Choosing the top 10 destinations in Africa is no easy task given the size and diversity of the continent. Below you’ll find my personal favorite places to visit in Africa. Planning your trip around any of these destinations will be worthwhile.
Zanzibar is one of Africa’s top destinations because of its fascinating history and its incredible beaches. Zanzibar’s location in the Indian Ocean (off the coast of Tanzania) has made it a natural trading center throughout its history. Famous for its spices, Zanzibar also became an important slave trading post under its Arab rulers.
The Arab influences are obvious throughout Zanzibar but especially in Stone Town one of the island’s biggest attractions. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Stone Town boasts beautiful traditional houses, narrow alleyways, a Sultan’s palace and many mosques.
Africa is known as one of the best destinations for adventure travel and what can be more adventurous than hiking up the world’s tallest free standing mountain. Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania stands at 19,340 feet (5896m) and will take you 6 days to conquer. The exciting thing about this mountain is that anyone who is fit and determined can make it up. No special climbing equipment or expertise is needed. That said, almost 75 of attempts fail because people figure it’s doable in shorts, t-shirt and a couple of beers for hydration.
#8 Virunga Mountains (Tracking Gorillas) , Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
With only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, seeing them in the wild is something only a few people will ever have the chance to experience. About 300 mountain gorillas inhabit an extinct volcanic region called the Virunga Range along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC in East Africa. The time you are allowed to spend observing the gorillas is limited, but I can guarantee the hour spent sitting and watching these incredible animals will be one of the best you’ve ever had.
Combining white-water rafting with an unparalleled cultural adventure is my idea of a perfect holiday. The Omo River Region of Southwestern Ethiopia, is a fascinating destination. The remote location, which is barely accessible by 4 wheel-drive, has meant that traditional customs and beliefs are very much intact for the more than 50 tribes who live there. It’s advisable to join a tour since it’s difficult to get around on your own and it’ll enhance your understanding of the different cultures you’re seeing.
Situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, the imperial city of Marrakech is large, noisy, polluted and fascinating. If you enjoy a daily assault on all your senses then you’ll have a lot of fun.
There are so many things to see, you should spend at least 3 days in Marrakech. Stay in a Riad in the medina (old walled part of town), because this is where all the action is. The Majorelle Gardens offer a lovely respite from the bustle of the souqs and shouldn’t be missed. The heart of the medina, the Djemma el Fnaa, should also be a priority for anyone who visits.
Cape Town is a highlight of any trip to Southern Africa. The natural beauty of Cape Town makes it one of the most attractive cities in the world. Cape Town boasts beautiful beaches as well as the impressive Table Mountain right in the heart of the city. The restaurants are world class, and so are the wines. Cape Town is also one of the most culturally diverse cities in Africa and has reputation for social tolerance.
#4 Djenne, Mali
Djenne (Mali), founded in 800 AD, is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest cities. Situated on an island in the Niger River delta, Djenne was a natural hub for traders who shuttled their goods between the Sahara desert and the forests of Guinea. Through the years Djenne also became a center of Islamic learning and its market square is still dominated by the beautiful Grand Mosque. Djenne is located a few hundred miles downstream from Timbuktu.
The market in Djenne, held every Monday, is one of the most interesting and lively markets in Africa, and well worth planning your trip around.
The best time to go is at the end of the rainy season (August/September) when Djenne turns into an island.
The Pyramids of Giza, just outside Cairo in Egypt, represent one of the greatest architectural feats by man. The last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the world’s oldest tourist attractions, built more than 5000 years ago.
There are in fact three main pyramids in Giza; the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), The Pyramid of Kafhre and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaura. Each Pyramid is a tomb to a different King of Egypt.
In front of the pyramids lies the Sphinx, or Abu al-Hol in Arabic, “Father of Terror”.
There is nothing quite like getting a thorough soaking from the roaring, powerful Victoria Falls. The spray is so impressive from the look-out points, it feels like you are in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.
The Victoria Falls lie in between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.
The Victoria Falls are just over 1 mile wide (1.7 km) and 355 feet (108 m) high. During the wet season over 500 million liters (19 million cubic feet) of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River. This incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots 1000 feet into the sky and can be seen 30 miles away, hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that thunders).
If you want to see the ‘big five’ in one morning, Masai Mara in Kenya is the place to be. During the dry season from July to October the wildlife spectacle is unparalleled. Nowhere else can you watch the annual migration of over a million wildebeest from a hot-air balloon. The ‘Mara’ is as close to “Out of Africa” as you can get.