Top 10 Most Popular Tourist Destinations in Africa
To help you draw up a short-list, we have decided to tell you a little about our personal Top 10 most popular tourist destinations in Africa. We believe everyone needs to see these incredible destinations at least once in their lifetime.
There is no denying the mystique of the great African continent! A subtle blend of history and culture, myths and legends, majestic natural wonders, unsurpassed wildlife (and just a frisson of danger), all combine to form an irresistible draw-card, which attracts more than 55 million international visitors every year.
What to do in Africa?
But once you have decided to visit Africa, how do you narrow-down your options? Will you choose a wildlife safari in the classic East African tradition, or do you want to sail down the Nile and see the antiquities of Egypt? Are you into extreme adventure sports that get the adrenaline pumping or do you prefer to get as far from the action as possible and lose yourself in a remote and untouched wilderness?
The wonderful thing about Africa is that you can do just about anything your heart desires right here, from climbing the highest free-standing mountain in the world to scuba diving some of the best off-shore coral reefs, to gazing into the wise eyes of a huge Silverback Mountain Gorilla, one of the planet’s most endangered animals.
Top 10 Most Popular Tourist Destinations in Africa
Of course, we are a little biased which is why South Africa appears at the top of the list and in a little more detail! (The remaining 9 are listed from North to South)
- South Africa
- Uganda – Gorillas in the mist
- Kenya – Masai Mara, Amboseli and the Rift Valley Lakes
- Tanzania – Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti
- Zanzibar and Pemba Islands
- Zambia/Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls
- Botswana – Okavango Delta
- Nambia – Etosha and Sossusvlei
South Africa is often referred to as “the world in one country”, and for very good reasons. Here you will find an amazing diversity of cultures, landscapes and scenery, fit to rival absolutely anywhere on Earth. Start your exploration in Cape Town, the Mother City, where you find a vibrant, cosmopolitan city centre surrounded by a spectacular coastline and brilliant beaches. Towering over the city is Table Mountain, recently voted as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature, decked out in a spectacular array of indigenous Fynbos, a type of vegetation found nowhere else on Earth! After you have explored the wonderful Wine Routes, seen the lovely old Cape-Dutch architecture and sampled the best restaurants, you can do some Whale watching or go cage-diving among Great White Sharks.
No visit to South Africa would be complete without spending time in the Kruger National Park, or one of the country’s many other wonderful Big Five game reserves. For incredible mountain scenery you cannot beat the Blyde River Canyon and the wonderful Drakensberg Mountains where those in the know go to climb, hike, play golf, trout fish or simply relax!
No other country on Earth has yielded more treasured antiquities or stimulated more debate about the technical and engineering abilities of ancient man. Everyone has heard of the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Cairo, and while these are quite spectacular they are but the starting point of your visit to Egypt.
A great idea is to sail down the Nile from Cairo to Luxor, where you’ll find the Valley of the Kings and the gigantic Temple complex of Karnak. The ancient Pharaohs built these monuments to impress their subjects (and enemies) with their wealth and power, and they are no less impressive today than when they were ingeniously constructed many centuries ago.
Nature lovers should not miss a visit to Ras Muhammad National Park on the Red Sea to explore the under-water wonderland.
It may sound a little unlikely but Ethiopia was voted the World’s best tourism destination in 2015 by the European Council on Tourism and Trade. The country has some of the most amazing landscape in Africa and is home to no less than 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so there is something for everyone. A few of the places you just have to visit include Lalibela (amazing churches hand-carved out of solid rock), the ancient city of Gonder (considered the Camelot of Africa) and some of the best national parks on the continent, including the Simien Mountains, Omo and Awash National Parks.
Uganda boasts several brilliant wildlife-viewing destinations, but the highly endangered Mountain Gorillas that live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are her greatest tourism draw-card. Here you can come face to face with one of man’s closest relatives as you go trekking through the forest to meet one of the habituated troops of Mountain Gorillas – it’s an emotional and unforgettable encounter. Primate fans can also to Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park. At Queen Elizabeth National Park you can see the tree-climbing Lions of Ishasha and bird watchers head for Murchison Falls National Park where over 600 species of birds have been recorded.
Kenya and the traditional East African Safari are inseparable! The movie “Out of Africa” put Kenya firmly on the map as one of Africa’s premier wildlife destinations. The country has several absolutely amazing national parks and the best way to explore a diversity of habitats and wildlife is to choose a safari that visits several of the best ones. You have to include the Masai Mara for exceptional Big Five and Big Cat sightings, while Amboseli is the best place to see many Elephants and the Rift Valley Lakes such as Nakuru, Bogoria and Elementaita are a few of the best places in Africa for bird watching.
Neighbouring Tanzania also boasts abundant wildlife and incredible natural wonders. Here you can climb snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, before you head for the wilderness to see the Great Migration in the Serengeti, when nearly two million Wildebeest, accompanied by thousands of Zebra and gazelle and a throng of predators, annually cross the endless plains of Serengeti towards the greener pastures in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Before you leave, visit the Ngorongoro Crater, another awe-inspiring natural wonder that everyone should see.
The coastline of Kenya and Tanzania boast some of the best beaches, tropical islands and marine national parks on the continent! The water is warm and inviting year round and the rich and healthy coral reef is bursting with amazing marine life that you can explore by snorkelling, glass-bottomed boat or scuba diving. The Tanzanian Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba are perfect tropical island destinations for all water-babies.
Zambia/Zimbabwe – The Victoria Falls
Everyone owes it to themselves to see the greatest sheet of falling water in the world at least once in their lifetime! The incredible Victoria Falls occur where the mighty Zambezi River cascades over a sheer precipice on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The force of the waterfall causes a plume of spray that can be seen from several kilometres away and the locals call it Mosi oa Tunya – the smoke that thunders! There are fantastic wildlife reserves on both sides of the border and the Vic Falls is also hailed at the extreme-sport capital of Southern Africa where just about every adrenalin-pumping activity from white-water rafting to bungee is on offer.
Botswana has several great wildlife destinations but the one on everyone’s wish-list is the incredible Okavango Delta. Imagine a miraculous green oasis in the midst of the bone-dry Kalahari Desert, with life-giving waters fanning out to form a myriad of channels and islands as it spreads out to shape the largest and most spectacular oasis in Africa. Now, imagine it teeming with just about every African animal you can think of – this is the legendary Okavango Delta. You just have to see it!
Namibia is our final bucket-list destination and it is hard to know where to start to describe this very special country on the barren south-western coastline of the continent. Although the entire country is basically semi-desert, it contains a wealth of flora and fauna if you know where to look! Start your exploration by hiking the Fish River Canyon at the southern border of Namibia which is second in size only to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Then head north to the iconic sand dunes of the Sossusvlei and climb to the top of Big Momma to watch the sun rise over the Namib Desert. Mount Spitzkop is the place for unrivalled star-gazing and to see the best Khoisan (Bushman) rock art on Earth. If you can, visit the desolately beautiful Skeleton Coast on a flying safari and then try tracking desert-adapted Elephant in Damaraland. For a more conventional wildlife encounter visit the Etosha National Park for some exceptional game viewing around the water holes. Finally, make your way to Swakopmund to sample some traditional German hospitality and enjoy some desert-style extreme sports.