20 Must-Visit Places in Africa
Touted as the “Cradle of Humankind”, Africa is a continent filled with secrets and treasures consistently being revealed to the brave hearted who embark on adventurous journeys. With spectacular and breath-taking wonders including ancient tombs, temples and pyramids, as well as diverse wildlife, Africa has much to offer willing tourists and visitors. Here is a list in no particular order of 20 must-visit places on the continent.
Mount Kilimanjaro – Tanzania
Rising more than 19,000 feet above the plains of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent. With contrasting ecosystems ranging from rugged heathlands, a rainforest, cultivated agricultural areas to an alpine desert, the mountain’s peak is covered with ice. Uhuru, the highest point of Kili, as the mountain is fondly called, is accessible to hikers whose only requirement is to be fit. This is because climbing the mountain does not require specialised climbing clothing, equipment or expertise. The region around the base of the mountain is also home to some of Africa’s foremost wildlife parks and nature reserves, with the scenery at the peak of the mountain, giving it a glistening white landscape.
Victoria Falls – Zambia-Zimbabwe Border
Called “The Smoke that Thunders” (Mosi-oa-Tunya) by indigenes, Victoria Falls is exemplified by its plunging, roaring water that falls beneath columns of spray that can be seen and heard from miles away. The notable missionary and explorer, Dr David Livingstone, named the falls after Queen Victoria in 1855. The world’s largest sheet of falling water, with more than 625 million litres flowing over the edge per minute during peak flood season, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Not too far from the falls are diverse wildlife activities like swimming, which is relatively safe on the Zambian side of the falls with the natural pools at the top.
Valley of the Kings – Egypt
Between the 11th and 16th centuries BC, the kings of Egypt and their attending nobles were interred in the Valley of the Kings. Located near Luxor on the west bank of the Nile River, the Valley of the Kings is home to 63 tombs including the still intact burial site of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922 as one of the most important archaeological findings in the world.
Abu Simbel – Egypt
There are two temples at Abu Simbel; one is called The Great and the other The Small. Both temples are famous for their relocation from an original setting on a sandstone cliff near the Nile River. The temples were built and carved out of sandstone over 3,000 years ago during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses II, to honour him, his wife and the Egyptian gods. However, European explorers excavated them and looted their treasures in the 19th century. The temples are rumoured to have been named after the boy, Abu Simbel who led the first European explorer to discover the site.
Owing to the risk of the temples being submerged under a new artificial lake being built in the area, the site was relocated in the 1960s. The relocation involved disassembling the temples and then reassembling them in the exact form and relationship to the sun and to each other. The Abu Simbel is surrounded by mountains created to simulate their original home.
Sossusvlei Namib Desert National Park – Namibia
A huge clay pan guarded by a crescent of giant red sand dunes, the Sossusvlei is a symbol of Namibia. Situated in the Namib Naukluft Park, it is an arid and isolated landscape that is part of the larger park dedicated to conserving the diverse flora and fauna in the area.
The Pyramids of Giza – Egypt
One of man’s greatest architectural feats, the Pyramids of Giza were built more than 5,000 years ago. There are more than 100 pyramids scattered across Egypt. They are famously regarded as one of the world’s oldest tourist attractions and one of the “Ancient World’s Seven Wonders” to have survived the ravages of time without damage. The three main pyramids at Giza are the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. The Sphinx, known as the ‘father of terror’ in Arabic, lies in front of the pyramids. The Great Pyramid was built from 2.3 million stone blocks weighing 5.9 million tonnes. These pyramids worked as opulent declarations of affluence and power, as well as devoted memorials to the gods’ power and judgment. Many of the pyramids were also built as tombs to help preserve the mummified bodies of the dead pharaohs. They are said to keep them safe and undisturbed in their afterlife. The tomb of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Pharaoh Cheops) is interred in one of the pyramids at Giza.
Fish River Canyon – Namibia
A spectacular 500 million-year-old natural wonder carved out of the Namibian Desert, Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world. Over 160 kilometres long, 27 kilometres wide and 550 metres deep, the Fish River flows through the canyon. The river may slow to a trickle during the dry season and then become an uncontrolled torrent when it rains. This helps to erode the canyon, making it deeper.
The Fish River is a popular hiking route that is a four-day trek. The highlight of any visit to Namibia is the wildlife that is sustained by the river; mountain zebra, klipspringer, kudu, wild horses, and many more.
Karnak Temple Complex – Egypt
The biggest and most imposing temple site in Egypt, the Karnak Temple Complex is situated near Luxor – a region that houses other popular sites such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. A conglomeration of three major temples and several smaller ones, it is said that the building of the complex spanned through the reigns of thirty different pharaohs. The main and the largest temple, the Temple of Amun, covers sixty-five acres while the Great Hypostyle Hall can accommodate the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Okavango Delta – Botswana
The world’s largest inland delta, the Okavango Delta is a magnificent natural wonder that was formed after the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi dried up many thousands of years ago. Fed by the Highland waters of Uganda that flow to the plains of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta is a detailed labyrinth of inland lagoons, channels and lakes. These inland bodies help sustain the varied wildlife that lives in the region. Indeed, the Okavango Delta is the perfect safari experience.
Omo River Region – Ethiopia
Situated in Ethiopia and almost inaccessible by road, the Omo River is secluded from the outside world. Consequently, the tribes in the area are more traditional than modern and retain their customs. Though they are advised to join an organised tour to ensure travel safety, visitors can learn much about the indigenous culture while white-water rafting.
Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest unbroken and unflooded caldera. It was formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself more than three million years ago. Although part of the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the crater is 19 kilometres across, 600 centimetres deep, and has a total area of 260 square kilometres. It is also considered a natural zoo for wildlife including the “Big Five”( a name coined by game hunters for the five animals; African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros, owing to the difficulties and dangers associated with hunting them on foot).
The Virunga Mountains – DRC/Rwanda/Uganda Borders
These are a range of volcanic mountains found along the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. They include eight main peaks including Mount Karisimbii which is the highest, as well as mounts Nyiragira and Nyiragongo, both active volcanoes. Being extremely beautiful, the forests of the Virunga Mountains are the home of the mountain gorilla species. Many other wildlife form part of their attraction including chimpanzees, forest elephants and okapi.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – Uganda
Mhahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the best places to see the endangered mountain gorilla species. The park is also part of the Virunga Conservation Area and is a dense rainforest and landscape of inactive volcanoes that imbue the area with a mystique.
Nyika Plateau National Park – Malawi
Nyika Plateau National Park is Malawi’s largest park. It is also one of the most unusual in Africa with a plateau divided by many rivers that feed into Lake Malawi through the waterfalls off the eastern edge of the mountains. With its eastern border forming the wall of the Great Rift Valley, Nyika Plateau National Park is perfect for trekking, hiking and mountain biking. The park also has a large number of leopards, antelopes and zebras.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve& Serengeti National Park – Kenya & Tanzania
The link between Maasai Mara, Kenya’s nature wonderland and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, make both parks the vital and popular safari destinations famous for the wildebeest, antelope and zebra migration involving more than two million animals. Beginning in Serengeti in Tanzania and ending in Maasai Mara in Kenya, the annual migration is, however, unpredictable as it is dependent on climate and rainfall. The peak period to view is between July and September when the animals gather together to cross the river into Kenya. The parks are also popular as habitats for the “Big Five”, as well as flamboyant native cultures. Hot-air balloons also offer adventurers a unique safari experience.
Djenne – Mali
One of Sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest cities, Djenne was founded in 800 AD. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the city was a hub for traders to shuttle their goods between the Sahara Desert and the forests of Guinea. Being a centre of Islamic learning, the city is also renowned for its Great Mosque which still stands in Djenne’s Market square.
Djmaa el Fna – Morocco
Adjudged as the world’s most fascinating market, Djmaa el Fna is right in the heart of Marrakech. It is commonplace to see henna designers, date sellers, snake charmers, storytellers, and varieties of vendors selling their wares. The vendors are joined by dancers, mobile restaurateurs and drummers, offering several forms of entertainment from nightfall till past midnight.
Lake Nakuru National Park – Kenya
Over one million flamingoes reside in Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park. One of Kenya’s most remarkable sights, Lake Nakuru provides a great showcase for these birds that beautify the alkaline lake and blue sky in swatches of pink.
Marrakech – Morocco
The imperial city of Marrakech is located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. A fantastic riot of colour and sound, Marrakech is a feast for the senses; from the traditional riad in the Medina to souks, maze-like streets and markets.
Cape Town – South Africa
The jewel in South Africa’s crown, Cape Town’s first-world culture, alluring colours and cuisine, make her one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A culturally diverse hotbed, she boasts of the Table Mountain, wine vineyards and farms around the Cape area.