If you’ve ever wondered about taking a trip to Africa, you might think of going on safari, volunteering somewhere, or visiting the pyramids. Most people don’t imagine cascading waterfalls, beautiful mountains, rich forests, and crystalline waters, but they should.
The reality of the African continent is much more diverse than we assume. You could spend months touring all of these places and still not see everything there is to offer. I practically had to cut this list in half. There were just so many places to choose from!
So, if you’re craving some of the most incredible sights in the world, don’t cross Africa off your list. Here are 10 of my top picks, but you can always find more.
You may have seen a few pictures of Cape Town, surrounded by both a high-rising mountain and a blue ocean. Well, after a 5 minute cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, you can get an entirely different perspective of incredible cliffs, greenery, clouds, and water. In short, the sight is breathtaking.
Besides the fantastic view, you can take one of three hiking trails or a guided walk further along the summit to keep the view going. It’s best to go early and be sure to bring a jacket in case you get cold. As a warning, you might not want to come back down.
One of Namibia’s most popular attractions, Sossusvlei is located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The surrounding dunes are over 1,000 feet high (almost 400 meters) and Sossusvlei, which means “dead-end marsh”, is the spot where they come together to stop the Tsauchab River. The desert climate usually leaves this area completely dry, but during an especially rainy season, the river can overflow and create a temporary lake.
Not far from Sossusvlei is a place called Deadvlei, a spot where dead trees still stand where the river had once flooded. The contrast between the dark trees, the white sand, the red dunes, and the blue sky makes for some incredible pictures.
If you plan on visiting, there’s no guided tour or anything, but there are shuttles that run from the car park if you don’t want to walk or don’t have a 4×4. Either way, it’s a wonderful glimpse of the world without being hounded by crowds and people trying to sell you things. If you can manage to get there to watch the sunrise, you’ll be in for a treat.
Also, it is a desert, so please bring water.
The magnificent Victoria Falls forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. It’s also been called “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or “The Smoke that Thunders”.
There are multiple points where you can view the falls in all of its glory, such across the Knife-edge Bridge, the Falls Bridge, the Devil’s Pool, and the Lookout Tree. The spray from the falls also supports a dense river-bank rainforest full of diverse plant life, insects, birds, and other animals.
If you’re looking to visit, you should note that most views of the falls are located on the Zimbabwe side. Though, you can always plan ahead and visit both sides, allowing you to take advantage of the Victoria Falls Bridge.
If you want to do more than just gawk, you can plan on white water rafting, taking a river cruises, or even bungee jumping if that’s your thing.
Make sure to devote a long stretch of time to exploring the falls and at least a few days if you plan to do more than just look. Also, keep in mind that if the spray from the falls can support an entire ecosystem, you’ll definitely get wet.
If you laugh in the face of danger, you might enjoy hiking up one of the world’s most dangerous, active volcanoes.
Nyiragongo Volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo has the world’s largest and most fluid lava lake. Travelers will say it’s a long hike with an incredible view that is well worth it in the end. It’ll cost you a pretty penny and it’s recommended that you be in really good shape and hire a porter. However, trips up the mountain are organized to ensure everyone stays together, so don’t worry about falling behind.
Even if you’re not brave enough to try climbing the incredibly steep mountain to take a look at the lava lake, the view of the mountainside and the plumes of smoke, sometimes tinted red, make a wonderful sight.
Now, if you like a bit less danger, you can try the dormant volcano, Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. It’s the highest free-standing mountain in the world. So, if you’re looking to climb it, it’ll take anywhere from 4 to 8 days.
Kilimanjaro is home to some incredibly diverse plant life, from colorful blooms to large, desert-like plants as it climbs higher and higher. You’ll be treated to a view the entire way up, not just at the summit.
Golden sand and blue waters greet anyone who plans to visit Lake Malawi. The lake is an extremely large body of freshwater, about 365 miles from north to south, 52 miles across, and 2,300 ft deep in some areas. Besides the scenic view, the lake is a great destination for kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and other water sports. Many of the lodging areas have wonderful beaches as well.
If you plan on visiting, you might be happy to learn that the lake often has long stretches of uninhabited beach areas, so it can feel like you have the whole place to yourself.
If you want multiple beach opportunities, Zanzibar might be your next best trip. Just off of Africa’s east coast, Zanzibar has two main islands: Unguja and Pemba.
Unguja is the most popular as it has a big city and lots of beach destinations for tourists. The beaches are stunning with white sand and crystal blue water. Besides the beautiful beaches, though, Unguja also plays host to a few cultural events and festivals, including a music festival and a film festival.
On the other hand, the island of Pemba is more of a remote, relaxing paradise with a couple of guest houses and resorts. If you’re looking for a place to just get away, it might be your new favorite place.
According to Tsitsikamma Tourism, Tsitsikamma is a Khoi word that means “place of abundant or sparkling water”. There’s really no better name for it.
This national park is part of the Garden Route National Park in South Africa. It has everything from beautiful coastlines to magnificent forests. There are hiking and walking trails through the forest areas and the waters of the bordering Indian Ocean are home to dolphins and other marine life. Depending on the time of the year, you might even catch sight of the Southern Right Whales that venture towards the shore.
The picture above shows the Storms River, but the walk to the Swing Bridge is also said to be well worth it.
Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, with beautiful views at every single turn. Take your time to enjoy it if you go. There are a few major viewing points, but the best one seems to be the Three Rondavels. Locals might tell you it’s best seen in the afternoon, though you could probably spend all day wandering around and still feel like it’s not enough.
If you’re not one to just take pictures, you can also go white water rafting or take a hot air balloon ride. No matter what, you’ll be happy you went.
What would a list of places to visit in Africa be without the longest river in the world? Well, the real question is, where do you start?
Honestly, there are multiple ways to see the famous Nile River. You can take a cruise or even hop around some of the many amazing sites on its path.
If you choose to take a trip down the river, you can opt for luxury travel one of many cruise ships, try a more personal experience on a dahabiya, or rough it on a felucca. Be sure to bring extra cash in any case as everyone will expect tips.
If you’re not up for a boat ride down the river, you can simply visit one or more places along the way, like Cairo, the city of Aswan, or the Murchison Falls National Park. No matter where you end up, prepare to be amazed at how enormous the world’s wonders can be.
Africa is a big place and there’s lots more to see than the places I’ve listed above. A few others you might want to look into are the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Congo, the beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique, the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, and the Cango Caves in South Africa.
No matter where you go, do your research ahead of time as some countries will require you to get a visa ahead of time or pay for one upon arrival.
Above all, enjoy it.
Have you decided to add any of these places to your bucket list? Have you already been to one or more of these destinations?
Tell me about it in the comments!