What are the best places to Visit in Africa?
I am going to share some of the best places in Africa to visit. But first, a little information about this amazing continent. Africa is the second largest continent on the planet. It covers one-fifth of the total land surface of Earth. 54 independent countries and home to 1.3 billion people. Africa is known as the motherland. It’s called this because Africa is the birth place of the first ancestors of all humans. Not only is that important, it’s also extremely beautiful and my favourite continent to visit. Africa has a huge diverse range of incredible things to do and places to visit. In this article I am going to share some of the most beautiful. The most amazing things to see and do. I will show you the best places in Africa to visit. But hopefully that there is more to Africa then you ever thought.
Here is a list of 12 outstanding places to visit or amazing adventures waiting to be explored:
MAASAI MARA NATIONAL PARK
When I mention Africa to anyone this is the picture most people think of. Hundreds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Impala on the plains. Lions, Cheetah and Hyena waiting in the wings. If you have ever seen any of the David Attenborough documentaries I can assure you that some of the footage would have been shot here in this National Park. There is no question that Africa is a hugely important continent for the protection of thousands of wild animals. Its here in the Maasai Mara National Park that maybe holds some of the biggest wild animal gatherings on earth.
Found in Kenya, The Maasai Mara or The Mara as it’s known locally is possibly the most popular Safari destination in not just Africa but the entire world. The Mara has some of the largest populations of Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Elephant. It also hosts the Great Migration which puts the Maasai Mara as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. And as one of the top ten Natural Wonders in the World. The Maasai Mara is home to the Big Five (Lions, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape buffalo) all year round. But has a huge array of other animals like Zebra, Hippos, Crocodile, bat-eared foxes. Also calling it home the critical endangered African wild dogs.
The Mara is the ultimate African safari destination. The Mara has countless lodges and B&B’s plus it has gravel roads for easy access. The Maasai Mara has its own airport (although more of an airstrip). Making it even easier for tourists to enjoy this amazing place. The park is patrolled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Help from global originations like the WWF is now able to enjoy modern technology like drones and microchips to keep the animals protected.
Getting to the Maasai Mara isn’t a problem, it’s the most visited place in Kenya. Travel to and from is pretty easy and can be done by air or land. Most people from the United Kingdom will fly into Nairobi and need to catch a smaller plane on to the Mara. Believe me the wait will be worth it once you get there and see one of Africa’s greatest destinations.
Cape Town in South Africa is the southern most city on the entire continent. It is also the most visited by tourists. Six million tourists flocked to Cape Town in 2019.
Due to its popularity Cape Town is easy to get to with direct flights from London Gatwick or Heathrow. Flight time is approx. 12 hours and I’ve always flown on a night flight. Most times there is an early evening or a late evening flight depends I guess what time you want to be touching down in Cape Town. What does Cape Town have to offer?
The entire city lies in the shadow of Table Mountain. Giving Cape Town one of the most dramatic landscapes of any city. This also allows for some amazing adventure. Hiking, rock climbing and even Paragliding of the mountain edge all activities to have a go at. If hiking up the mountain isn’t really your thing a cable car can take you all the way to the top. Running from 8am until 8pm (but closed on windy days) for a fee. On top of Table Mountain the views across Cape Town are breath taking. Well worth a hike but gets extremely busy for sunset each day.
Maybe a beach day is more your thing, Cape Town has several to choose from. Camps Bay and Clifton Beach are the most popular areas of the city. Each offering places to eat and drink. All the beach activities like body boarding, surfing and wake boarding. Maybe something a little different is more your thing, an encounter with a wild African Penguin. Boulder Beach in Cape Town is home to the African Cape Penguin. The only place on earth you can see this species of penguin. They are so much fun and not camera shy at all!
Cape Town is also home to Robbin Island, where former South African president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. You can visit Robbin Island on day trips and even walk into his former prison cell. South Africa is famous for its wine and Cape Town is no exception. I totally recommend checking out a winery. There are hundreds to choose from all around the city.
The city offers a huge array of accommodation. I have stayed in 5 star hotels and hostels in the city so it can fit any budget. It also offers thousands of places to eat and has great transport links. What is there not to like? Cape Town is a No.1 destination for a reason.
It’s known as the paradise of Africa and in many ways it is. Zanzibar is a group of Islands that lie approx. 25KM of the coast of Tanzania. The islands lie in the Indian Ocean. There are many smaller islands and two larger ones. The two larger ones that most people associate this place with. Largest of them all is called Unguja (known as Zanzibar) and Pemba Island. Zanzibar has its own government meaning it can make its own laws (a little like Scotland can in the United Kingdom). However the main government funding is owned and directed by the government of Tanzania.
Being an Island and set in the Indian Ocean you can see why it’s known as paradise. Endless white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, coral reefs and shallow lagoons it’s hard to argue. Zanzibar is literally like being in many of the other famous Indian Ocean destinations like the Seychelles and Maldives. In fact the government want Zanzibar to the be the primer Indian Ocean Island holiday destination. They are working hard to attract more tourists.
Zanzibar offers countless day trips to snorkel or scuba dive. You can try deep sea spear fishing. Charter a yacht for the day or just soak up the sun. Even enjoy the palm tree lined beaches which run for mile after mile. With accommodation ranging from beach villas to over water bungalows it really does feel like you are in paradise.
Getting to Zanzibar couldn’t be easier. The climate stays pretty much the same all year around and never really drops below 26C. Meaning anytime of the year is always worth a visit. So, next time you are looking for that perfect bit of paradise, maybe look no further then Zanzibar, Tanzania.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Back to South Africa and the first National Park in the country. Kruger National Park was registered as a protected area in 1898. Making it the first EVER area of land to be protected in South Africa. However, it wasn’t until 1926 that the Kruger National Park got its current name and become the national park of South Africa. The National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa covering an area of 7,523 square miles (similar to the size of Wales). It has World UNESCO Heritage Site Status.
Kruger National Park is situated in the north east of South Africa. Open to the public with the entire area now protected. Kruger National Park is another huge safari park offering daily and night-time safari’s with guides/rangers. There are 17 different lodges dotted around the park. Kruger is split into 9 different zones with the oldest and most famous being Sabi Sabi Game Reserve which lies in the south west of the park.
Kruger National Park offers sightings of all the big five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo). The park has all the other animals you would expect to see in Africa like Hippos, Impala, Wildebeest, Zebra, Cheetah, Jackals, if you’re lucky enough African Wild Dogs. It is permitted for members of the public to drive themselves through the main roads of Kruger National Park. Driving off road is forbidden unless you are on a private safari tour with a ranger.
There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Kruger. Kruger has 3 different air strips for planes and guests to arrive. The lodges range from all different types of budgets, five star ultimate safari lodge or the more affordable 3 or 4 star lodges. Definitely something to suit all budgets. Also, once you pay to stay at the lodge normally that includes 2 safari’s a day and all your meals. I can’t recommend enough, if you are looking for that African Safari adventure check this place out. Click here to see my five day safari in Sabi Sands.
GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
One of the Seven Wonders of the World. The most visited tourist site on the entire African continent. The Great Pyramids of Egypt. There are 3 main pyramids but the oldest and most famous of them all is Giza. This pyramid is also the largest, standing at 431ft tall, consisting of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite. It weights approx. 6 million tonnes and was the largest man made structure on earth for more than 3,800 years.
The Pyramids are situated in the Greater Cairo area (just outside the city centre). In 2019, 14.8 million people visited the Great Pyramids of Egypt and it takes approx. 35/40 mins from the centre of Cairo to reach to the pyramids. The attraction itself is amazing, you can enter the great pyramids and walk into the ancient tombs. Outside you can marvel at the many artefacts found within the ancient cities. You can ride a camel through the dessert. (It’s on my bucket list for sure).
The climate in Egypt is very much like the dessert. Hot during the day, really hot especially during the summer months where its possible day time temperatures can reach 45 degrees. During the night it can be really cold even below freezing in some places so make sure you pack accordingly. I would also always recommend booking onto tours and have a guide with you. Egypt is known for the local people to be a little “pushy” when it comes to tourists. Trying to get you to buy things but don’t let that put you off. Visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza is top of most people’s bucket lists for a reason. They have to be seen to be believed.
It’s the highest free standing mountain in the world, it’s known as the “roof top of Africa” and is one of the most climbed mountains in the world. Mount Kilimanjaro lies in the country of Tanzania just outside the city of Ursha, standing at 5,895m above sea level it dominates the skyline for miles around. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano meaning it can erupt at any time.
Kilimanjaro is a Swahili word meaning “white mountain” which is how it got its name as the summit is so high there is always snow capping the top. In fact at the summit there are 4 glaciers which goes to show how cold it is. It is said that at the summit the temperature can be as low as -32 degrees whereas at the bottom in Ursha it can be a much more pleasant 26 degrees.
Getting to Ursha isn’t difficult, the only thing you might find is that flights can be a little spaced out. Ursha is only a small airport however 75% or people flying into Ursha will be heading for Mount Kilimanjaro. There are flights from London but NO direct flights to Ursha so a change of plane will be required at another airport.
It is estimated that 28,000 people a year climb Kilimanjaro making it extremely popular and it’s popular because it’s said that even with no experience of climbing it can be done. There are loads of tour operators that will arrange to take people up the mountain and they last approx. 1 to 2 weeks to complete the climb and then descent. Kilimanjaro is an extreme adventure but it makes my list because even without climbing the mountain it is beautiful to just go and see it, in all its glory. If you do want to take up the challenge and attempt the climb, make sure you do your research on the best agents and tour companies. Make sure you train, you have got to be in the best fitness possible to be able to complete this amazing adventure. See my climbing adventure HERE!
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
I grantee you would have seen pictures or videos from this extremely special place but not known the name of the place. Well now you do, Virunga National Park is situated on the border with Uganda and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). Virunga is the oldest National Park in Africa. It also boasts more biodiversity then the amazon rainforest. It was the most pooched area in the world in the late 1960’s/70’s/80’s.
From stunning scenery, to active volcanoes and lush rainforests. It packs a punch, but more importantly one of the last remaining places on earth to see the wild mountain gorilla. As far as nature goes this place really does have it all. Trek up the side of the most active volcano in Africa. Once you get to the top look into the crater to see the bubbling lava. Hike through the rainforest and witness birds, mammals and reptiles in huge numbers. Take a safari through the African savanna but maybe more importantly you could trek up to see the mountain gorillas of the Congo.
This trip isn’t the easiest and I will be the first to admit. It can even be a little confusing and complicated as you could be travelling into 3 different countries. They all have different requirements for international travel on Visa’s. The park itself will only allow entry if you have the correct paperwork and visa’s. I totally admit not the easiest place to visit. It can be a little tricky but then they say “the harder the fight, the greater the reward”.
Then there is the DRC itself, we all know it is one of the most unstable regions on the entire African continent. Civil war and merchant gangs all over the place. It is not a place for tourists so the only advice I can give is to make sure you are booking through a registered tour company. They will be able to keep you and your family protected through your stay. Is there anything more amazing then seeing the wild mountain gorillas of Africa up close and personal?
It’s the 3rd most visited city on the African continent behind Cape Town and Cairo. Marrakech in Morocco is a melting pot of culture. Brining African and middle eastern cultures together to make one huge incredible city. Marrakech is most famous for its “Medina” which is the walled city within the city of Marrakech. It’s this area of the city that has earned it the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. When I talk of Marrakech you picture huge markets which have everything. Haggling with the tradesman to make sure you are not ripped off and this is what the “Medina” is. Be prepared to be approached for your money with tradesman trying to sell you things. The experience is something else, being surrounded by all the different smells, colour and languages is what travel is all about.
However there is more to Marrakech then just the walled Medina and markets. Marrakech lies at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. Just a short drive outside the city you can make your way to a popular little village known as the “7 waterfall trek”. Or you could take a hot air balloon ride on the mountain slopes. Maybe take part in a traditional cookery class and learn to cook with a traditional Tajine. Maybe focus on the similar things and watch the amazing sunsets over the mountains and desert.
Marrakech is easy to get to with direct flights from the United Kingdom. Most major airports and it’s only a few hours away. The climate in Marrakech is always good. It can get extremely hot during the summer months with average temperatures in June/July hitting nearly 40 degrees. The best time to visit is April/May when temperatures are 25/30 degrees. I can grantee that if you visited Marrakech you wouldn’t have experienced anything quite like it before. It is a a place that will truly bring all your senses alive.
A hugely rich area for conversation and extremely popular for safari. The Okavango Delta Nature Reserve in Botswana is maybe just about as outstanding as it gets. The Okavango Delta is a swamp area, a huge swamp area. In fact the largest inland delta in the world. With an area of 5,800 square miles (9½ times the size of London) which is created during the monsoon rains. Each year it is estimated that 11 cubic kilometres of water flow into the Delta (that’s 11trillion litres every day). In 2014 Okavango become the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of all this water it attracts a huge amount of wildlife.
The Okavango Delta is fast becoming the premier place in Africa for a safari. It offers something much different than other African safari destinations. As an example you can’t safari anywhere else in Africa on a boat, but you can here. You can find the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo). You can also find a huge array of different animals including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, hippo, impala, waterbuck, cheetah, hyena, crocodiles and African wild dogs plus many more amazing birds and reptiles coming to take advantage of the riches that the water brings.
Botswana is also the least corrupt and safest of all the African nations in a poll in 2018. There are many different ways you can enjoy this rich habitat. Take the more traditional safari jeep for example. Or try a safari on a boat, hot air balloon or even a helicopter which also allows for something really different. Botswana is also cheap, it’s a cheap country to buy food and drink and the people are extremely friendly. Many lodges around the Okavango offer incredible views for seeing wildlife. Again they offer different things for different budgets, there are 5 star all the way to 3 star lodges. Even camping in tents is on offer for a real nature experience so there are packages to suit all ages and wallets.
Getting to the Okavango is easy, it just takes a while. There are NO direct flights from London so a stop will be required. Many stop overs happen in Dubai or Johannesburg and can range from 2hrs to 8hrs. Please check before you travel, you will fly into Maun, Botswana. If you brought a package safari direct from lodges included in most prices they will pick you up from the airport and drive you straight to the lodge. The climate is generally the same through-out the year. Top temperature of 29 degrees although it can get a little chilly during the nights from September to March.
Standing at just over 354ft high and 5,604ft long this waterfall is gigantic. It is considered to be one of the world’s largest waterfalls. Combing it’s length and height but it holds the record for the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Many people say you can hear this waterfall from up to 2 miles away and see the mist it generates from up to 5 miles away.
Victoria Falls is situated on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Both have different opportunities to view the falls in different ways. The falls is fed from the mighty Zambezi River (4th longest in Africa and 32nd longest in the world) and provides a huge natural resource for millions of people. The falls are situated in the Victoria Falls National Park. Like I mentioned this waterfall is so large it crosses 2 countries. Both have some great viewing and activities to enjoy in and around the falls.
Maybe the most famous is in Zimbabwe called “Devils Pool”. A tiny but deep little pool which has formed right on the edge of the waterfall. People can actually swim out and get the view of a lifetime! There are 17 viewing platforms all around Victoria Falls National Park. All of which give you a chance to see this amazing natural wonder from different way. A museum on site explains how the falls was formed and how it was discovered. There is also a little café offering small snacks and drinks.
On the Zambia side of the falls is the best way to really get a feel of how big this waterfall is. That’s from the air, they offer helicopter tours above the waterfall. You can have a real bird’s eye view and try to take in how big it really is. Zambia also offer the best hotels, maybe not the cheapest but certainly the best. Many of the hotels near the falls will offer day trips to the park. The “4 Seasons Resort” at Victoria Falls is situated on the Zambia River itself giving guests a real unique experience.
Getting to Victoria Falls is easy, most people fly into Johannesburg. Then grab a connecting flight to Victoria Falls itself or Livingstone in Zambia. Livingstone is approx. 11KM from the falls. Like I mentioned there are many hotels in the area. Many will offer transfers so be sure to look that up if planning a trip.
In any event if we are talking about the best of Africa you have to mention this incredible waterfall. If you are looking for that adrenaline rush and something completely bonkers then the “Devils Pool” is certainly a tick on the list.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
Maybe the most famous and recognizable place in all of Africa. It has inspired movies like Disney’s The Lion King, been documented in hundreds of TV shows and wildlife documentaries. The 2nd largest National Park in Africa. But holds the greatest gatherings of mammals on earth. It is believed that every year up to one billion animals are in the Serengeti National Park. Making it one of the most important habitats on the planet.
The Serengeti is situated in Tanzania. The park sits in the north-western region and is boarded by Kenya and the Maasai Mara National Park. Providing one of the largest free roaming, natural habitats left on the planet. Also home to the big five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape buffalo) it’s a safari destination like no other. The Serengeti is most famous for the millions of grazing animals that complete their annual migration. The national park can see up to 2 million wildebeest at any one time. The Great Migration is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Thanks to the sheer amount of grazing animals. In turn, this brings the predators and the Serengeti holds the largest population of Lions anywhere in Africa. It truly is a special place.
The Serengeti offers incredible safari drives with lodges offering everything from dawn/dusk and night time drives. Some will even offer the chance for walking safaris through the African bush. On top of the big five there are all the other animals you would expect to see on a safari. These including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, hippo, impala, waterbuck, cheetah, hyena, crocodiles and African wild dogs plus many more amazing birds and reptiles.
This does mean the Serengeti isn’t cheap. It is one of the best safari locations in the world and so you are going to have to pay up if you want to visit. The cheapest but best all round package I could find started at £5,200 per person. It depends if you want to part with that much money. Most of the 5 star lodges around the Serengeti are situated near waterholes. Meaning you get a glimpse of animals day and nigh. The most famous is the Four Seasons Resort and Spa on the Serengeti Plains.
I will say, there is nothing like a true authentic African safari. Here in the Serengeti National Park it doesn’t get much better.
It’s the last destination on the list but maybe the most outstanding of them all. It’s the largest hot desert on the planet. Covers a huge 3,600,000 square miles (nearly the same size as the USA). The Sahara crosses over 12 countries and has the least amount of rain of anywhere in the world. In some parts of the Sahara Desert is hasn’t rained for over 300 years.
This desert is so vast and covers so many different countries you can experience in loads of different places. Like Morocco, Egypt, and Nigeria and even Mali (however it isn’t safe for tourists in Mali). I would say the best and safest places to experience the Sahara is Morocco and Egypt. Both of these countries offer some amazing experiences.
Both offer pretty much the same activities. Try a famous camel ride over the sand dunes or even maybe some sand surfing down the dunes. There are 4×4 rides and even a sand buggy you can have a go in out on the sand. In Morocco you can even camp out in the desert under the stars. Due to the Sahara being so remote the night skies are some of the clearest for star gazing on the planet. Due to NO light pollution from built up areas. The Sahara is also a great place to catch some of the most stunning sun rises and sunsets. Maybe you wanted to visit the ancient Saharan city. Still today has all the buildings standing and makes for a great photo opportunity. It doesn’t really matter what you do or how you spend your time it’s going to be unforgettable.
I hope you enjoyed my recommendations on Africa. Next time you are looking at booking a holiday, the outstanding sites of Africa is somewhere to think about.
Until Next time……