Dubbed as the Mother Continent due to it being the oldest inhabited continent on Earth, Africa is still home to the Earth’s best travel destinations. Africa offers many hidden gems with great lakes, crystal blue beaches with pearly white sands, jaw-dropping flora and majestic wildlife and mountains within its borders. In this article we will look at top travel destinations in Africa.
According to the 2014 UN World Tourism Organization report, Africa achieved a 2% increase in tourism in 2014 reaching an estimated $36 billion in revenue from $1 billion the previous year. International tourist arrivals in the African region were highest in sub-Saharan Africa with an average 3% increase from the previous year. This was higher than the North African region, which only increased by 1% due to geo-political conflict and the Ebola virus as the main curbs to growth.
The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that tourism and travel contributed 8.5% to the continent’s GDP, which is an average amount of $177.8bn, and it also contributed to 2.9% of employment in hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services, restaurants and leisure industries. Leisure is the main reason that tourists visit Africa.
Intra Africa travel is relatively popular on the continent; however the majority of visitors traveling to the continent are visitors mainly from North America, Asia and Europe. Intra Africa travel occurs regionally mainly due to the close proximity of countries, and also, visa requirements among regional countries are not as stringent as requirements for nationals outside the specific regional bloc. It is also cheaper to visit neighboring countries or countries within a regional bloc in terms of traveling transportation.
In South Africa, Africa continues to account for the largest share of arrivals, particularly from Southern African regions. In Tanzania, China, Poland, and Canada accounted for the highest number of visiting tourists, with Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Benin and Mauritius accounting for African nationals that visited the country for tourism purposes. Uganda accounted for the majority of African visitors to Kenya. In Rwanda, majority of visits were from regional nationals from DRC, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya which accounted for 81% of all tourist activity while non-African nationals accounted for 16% of all travel. In Botswana, the US and UK account for the majority of international tourists while SA, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia account for the majority of African travelers. Morocco also attracts regional visitors from Spain due to its close proximity to the country and other European countries in that region, as well as visitors from Algeria.
Intra African flights are generally expensive, ranging from $461 to well over $972 on average, which is mostly unaffordable to the majority of people living on the continent. A flight to Madrid from Johannesburg starts at an average price of $519, whereas a flight to Marrakech in Morocco can start at an average cost of $1,038 with 2 stops in between from the main airline suppliers which are Qatar Airways, British Airways and Air France.
Strides have been made in visa regulation to make African travel easier and more accessible to Africans wanting to tour the continent; however, this mainly occurs regionally. Passports are the main requirement for touring most African countries, the Republic of Seychelles being a prime example as only a passport and other documentation are required upon entry into the country, and for regions that do require a visa, the application fee can be hefty as it starts at an average price of over $50.
Africa is still a great travel gem to be discovered, filled with abundant wildlife, diverse aquatic life and some of the world’s best beaches and friendliest people.
Here are travel destinations in Africa that are a must-visit for any avid African traveler:
Botswana is one of the best travel destinations in Africa to go to for an awesome safari holiday. The country, which is bordered by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, has one of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world, the Okavango Delta which is situated deep within the Kalahari Basin, where you can experience big game, lush vegetation and natural beauty at its best.
Learn more about the inhabitants of Southern Africa with the exploration of rock painting and villages of the San people as well as the Hambukushu at the the Tsodilo Hills.
Botswana offers an array of accommodation for tourists, ranging from luxury lodges to budget guesthouses and camping grounds. Stay at the &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp from only $960 per person per night and the Chobe Game Lodge at the Chobe National Park.
For more information on accommodation, visit the Botswana Tourism website. Visa requirements should be checked with Botswana embassies, consulates travel agents before departure. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required from visitors from areas infected with yellow fever.
A drive to Gaborone from Johnnesburg covers 374km should you opt to travel by road, and a flight from Windhoek to Gaborone can be booked via Air Namibia. Flights from Harare, Zimbabwe to Gaborone can be booked via Air Botswana from $431.
Kenya is an East African paradise filled with abundant wildlife, mountains, flora, fauna and islands. It’s one of the ideal travel destinations in Africa for family holidays, and the best time to visit is between October and March. Enjoy the tranquil island of Lamu, where you can enjoy rolling dunes, endless beaches and narrow bustling streets where no vehicles are present. Tucked away behind the dunes of the island are yoga wellness retreats where you can go individually or join a group yoga retreat to reconnect with yourself, nature and the universe. The island is rich with friendly people nestled among coconut and mango plantations, with dhow ferries being a truly island paradise method of transportation upon arrival from Manda Island.
Malindi and Watamu are just as breath-taking with best of tropical beaches, pearly white sands and relaxing hideaways. The islands boast with spectacular coral reefs and diversity of marine life, as well as the historic Gede Ruins in Watamu for a touch of the island’s history. For the traveller who is wild at heart, immerse yourself in bird watchers’ paradise of Lake Nakuru and enjoy the wildlife sights at the courtyard of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli National Park.
Popular hotels to stay at include Diani Place with a start price of $84, Shella Royal House in Lamu with a start price of $151 and Loyx Mara Luxury Lodge with starting price of $308 if you’ll be in the Masai Mara region.
A further variety of accommodation tailored to your specific budget can be found on the Tourism Kenya website. Fly to Lamu from Nairobi, Mombasa, Diani Beach and Malindi at a cost ranging from $198 to $331 via Air Kenya, and a flight to Watamu and Malindi will cost from $231.
A visa is required prior entry into the country and you can apply and pay for it online. The cost starts from $50. Tourists who do need a visa for a stay of 30 days of less in Kenya include tourists from Uganda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, South African, Tanzania, Burundi, Seychelles, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Travellers who want to visit Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda simultaneously can apply for an East Africa Tourist Visa at a cost of $100. Kenya’s official language is Swahili and words and phrases to know are available on the tourism site so that travellers are able to communicate with locals. Planning for your trip and bookings can be done via the Tourism Kenya site or via a travel agent.
This list can’t be complete without Lesotho as one of the best travel destinations in Africa. The country boasts an array of majestic mountains adorned with the best that nature has to offer. Visiting Lesotho is best for couples or a group of friends who want to immerse themselves in nature.
Lesotho’s main attractions are its beautiful parks and reserves, those being the Sehlabathebe National Park, Ts’enhlanyane National Park and Bokong Nature Reserve. Sehlabathebe National Park boasts with rolling grassland, wildflowers and prolific bird life (including the bearded vulture) and the odd rhebok. At the national park, you’ll be able to visit the Sani Pass, which is world heritage site that sits high on the Drakensberg escarpment on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, is 2874 metres above sea level.
Ts’enhlanyane National Park is located deep in the front range of the Maluti Mountains at the foot of the Holomo Pass, and boasts an array of wildlife, birds and flora that make for a perfect all-nature getaway. Bokong Nature Reserve is perched on the edge of a 100 metre cliff overlooking the magnificent Lepaqoa Waterfall and Valley, and is perfect for hiking and relaxation.
When visiting the Ts’enhlanyane National Park, stay at the beautiful Maliba Mountain Lodge, and choose to stay at the 5 star mountain lodge chalets (price from $135), the 3 star self-catering river lodge lodge (price from $22 per person) or the 3 star riverside huts (price from $84). At Sehlabathebe National Park, choose between the Sehlabathebe National Park Heritage Lodge or the Sani Lodge, both with accommodation starting at $10. where rooms start at $6.
Lesotho has a list of countries that do require a visa and those that don’t. See the list here or visit a Lesotho embassy in your country for more information. The currency used in the country is called ‘loti’ (plural would be ‘maloti’) and is at the fixed value of the South African Rand. ATMs are only available in Maseru.
South African tourists can drive down to Lesotho, and the preferred border post to go through would be the Maseru Bridge and Maputsoe/Ficksburg Border Posts as they are open 24 hours a day. Travellers from the SADC region can take a flight to Maseru, which will take an average flight time of over an hour. Flight costs range from $530 to $759.
Morocco has been described as a distinctly African country on the outskirts of Europe. It has a majestic and medieval feel to it, filled with lots of North African culture. No visit to Morocco is complete without visiting Djemma el Fna in Marrakech, which comes to life from 10am with street theatres, henna tattoo artists and snake charmers and peaks in the evening with the arrival of an array of chefs and food masters.
Have an authentic Moroccan experience on the Berber tour, experiencing the life of Morocco’s nomadic population through camel treks and desert tours. You can choose from single day trips to a 16 day tour.
Ait Benhaddou, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit to get a taste of traditional pre-Saharan life. Here you’ll see houses that are built together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers, which will give you insight into how ancient civilisations lived before skyscrapers were built.
Attending the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is a must. The festival includes some of the continent’s best musicians all gathered under one roof to reinforce Africa’s cultural beauty and diversity.
Accommodation website The Hotel Guru sites Jnane Tamsna and the Riad Madani as the best hotels to stay in Marrakech. Bookings start from $162 at Jnane Tamsna and $112 at Riad Madani.
All nationals, excluding nationals from the European Union, Switzerland and Canada, need a visa before entering the country. Visit the Moroccan embassy in your country for visa applications.
Zanzibar is a popular travel destinations in Africa among many travelers. Zanzibar Ocean Panorama Hotel is a popular hotel on the beach, with rooms ranging from $35 to $50, with dormitory rooms costing $20. A visa is required for all visitors entering the country, which can be acquired at any Tanzanian consulate or on arrival at the country designated entry points at the cost of $50.
A flight from Dar Es Salaam to Pemba Island will cost from $130 with ZanAir and a flight from Zanzibar to Pemba will cost from $84 with the same carrier.
Tanzania’s hidden gem, Pemba Island, is about 100 kilometres outside Zanzibar and is abundant with healthy coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and fish, which makes it heaven for diving fanatics and beach lovers. It’s natural surroundings have earned it the nickname ‘the Green Island’.
30-minute flight from Stone Town airport in Zanzibar will get you to the island. Historically, the island was a major spice producer and provided the Omani sultanate with money for trade and military dominance over the surrounding areas. The island is still a major spice producer in the Zanzibar archipelago, and it depends more on agriculture than on tourism. Pemba’s terrain is hilly and fertile, filled with fruit and spice trees, and its beaches, with diverse species of marine life, beautiful coral reefs and crystal white sand, remains unspoiled and is a diver’s delight. What makes the island a true gem is that it gets far less visitors than Zanzibar, which makes it the perfect getaway from congested holiday sites and the best way to experience a true island holiday.
The island portrays the idyllic African village, with traditionally-designed square mud houses with thatch roof, ox-drawn carts stacked high with a variety of fruit, villagers who speak mainly Swahili and a small population of 350,000 people. Main attractions include the island’s main town of Chake Chake, Vumawimbi beach and Makoba beach.
Nestled in the warm Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is described best kept island paradise. Reunion boasts with the remarkable active Piton de la Fournaise volcano and a multitude of hiking trails that offer some dazzling natural sights. The island’s beaches will supply you with much tranquility as you enjoy their crystal blue waters, and you can enjoy all sorts of aquatic activities at the island’s rivers and lakes. What’s even more enjoyable is discovering and experiencing the island’s Creole, African, Indian, Chinese and French cultural and festivities.
Stay at the boutique guesthouse Rougail Mangue with prices starting from $44 or the gîte set in a Creole house, La Mandoze, with prices starting from $20 per person per night.
A visa is not required for nationals of EU countries as well as nationals of the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, South African and India. All other nationals are required to obtain a visa which will cost from $67.
The principal local airline which serves numerous destinations in Africa, including South Africa, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte and Seychelles, is Air Austral. Air Mauritius also flies to the island.
East Africa’s mountainous paradise, Rwanda, is a haven for travellers that are avid wildlife lovers. The country has earned the nickname ‘land of a thousand hills’ due its mountainous landscape and its renowned Volcanoes National Park, which is home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The park is the most visited park in the country, which is no surprise as it is home to 3 extinct and 6 active volcanoes, and you will experience the best tracking safari to see mountain gorillas. The shores of Lake Kivu can enjoyed with beach sports, kayaking, fishing or boat tours.
Rwanda is also a haven for coffee and tea as it is the country’s biggest export. Tea leaves create a beautiful contrast with blue skies and never-ending sunshine as they adorn mountain tops. Tea plantation tours can be enjoyed in a variety of locations across Rwanda, including at Sorwathe Guesthouse and Tea Tours.
Recommended accommodation includes the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge located on the foothills of the Mount Sabinyo neighbouring the Volcanoes National Park, with prices starting from $227 per night and the Gorillas Lake Kivu Hotel in Gisenyi overlooking Lake Kivu, with pricing starting from $92 per night.
Visas are required from certain foreign nationals at a cost of $30. Visit the Rwanda Tourism website for up to date visa information. Citizens of the DRC and Mauritius may visit Rwanda without a visa for a period of up to 90 days. Citizens of the East African Community, namely Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda will be issued with a 6 months visitor pass (renewable) upon arrival with no fee. South African citizens will be issued with a entry visa valid for a period up to 30 days and pay for a visa ($30) upon arrival without prior application.
São Tomé and Principe
São Tomé and Principe is Africa’s smallest state situated in the gulf of Guinea in western Africa. This is a perfect beach holiday for a couple or for a group of friends wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowded beaches. The island is blessed with beautiful and serene beaches where you can enjoy fishing and go diving with the island’s main diving agency Club Maxel. The best sites for diving are Ilheu das Rolas, which is situated south of the Sao Tome Island, and Ilha da Santana.
Whale watching is quite popular on the island between July and September mainly at Ilha das Cabras and Lagoa Azul. Avid hikers will enjoy trekking through exotic jungle to reach the top of Pico de São Tomé, which is the island’s highest point above sea level at 2024 metres and the island’s old volcano.
There’s an array of graded accommodations to stay at on the island, popular choices being the Miramar Hotel at a cost of $134 per night, and Cocoa Hotel Residence, which will cost you a minimum amount of $40.
A visa is required before entering the country and can be obtained from a São Toméan embassy. You will also have to produce a medical certificate upon arrival showing that you have received vaccinations for yellow fever and malaria. Airlines that fly to São Tomé and Principe include TAP Portugal, Air Angola, Africas Connection, STP Airways and Ceiba Intercontinental. Visit the São Tomé and Principe site to start planning your trip.
If you’re seeking for a great summer adventure, head down to South Africa as the country offers the best beach holidays between September and February. Enjoy the warmth of the Indian Ocean and all year round summer weather in the province of KwaZulu Natal. The province also boasts with two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park in St. Lucia that contains Africa’s largest estuarine system, over 500 bird species and decades old coastal dunes as well as endless beaches that stretch from Maphelane in the south to Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in the Wild Coast, which encompasses South Africa’s highest mountain range.
The Western Cape is provides the best in nature viewing, with the deep blue waters of the cold Atlantic as well as diverse vegetation and numerous lagoons and lakes along the Garden Route. There are many hidden gems along the route that can only be discovered once you stop and soak in every stop.
There’s an array of accommodation available in South Africa, from luxury hotels to backpacker accommodation. When in the Wild Coast in KwaZulu Natal, the Wild Coast Sun hotel is a popular choice among visitors. Rooms start at a price of $158 per person per night. When in the Western Cape on the Garden Route tour, it is best to stay in George, which is the main centre of the Garden Route. Enjoy your stay at the Garden Villa Bed and Breakfast from $49.
A visa is required before entering the country, and can be applied for at your nearest South African mission or consulate. For more information, visit the South African Department of Home Affairs. Also note that a full unabridged birth certificate is required when traveling with children under the age of 18. For more information, see the South African Department of Home Affairs information leaflet. Travelers from certain African states can enter the country with only a passport. Those countries include Botswana, Namibia (90 days per year), Tanzania (90 days per year), Zambia (90 days per year) and Zimbabwe.
The 115-island country with the smallest population of any African state, the Republic of Seychelles, is a hidden gem located in the Indian Ocean and is perfect for a romantic getaway. The Outer Islands of Seychelles are the less visited of the island-country, offering pristine beaches, lonely rock outcrops and untouched habitats for many species of wildlife. The Outer Island groups, namely Alphonse and Desroches, currently offer luxurious lodges for accommodation, as well as idyllic and untouched spots for fishing, sailing and diving.
Seychelles is definitely among the best travel destinations in Africa. The best and most interesting facet of the Seychelles is their multi-ethnic population comprised of peoples from all four corners of the earth. Every nation is represented on the island, including freed slaves, European settlers, political exiles, adventurers, traders of Arab and Persian origin as well as Chinese and Indians. Creole (a lilting, French-based patois), English and French are widely spoken in the Republic, and knowing a few phrases makes your stay more enjoyable as you’ll be able to interact with the locals.
Travel to the main island via Air Seychelles, and get to the Outer Islands via Zil Air. No visas are required to enter the country, however a valid passport, return or onward tickets, proof of accommodation including contact details and sufficient funds for the duration of the stay are all documents that will need to be shown in order to obtain immigration clearance at the Seychelles International Airport.
When visiting the Outer Islands, you can stay at the beach front resort of Alphonse Island at a cost of between $3,689 and $9,497 per night per person. Another exquisite resort is the Desroches Island Resort on Desroches Island. The prices ranges from $1,101 to $2,202 per double room per night. When on the main island of Mahé, a popular hotel is the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Hotel & Spa, which is a 5-star resort offering the most scenic views of the Indina Ocean and spectacular sunsets. Prices range between $557 and $807.