
Tucked in the corner bordering the Atlantic, Namibia is justly famous for its sand dunes in the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast. The country is home to diverse wildlife, including 1/3 of the African cheetah. Just as exciting is Etosha National Park’s salt pan which is a magnet for Africa’s magnificent wildlife.
Spotting giraffes in Stellenbosh, South Africa / Photo by Image-Source on Envato
Sand Dunes at Sossusvlei, Namibia / Photo by imagexphoto on Envato
The tiny diamond-rich country hosts Africa’s largest elephant population and is Africa’s fastest-growing economy. The top destinations are Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta which gives life to the parched Kalahari Desert. It’s surreal to see big game in this harsh landscape. You will fall in love with the country after reading Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation.
The mile-wide Victoria Falls is a must-see as is the ancient stone city of Great Zimbabwe built between 9th and 15th centuries where the iconic Stone Birds of Zimbabwe were excavated in the 19th century and taken abroad. All have been returned to the country now.
Hugging the Indian Ocean, the former Portuguese colony boasts Gorongosa National Park aka the ‘Serengeti of the South’ and amazing ocean escapades.
Sunset Okavango Delta in Botswana Africa / Photo by Envato
Big Game Country circled around Lake Victoria, the world’s second-largest freshwater lake
Straddling the Equator with Mount Kenya showing off its snow-capped peaks, the country boasts everything from the desert to savannah grasslands that are home to the big cats. You can see lions, leopards and cheetahs in a day plus the megaherbivores like rhinos and elephants in wildlife areas like the world-famous Maasai Mara. Combine this with a beach safari boasting powder white beaches and fantastic ocean creatures or island hop to Lamu, with its vibrant Swahili history.
The Mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are a must-see at USD 700. Combine this with a safari for the lions and elephants including chimpanzees and you get a great deal from the great apes to the big game.
Zebras graze in Nairobi National Park / Photo by g_nandy on Unsplash
14. Tanzania with its sultry island of Zanzibar
Famous with Mt Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest stand-alone mountain (and snow-capped) and for its northern circuit that includes the Ngorongoro Crater filled with Africa’s big game from the rhinos to the elephants and lions, cheetahs and leopards and the endless plains of the Serengeti, end your safari on the spice island of Zanzibar.
The land of a thousand hills is home of gorilla safaris and other rare primates including chimps in the Virunga National Park. At USD 1,500 it’s spectacular trekking into the volcanic Virungas. Continue on to Nyungwe Forest for a canopy walk in the rainforest and a safari in Akagera National Park now rebounding with wildlife. Kigali the capital is a delight to stroll through.
Unique with its lemurs, the island boasts stunning rainforests and ocean life.
Giraffe in Akagera Village, Rwanda / Photo by Emmy Shingiro on Unsplash
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