The African continent has 54 countries, which counts for about 25% of the countries in the world, yet the vast majority of the countries there are overlooked by most travelers. Yes, many countries do not offer the allure or the luxury some travelers are looking for, and they might not have the developed tourism infrastructures countries in other continents might possess, but they all offer a unique and adventurous experience mostly off the beaten path.
Here I’ll name five African countries you should add to your bucket list and why they are worthy of your time. I guarantee that you will not regret visiting them.
I’ll start with an easy one. South Africa might be on the African continent, but when you’re there, you will not feel like you’re in Africa at all. The city of Cape Town, for example, is one of the most developed and beautiful cities in Africa with its European architecture and stunning natural scenery – including the iconic Table Mountain. Kruger National Park is world-renowned for its wildlife diversity, history and archaeological importance – one of the best parks in Africa for safaris. Do a road trip along the southern coast from Cape Town, stopping at Port Elizabeth, East London, and Durban, among others, to experience the beauty of the backcountry and the calmness of its European-style towns.
Ethiopia is currently one of my favorite countries not only in Africa but the world too. Ethiopia is known as the land of origins, where it's believed humans originated and where the famous fossil known as Lucy was found. You can visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, a unique sight not found anywhere else, and the City and ruins of Gondar, known as the Camelot of Africa. You can also hike to the top of the active volcano known as Erta Ale – located in the hottest inhabited place on earth – to see lava from up-close, spewing out of the crater. Beyond these sights, Ethiopia still preserves most of its cultural origins through its tribes, located in the Omo Valley region. You can visit and interact tribes like the Mursi, known for their lip plates, and the Karo, known for their body paintings, among others.
Seychelles stands as my favorite beach destination. This country might be barely visible on a map, but almost every mile of shore on its several islands is covered with fine white sand and some of the most beautiful azure waters you’ll ever see. The Seychelles is well known as a wedding and honeymoon destination, but if you’re a solo traveler, don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it too. Do not miss visiting all three major islands: Mahe, the main island; Praslin, home of Anse Lazio Beach (currently sits at the #11 spot of TripAdvisor’s Best beaches in the world list); and La Digue, which has the famous Anse Source d’Argent beach (in my opinion it is way more gorgeous than Anse Lazio). I’m not kidding when I say that no matter which beach you visit, you’ll be amazed by the beauty. And best of all is that since the Seychelles is still slightly off the beaten path, you can have most beaches just for yourself!
I’ll be the first one to say that Tunisia blew me away and delivered much more than I expected. If you love history, culture, and adventure, then this country should be at the top of your list. The north of the country is full of Roman ruins, including Bulla Regia, the best preserved domestic architecture that still contains its two stories and its beautiful mosaics; and El Jem, which is the third largest Roman Coliseum. In the south, you’ll find the Sahara Desert, where you can ride a camel over the dunes, camp under the stars, and bake your breakfast bread right in the sand. On the threshold between the rocky desert and the Sahara, you’ll find several Bedouin and Berber settlements. These settlements feature unique architecture not found anywhere else. In fact, they are so unique that George Lucas used them as a set for the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. Additionally, you shouldn’t miss seeing the town of Matmata, which is mostly buried under the sand and composed of troglodyte homes connected by underground tunnels.
Being home of Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa – and the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania is coming up as a prime destination for safaris and adventure. The Serengeti is considered as one of the top places to see the Big Five – the five most dangerous land animals. If you’re in decent physical condition, you can dedicate a week to hike Mount Kilimanjaro as it is one of the easiest Seven Summits in the world. On the other hand, Tanzania also offers a lot of relaxation along its shores and the island of Zanzibar. Beautiful white sand beaches surround Zanzibar, but beyond their beauty, it is also interesting to see the local ladies picking up seaweed during low tide to use them as a prime material for several products and food.
See how these five countries are all different and so interesting? Did any capture your imagination?
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