A vast, diverse continent of 30.3 million square kilometres, Africa is a boiling pot of cultures, traditions and languages, of wildlife and natural phenomena. From adventure activities, safaris, deserts, rivers and snow-capped peaks, Africa has it all. I asked some travel bloggers to share 27 of the best African countries to visit for travel adventure. Did we include your favourite?
African holidays aren’t just a travel adventure; a visit to Africa will probably transform you. As writer Brian Jackman puts it: ‘Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never felt it? How can you explain the fascination of this vast, dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths?’
Each of the people who has contributed to this collaborative post about some of the best African countries to visit has felt the lure of Africa and encapsulated what s/he finds special about a particular country. Most of the links at the end of each paragraph will take you to a post that tells you more about that country.
South Africa is rich in wildlife and has some of the best game reserves in the world, like the Kruger National Park. One of my favourite things is watching the sunrise on an early morning game drive while surrounded by wild creatures in their natural habitat.
Whether you’re looking for adrenalin-pumping adventures, spiritual rejuvenation or pure relaxation, South Africa has something for everyone. No wonder it’s often described as a world in one country.
Sara Essop, In Africa and Beyond
Explore hillside villages and the Ts’ehlanyane and Sehlabathebe national parks, drive steep winding passes (you need a 4x4 for Sani Pass), pony trek across mountains and valleys, go abseiling down Maletsunyane Falls at Semonkong, or skiing in winter. Eat trout at Katse Dam, learn about Lesotho’s history and culture at Thaba Bosiu, visit caves and ancient rock paintings.
The tiny country’s tourism industry is underdeveloped, making it all the more appealing for those who love to travel off the beaten path.
Roxanne Reid (yes, that’s me), Africa Addict
A lesser known but equally beautiful corner of eSwatini is the Lebombo Mountains, where the Shewula Mountain Camp, managed by the local community, perches on the edge of a cliff. Combine your visit to the mountain hideaway with a safari at nearby Hlane Royal National Park for a complete African experience.
Erin Mushaway, Sol Salute
In the south you’ll find Sossusvlei and the Namib-Naukluft Park. Climb sand dunes that have been millions of years in the making, look down on the white clay of Dead Vlei with its desiccated trees that are suspected to be over 600 years old. This will be one of the most surreal places you ever visit.
Sue Cockell, Sue Where? Why? What?
Those who take the risk of visiting Angola are rewarded with astonishing natural beauty and virtually no tourism. Most of Angola’s attractions are little known internationally but are world class. They include Kalandula Falls in Malanje (second biggest waterfalls in Africa), Serra da Leba (a beautiful mountain pass that’s really fun to drive), Kissama National Park (best place in Angola for a safari), the beautiful Bay and island of Luanda, and the world-class beaches in Benguela, with warm water, soft sand and very few people.
Jorge Bastos, Travel Drafts
Then go north to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and watch wild dogs on the hunt in Moremi Game Reserve. Want to feel the rumble of elephants and hear the laugh of hippos while you lie in your sleeping bag? Head to Chobe and witness some of the most dense wildlife populations in Africa.
Botswana offers a true feeling of wilderness combined with a rich biodiversity that few other countries can match.
Hal Brindley, Travel For Wildlife
The diversity of terrain can be seen in snapshots: the staggering Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou, lush mountains of the Eastern Highlands, sparkling waters of Lake Kariba, and one of the top tourist attractions in Africa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls. Such places teem with wildlife, adventure and activities. There are also vast flood plains in Mana Pools National Park and beautiful teak forests in Hwange National Park – both superb safari destinations.
But what makes Zimbabwe special is its people. They’ve known hardships few can understand, yet their resilience and hopefulness mean they always greet you with a smile and warm hospitality. Expect to be welcomed as family – that’s the Zimbabwean way.
Shelley Cox, Africa Conservation Travel
I love its rich cultural diversity, colourful villages, fresh seafood and the possibility of enjoying the country without hordes of camera-toting tourists. Wildlife is plentiful, from big game to marine life. It’s possible to see whales, sea turtles, whale sharks as well as the rare and elusive dugong.
For a safari with the chance to see rare wild dogs, lions, elephants and leopards, visit national parks like Gorongosa, Quirimbas or Limpopo National Park which, together with Kruger National Park in South Africa, forms part of the Greater Limpopo National Park.
Sabine de Gaspari, The Travelling Chilli
Travellers don’t come to Malawi to tick off big ticket items. This is the ‘real Africa’ before commercialisation. It’s unlikely you’ll see the Big Five on a game drive around Majete National Park, although lions have recently been introduced, and Malawi doesn’t have Africa’s highest peak or waterfall. What it does have is infectious warmth and a good soul. Everyday interactions with its people are what you’ll take away as memories.
Jenny Lynn, TraveLynn Family
Compared to safari giants like Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia’s parks are relatively uncrowded. This means you can spot wildlife like elephants, leopards, giraffes and zebras with little competition from other 4x4s. South Luangwa National Park is renowned for its walking safaris – an up-close experience that gives a totally different perspective of the park and its animals. Other Zambian national parks include Kafue, Liuwa Plains and Kasanka (famous for odd-looking birds called shoebills).
Spend some time in the capital of Lusaka, a sprawling city with thriving arts, entertainment and tech scenes.
Jen Ambrose, Passions and Places
It’s worth visiting Zakouma National Park in the south-east. The park is being regenerated under the management of African Parks, with elephant populations growing again after almost being wiped out by poaching between 2002 and 2010.
In the capital, N’Djamena, you’ll find people friendly yet hostile towards cameras. Once you venture out towards the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve in the north-east, chances to take photos increase. Your jaw will drop when you see the beautiful limestone formations of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the Aloba Arch, the third largest rock arch in the world. Getting to the Ennedi Massif is no easy feat since you have to drive four days from N’Djamena, but it’s an adventure.
Petro Marais, Miss Petro Marais
The locals speak English, making travel easy for foreigners. Transport around the country is inexpensive and reliable.
Any place may have interesting history and culture, and fun things to do but what makes Ghana great are its people. Ghanaians are vibrant and energetic. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Smiles and laughter come easily. People make time to say hello and have a chat. They believe in helping one another.
Mix all the activities with the wonderful, vivacious people in Ghana and you’ve got a country that provides unexpected surprises at every turn.
Trina and Tim, Team Hazard Rides Again
As a result of its turbulent past, Sierra Leone is off the radar for most people and while it’s not really set up for mainstream tourism, it’s an exciting and rewarding destination for the intrepid traveller.
In the capital, Freetown, don’t miss the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and spend time soaking up the sun on the beaches of the Freetown Peninsula. History buffs can learn about the history of the slave trade on the Banana Islands and nature-lovers can search for rare pygmy hippos on Tiwai Island. Every day is an adventure in Sierra Leone.
Helen Davies, Helen in Wonderlust
Discover the markets and history of the capital, Banjul, or head down the coast for beaches and fishing villages that heave with people as the catch comes in each day. Discover crocodiles, snakes and monkeys in parks and sanctuaries, or visit the huge animal market near Brikama, where goats, sheep and cattle await a buyer.
Upriver take a safari to discover extraordinary birdlife like the Abyssinian roller, elegant fish-eagle and vibrant fire finch, visit historic Georgetown and the World Heritage Wassu Stone Circles, or just cruise the river on a peaceful overnight trip.
Jill Bowdery, Travel The Gambia
You can’t talk about Senegal without getting excited about food and music. One of Africa’s premier art and music festivals, Dak’Art, showcases the finest talent in the arts from across the continent and beyond. Think light show projections onto abandoned railway station facades and the pulsing house music of superstar Senegalese DJs while artists live-paint fantastical scenes and cool kids glide around the floor on glow-in-the-dark roller blades. There is the serious business of art as well, with installations, performances pieces and modernist expressions of bigger issues.
Linda Markovina, @moving_sushi
Up on the coast it’s all about laid-back beach towns and surfing some of the Atlantic’s finest waves. In the ancient labyrinthine cities of Marrakech and Fes it’s time to haggle in the souks, visit palaces and admire Islamic architecture.
We’ve found the people of Morocco to be warm and welcoming, and the food delicious. Some of our favourite dishes are succulent lamb tagines, kefta meatballs and bastilla, a parcel of seafood wrapped up in phyllo pastry and dusted with cinnamon.
Heather Cole, The Conversant Traveller
From north to south, it bursts with history, amazing cultures and different groups of people that have shaped the country. There’s a rich Berber history, Carthaginian history, and beautiful Roman ruins, with more discovered year after year. Find beautiful amphitheatres where gladiators used to battle, the oldest synagogue in Africa, the oldest Muslim place of worship in Africa, and Ksar palaces (Berber fortified villages) like those in Tataouine that have appeared in Star Wars movies.
The people are friendly and welcoming. The cost of living isn’t high, making Tunisia an affordable destination.
Bianca M, It’s All Bee
If you’re an outdoor person, explore the Red Sea, Nile River Islands, mountainous areas and desert regions like the black desert and the white desert.
Egyptian food is flavourful and tasty without relying heavily on spices. Most dishes are based on vegetables, beans and herbs. Also, Egypt isn’t expensive for those paying with foreign currency; your dollar will go a long way if you’re not into luxury travel.
Ming Lee, Flyerism
Make your way to Karima to climb Jebel Barkel, a holy mountain, and see your first pyramids. Sudanese pyramids are smaller than their Egyptian counterparts, but equally beautiful – and you’ll probably have them to yourselves. Go to Khartoum and Omdurman to visit their souks, enjoy mesmerising Sufi dancing on Fridays, and live music in the jazz cafe at night.
Be prepared for basic living conditions because Sudan doesn’t have a tourist infrastructure yet, although it’s easy to get around by local buses. Expect heat too as most of the country is desert.
Manouk Bob, Bunch of Backpackers
Visit national parks for chances to spot wildlife, including the striped hyena and endemic species like the Ethiopian wolf, gelada baboon and Walia ibex.
Ethiopia is heaven for those seeking African culture, history and religion. You can meet local tribes, visit museums in Addis Ababa, and experience churches on lake islands or cut into the sides of mountains, as at Lalibela (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Gondar and Axum. For an adrenalin rush, try mouth-feeding the hyenas of Harar, a walled city that is one of Islam’s holiest.
Alexander and Victoria, Northabroad
The saline Lake Assal in the Afar Triangle is the lowest point in Africa. The salt plains are a bright turquoise-white among the dark dramatic landscape – a perfect place to sleep under the stars. There are some windy but fabulous trekking places round the volcanic rock formations.
Whale sharks are drawn to the clear waters at the Gulf of Tadjoura near Djibouti City between October to February and swimming among them is a highlight.
Vanessa, Wanders Miles
The spectacular terrain of the Maasai Mara offers one of Africa’s best wildlife and safari experiences. From the Great Wildebeest Migration to the chance to spot the Big Five, the area is world renowned for a reason.
But Kenya is much more than a safari destination. The coastal area near Mombasa has Indian Ocean beaches with white sand and warm water. The Old Town is rich with history and beautiful architecture.
Roxanne Savage, The Coastal Campaign
Tanzania is also home to the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact, inactive and unfilled volcanic caldera. It’s a great place to go on safari to see some 25 000 animals, including endangered species like black rhino. Serengeti National Park is also a popular East African safari, being home to the yearly Great Wildebeest Migration and lots of Big Cats.
To change things up, experience the island of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago just off the coast. Zanzibar provides unforgettable diving, culture and beaches. Tanzania’s wide range of landscapes and things to explore make it one of the best African countries to visit.
Jessica, Unearth the Voyage
From its source in Lake Victoria, the River Nile crosses the Rift Valley to give Uganda a dazzling range of unique habitats, of lakes, forests, mountains, volcanoes and savannah. It’s no surprise it’s called the Pearl of Africa.
Uganda’s most prized natural attractions include the world’s biggest population of endangered mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and over 1 000 species of birds, not forgetting the Big Five.
Yet there’s much more to Uganda, like volcano hiking, grade 5 white-water rafting and kayaking. There’s also the culture, languages, dance and food of 56 tribes, and music and arts festivals like Nyege Nyege and Bayimba that sum up Ugandans’ joie de vivre like nothing else. Come visit Uganda. You may come back; you may (like me) never leave.
Charlotte Beauvoisin, Diary of a Muzungu
Today, the now peaceful country is famous for its silverback gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park high in the Virunga Mountains. We hiked with trackers and armed guards for about an hour through thick forest before reaching the group of gorillas our permit allowed us to approach. What incredible moments as baby gorillas jumped and played on their mothers’ backs while the dominant male fed himself on plants.
Make sure you go to Lake Kivu as well. The road takes you to the stunning lush landscape that gave the country its nickname of the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’. On the border of the lake are small villages, from where local boats go fishing on the emerald water.
Patricia, Ze Wandering Frogs
Malagasy culture is a curious mix, drawing on African and Indian influences with a veneer of French colonialism. This makes for a melodic native language and some delicious cuisine.
The capital, Antananarivo, is lively but the real magic of Madagascar is its nature. You could while away weeks trekking, camping and nature watching. The famous baobab trees are found throughout the western part of the mainland whereas the cute and mischievous lemurs are ubiquitous throughout Madagascar.
Special mention must go to Ile St Marie, a tiny former pirate hideout you get to by a five-hour ferry ride from mainland Madagascar. It’s a paradise of coral beaches, wooden villages and lush rainforest.
Aiden Freeborn of Freeborn Aiden
Getting around is easy and cheap. English and French are widely spoken, so most travellers find it easy to get by. You’ll find everything from Chinese- to Indian-inspired food. You can enjoy lunch for less than US$2 at street stalls, or from US$5 in restaurants. If you love exploring the outdoors while staying on budget, book a ticket to Mauritius now.
Stephanie Ferry, Let’s Venture Out
Did we include your favourite country in Africa? Or did we boob and leave out one you think is really special. Tell us about it and why it’s special in the comments below.
Like it? Pin this image!
Best African countries to visit for epic things to do
Best African safari holidays: 7 parks everyone should visit
Copyright © Roxanne Reid - No words or photographs on this site may be used without permission from roxannereid.co.za