Africa travel guide – Visit Africa independently
“Africa is an amazing continent to visit, the Cradle of Humankind. It has a total of 54 countries with a total population of 1.1 billion people. The most spoken languages in Africa are Arabic, Somali, Berber, Amharic, Oromo, Swahili, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, and Yoruba.”
My Top places to visit in Africa
- The unreachable lost desert city of Timbuktu, Mali
- Ancient Ksar of Ait Benhaddou adobe fortified village, Morocco
- 4600-year-old 146 m / 481 ft Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
- Orange color sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Morocco
- 13th-century monolithic cave churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
- The holy city of Harar, Ethiopia
- Chinguetti desert city, Mauritania
- 9000-year-old rock paintings of Laas Geel, Somaliland
- The crazy mystical city of Marrakesh, Morocco
- Bushmen rock paintings in Ha Khotso, Lesotho
- Kairouan religious city, Tunisia
- Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, South Africa
- Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe
- Bwabwata National Park, Namibia
- Fajã de Água village, Cape Verde
- Fogo National Park, Cape Verde
Other amazing places to visit in Africa
- Mountain gorillas, Rwanda
- Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
- Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Kruger National Park, South Africa
- Okavango Delta, Botswana
- Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana
- Spitzkoppe, Namibia
- Nyika Plateau National Park, Malawi
- Draa Valley, Morocco
- Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
- Nyiragongo Volcano, Virunga National Park, Eastern Congo
Safest places to visit in Africa
List of the safest african countries to visit during your holidays.
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Cape Verde
Best places to visit in Africa
On this page, you have a list of Africa best destinations.
1. Visit Timbuktu, Republic of Mali
Timbuktu is a place where you feel like you’re going back in time. It is one of the world’s epic cities and most desirable yet unreachable travel destinations. Lying at the edge of the Sahara Desert and the “Niger bend,” the strategic location of the city allowed it to become a powerful and prosperous link between West Africa and the Mediterranean. Past empires used the camel caravan route to make trade for centuries. Timbuktu grew into a center of propagation of Islam in the 15th and 16th century. Its mosques are part of the reason why UNESCO considered it a World Heritage Site.
Like myself, other travelers come to Timbuktu (Tombouctou) looking for the mysticism of the place. I explored the whole city, the central market, the monument of peace, sacred places such as the Djinguereber Mosque, the city museum, and local pastries. The architecture and color of Timbuktu are things which have always been on my mind.
Read my page: 52 Photos of Timbuktu the Mysterious.
2. Visit Marrakesh, Kingdom of Morocco
Marrakesh is undoubtedly one of the best travel destinations in Morocco and in the whole world. Marrakesh is a must for those who’d like to find both cultural features and entertainment in an otherworldly city founded centuries ago by Berbers, and an ancient “entrepôt” for the merchandise brought from further south in Africa, via Timbuktu.
Marrakech is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Africa. Filled with shops, old palaces and interesting museums, Marrakesh promises to keep you busy for several days. Do not miss the gardens of Menara, Marrakesh Museum, the Saadian Tombs and other incredible monuments. But the real “Red City,” the name was given after the red pigment on the walls, can be experienced in the old crowded medina’s and in Jemaa el-Fna square where drummers, musicians, acrobats, dancers, storytellers, and comedians create a frenetic ambiance. And anything else you can think of regarding street entertainment.
In the UNESCO World Heritage medina of Marrakesh, the variety of the souks invites us to carry home a lot more than we’d like. Also worth exploring is the Ville Nouvelle, the modern part of the city, with its wide boulevards of cafés and trending boutiques leading to nice gardens that help ease the heat in the summer. After getting to know all sides of Marrakesh, it is time to continue your journey in Morocco heading south to the Sahara Desert. Marrakesh is one of the most visited cities in Africa. In 2017, for the first time in history, Marrakesh crossed the 2 million tourists and more than 6 million overnight stays.
Read my pages: a 3-day travel guide to visit Marrakesh and Djemaa El-Fna Marrakesh – Insanity beyond expectations.
3. Visit The Great Pyramid and The Sphinx in Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt
The Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx are located in Giza Necropolis, on the outskirts of Cairo. These World Wonders with 4600 years old totally change Cairo’s urban skyline towards the empty desert.
With 146 m / 481 ft, the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most impressive manmade constructions on Earth. As we arrive, the place becomes more and more extraordinary. At dawn, sunset and after the night comes, the mysticism rises beyond what’s imaginable in this site, recognizable anywhere. Despite recent political problems, Egypt is still one of the most visited African countries.
The Great Sphinx is big. Enormous. Standing close to this figure with the body of a lion and a human head, it gives you a different sense of your own size. Numerous tales and legends involve the Great Sphinx, its origin and “life.” No wonder, since it is the oldest known monumental sculpture in the world, thought to have been built by ancient Egyptians during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra, who ruled the Old Kingdom between 2558 and 2532 BC.
Read my page: Visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo – Ancient Egypt
4. Visit Lalibela, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Lalibela is famous for its incredible UNESCO recognized rock carved churches from the medieval period, proof of the city’s relevance for Ethiopian Christianity, making it a place of pilgrimage and devotion still today. In fact, the layout and names of Lalibela’s buildings are considered by many a symbolic representation of Jerusalem.
Rising at 2,500 m / 8200 ft above sea level, Lalibela is probably the nicest travel destination in Ethiopia. Besides the churches, the surrounding landscapes are beautiful and the houses are of traditional construction, with rounded stones with straw on top. It’s a pleasure to discover them walking around the cobblestone car free streets.
Read my page: 37 historical places to visit in Ethiopia
5. Visit Luxor, Arab Republic of Egypt
Luxor is a beautiful city. For me, the best of my travel to Egypt. Divided between the two sides of the Nile River, it is the place where the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramses IX, Seti I, Ramses VI and Horemheb were found. So, there is no History lacking here.
In Luxor, you can visit famous monuments such as the Temple of Luxor, Karnak Temple, the unique and impressive mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the Temple of Medinet Habu. Just to name a few of the remarkable sites. I even made a hot air balloon trip through the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens to see the surroundings from the skies. That was incredible, everybody should do it.
Read my page: Luxor the World’s greatest open-air Museum.
6. Visit Ait Benhaddou, Kingdom of Morocco
Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is an old adobe fortified village on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Located near Ouarzazate, on the Gate of Sahara Desert, Ait Benhaddou offers a great walk through mud made houses where people still live today.
Morocco is undoubtedly one best African countries to visit. Remember the films “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Sodom and Gomorrah”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, “Gladiator”? These and many others have used Ait Benhaddou as a set in some of their most emblematic scenes. Check them out before you head for the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
7. Visit La Dune Rose, Republic of Mali
Near the town of Gao, locally known as Koyma, there is this massive dune on the right bank of the River Niger. You can see it right from Gao, but the Dune Rose becomes more and more amazing as you approach it, especially at sunrise or sunset. This is when the sand turns pink and throws its magic all around. Literally, according to the people who live here.
Once you get up on the sand dune, the views over the river and the whole region are breathtaking. Even better would be to take a pirogue and head to the water to check out the wildlife downstream.
8. Visit Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Republic of Kenya
The Elephant and Rhino Nursery of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi is the place to visit if you are passionate about wildlife and animals in general. This animal shelter, located near Nairobi National Park, can be easily visited by anybody wanting to contact the animals and witness the beautiful work these people are doing. Visiting Africa can be hard, but places such as this one make the trip worth it.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust protects the habitats and rehabilitates elephants and rhinoceros from Nairobi and Tsavo National Park, mainly orphans whose mothers were killed. During morning visits you can watch friendly elephants being given milk by their tutors. Their friendship and trust are really evident when you see them play.
Video about Kenya’s Elephants and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
For support or donations visit http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/.
9. Visit Erg Chebbi Dunes, Kingdom of Morocco
Having a surprisingly orange hue, the Erg Chebbi Dunes are one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. This incredible part of the Sahara desert in Morocco is the ideal place for a couple of days enjoying one of the best holiday destinations in the country. Explore the desert, go camel trekking, enjoy the sunrise and sunset, meet nomadic families around the dunes. The best time to visit Africa really depends on which country you want to go to. For example, you should not visit Merzouga during the peak of Summer.
My highlights of things to do in the Erg Chebbi Dunes are, definitely, everything that involves getting into the mysticism of the place, being one with nature and slowing down to let it all sink in. Challenge yourself to climb the tallest dune — there is always one closer to the sky — and sit on top of your conquest. The calm wind will welcome you.
Read my page: Erg Chebbi dunes in the Sahara Desert
10. Visit Gao, Republic of Mali
Gao is situated on the left bank of River Niger, at the junction with the Tilemsi Valley, 320km / 200mi east-southeast of Timbuktu. It was once the capital of the Songhai Empire. Nowadays, Gao is the largest town in this region of Mali.
One can think Gao is the end of the world since there’s nothing around, but the town can well be a starting point in your expedition to the Sahara Desert. Visit the busy port if you’re looking to see how trade is made here. Another thing not to miss in Gao is the beautiful Tomb of Askia, built by the Emperor of Songhai, Askia Mohamed, in 1495. The structure was considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for being a demonstration of the power and wealth the trade in salt and gold brought in the 15th and 16th centuries. Besides, it is also an excellent example of the West African Sahel’s tradition of monumental mud-building.
11. Visit Harar, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Harar was, for me, after Lalibela, the best of Ethiopia. I just loved, loved this Muslim town with dusty streets and colorful markets packed with genuinely friendly people. Wondering around makes you feel like you got caught in a time machine and sent back to the middle ages.
Standing tall on a plateau with savannah and deserts surrounding it, the fortified historic town of Harar Jugol has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. It is the 4th holiest city of Islam, which becomes evident when you realize it contains 82 mosques and 102 shrines altogether. But don’t look for them all. Instead, find them by accident as you go for a stroll inside the storytelling walls before you visit the outskirts in search of an up-close personal contact with wild hyenas.
Read my page: Feeding Hyenas in Ethiopia.
12. Visit Faradje, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Faradje was the second city I visited in RD Congo. It is located in the Haut-Uele District, on the Dungu River, a soundless place.
I slept in front of the house of the chief of police. I used his house to watch a little TV with his family and took a bath in his house bathroom. The morning market in Faradje is very nice and gives you an idea of what it is to live in a small rural town in Congo.
13. Visit Mopti, Republic of Mali
Mopti is a town in the confluence of the Niger and the Bani Rivers, in Mali, 460km / 285mi northeast of Bamako. At this location, the charm of a busy, truly African port is evident. Everything happens here. On the opposite margin of the Niger, a few small fishing villages add to the interest of the region as a mean to get to know the population of Mali. And the amazing Pays Dogon is not far away either!
In the center of Mopti, The Great Mosque (or Komoguel Mosque) resembles the well-known Great Mosque of Djenné, built with sun-dried mud bricks. Its Sudano-Sahelian architecture really leaves an impression on us.
14. Visit Gorée Island, Republic of Senegal
Gorée Island has a very picturesque town and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Possibly the most beautiful urban destination in Senegal, Gorée Island is about 40 minutes by boat ride away from Dakar, the capital of the country. The Portuguese navigator Dinis Dias discovered it in 1444. Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was the largest center of the slave trade in Africa. During these times, the Portuguese, English, Dutch and French all ruled this territory.
In addition to the houses and interesting architecture, there are still many places to visit such as the Fortress of Gorée Island and the site of the old English cannon. The island is a living memory of the human exploitation that occurred here, but also a strong reminder that reconciliation can take place. Since it was listed by the colonial administration, in 1944, Gorée Island has had no major construction, making it a well-preserved place to visit.
Read my page: People of Gambia and Senegal
15. Visit Juba, Republic of South Sudan
Juba is the capital of the most recent African country. Funny that, when I was arriving in Juba, by bus, someone asked me “Look out of the window, can you see Juba?”. I saw nothing else but trees and a rocky mountain.
Juba is a city without any infrastructures. For that reason, and a few others, the government is considering the idea of establishing the capital of South Sudan elsewhere. If you’re considering where to visit in Africa, probably Juba will not be on the top of your list.
In Juba, you can visit the church, the new parliament and the mausoleum of Dr. John Garang Mabior. And, of course, move around town rejoicing for being one of the few foreigners visiting this new country.
Read my page: Backpacking Guide to South Sudan.
16. Visit Hombori, Republic of Mali
Hambori is a tiny town in the Cercle of Douentza, in the Mopti Region of Mali. Even though its origins are unknown, including its exact age, the truth is that this ancient village of the Dogon people became the home of the Songhai Empire after the Almoravides invaded the regions around. It then acted, many years later, as a strategic point to the conquest of southern Mali.
The architecture in Hambori is both simple and beautiful. Houses are built of rocks and they communicate through alleyways and tunnels. In the vicinity, there are incredible rock formations, including the Needles of Gami, very popular to go climbing.
17. Visit Laas Geel, Republic of Somaliland
Laas Geel consists of breathtaking outdoor rock paintings located 50km / 31mi from the city of Hargeisa, in Somaliland. This incredible place was the highlight of my trip to this region of the Horn of Africa.
In Laas Geel there are several murals with man-made paintings with over 9000 years old. Humans, dogs, giraffes, cows are portrayed with muddy colors. Some of them are as big as 1m / 3.2ft in length, and it is amazing how they can be in such excellent condition. Somalia is one of the cheapest African countries to visit.
Read my page: Exhaustive Travel Guide to Somaliland.
18. Visit Bakau, Republic of the Gambia
Bakau is just west of Banjul, Gambia’s capital city, on the Atlantic coast. It has turned into the most developed town in the whole country since the government decided to give it a facelift, as people were starting to move out of Banjul. But the very foundation of Bakau is thought to have been around the sacred crocodile pool, Kachikally.
Inside de pool of Bakau Kachikally there are now about 100 sacred crocodiles. Some people believe that the basin has healing and supernatural powers and a bath with crocodiles in that water can help increase fertility. We can go into the pool and even touch the crocodiles. If we dare… Other than this obvious attraction in Bakau, we can also visit the botanical gardens, Kachikally Museum and the beaches at Cape Point.
19. Visit Chinguetti, Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Chinguetti is a historic caravan town built among the dunes of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania. Founded in the 12th Century not far from an earlier oasis settlement, which has now been swallowed by the sand, the town became a roundup point for pilgrims on the way to Mecca, gaining increasing religious importance. Its trading role also made it prosper up until the apogee, in the 17th-19th centuries.
The ksar of Chinguetti is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list (together with the ksar of Ouadane, Tichitt and Oualata). This is a mysterious place, where you can visit the old town, the old mosque, and libraries. Traditional houses with patios lie in narrow streets around the squared minaret mosque. Getting lost in this labyrinth is simply delicious.
Read my page: Photos of people from Mauritania.
20. Visit La Main de Fatma, Republic of Mali
La Main de Fatma is an impressive rocky mountain massif in Mount Hombori, in the Mopti Region of Mali. Near the small town of Hombori and about 100km / 160mi of Douentza, La Main de Fatma is, in fact, an enormous rock wall standing high in the middle of a flat desert. Its name, of course, was given because its five peaks resemble the five fingers of a hand, maybe Fatma’s, the daughter of the Prophet Mohamed. Audacious climbers head to these rocks looking for a challenge. Others come for the views.
« Best Destinations in Africa by other Travel Bloggers»
I asked other travel bloggers about their favorite places to visit Africa. Read about which places other travelers like to spend their holidays.
Luxor, Egypt – by Breathe With Us
It’s impossible to visit Egypt and not immediately add Luxor to your list of favorite destinations after exploring the city and its surroundings, especially if you’re into history and all things Egypt. After all, Luxor is a prime destination for ancient Egyptian monuments, temples, and tombs, with things to see and do for days and often referred to as the world’s largest open-air museum. Luxor is one of the best cities to visit in Africa.
As the former capital of Upper Egypt a few thousand years ago when the Pharaohs ruled the country, Luxor is a very prominent location and has extensive historical sites on both banks of the Nile.
East of the river is where the modern city is located plus two massive temple complexes, Karnak and Luxor Temples. Totally worth visiting. West of the river is where one of the most famous monuments is – the Valley of the Kings, where incredible tombs of the likes of Tutankhamun can be found. Wait, there’s more, the Valley of Queens, Hatshepsut’s amazing temple, and the Ramesseum, just to name a few.
With its remarkable history and monuments, Luxor is one of my favorite places to visit and offers new things to explore all the time.