Africa is probably the most exotic and adventurous continent on earth. Both the second most populous and the second largest continent, Africa is much more than the pyramids in Egypt and Serengeti safaris. Many westerners look at this ancient continent as a more or less uniform place, while, in fact, it is among the most diverse continents in the world.
It has pretty much all climate zones, landscapes and habitats. More than 1,000 languages are spoken, making it the most multilingual of all continents. And when it comes to wildlife, no other place captures one’s imagination quite like Africa does.
Therefore, because everyone already knows about the Sahara desert, Egypt’s ancient pyramids and the wildlife of the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania, I would like to shed a light on some of the less popular attractions in Africa. Those Africa highlights are more numerous that you’d ever have imagined. You’ll be surprised!
Less Popular Attractions in Africa
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
The Fish River Canyon is the world’s second longest river canyon, second only after the Grand Canyon. This jaw-dropping natural attraction is more than 500 million years old and forms an enormous scar in Namibian Desert landscape. There’s a fantastic hiking trail at the bottom of the canyon, following the course of the river, that rewards adventure-minded travellers with wildlife sightings (kudu, zebra, birds and wild horses).
Okavango Delta, Botswana
The largest inland delta on the planet, the Okavango Delta is created by the waters that flow down from the higher regions in Uganda and empty in what used to be a vast inland sea. That sea has dried up long ago, leaving behind an immense area of wetlands, inland lagoons, lakes, rivers and islands. It’s a downright extraordinary destination—one of the absolute Africa highlights.
An ancient town dotted with unique monolithic rock churches, Lalibela is one of the holiest places in Ethiopia. As one of the first countries to become Christian in the world, Ethiopia is still a stronghold of Christianity in eastern Africa. Lalibela is a major highlight in the country, of such historic and cultural importance that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Situated at the foothills of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is a huge old city filled with noise and people, but also with a wealth of history and an enchanting charm. Marrakech is essentially a bustling market city, home to expansive open-air markets and street vendors. It’s an overwhelming place to visit, but absolutely worthwhile. Make sure to visit Djmaa el Fna, arguably one of the busiest town squares in the world—snake charmers, henna artists, date and fig sellers, and story tellers liven up the place to a level that’s hard to find anywhere else on earth.
Virunga Mountains, DRC, Uganda and Rwanda
A series of volcanic mountains that forms the borders between the central African countries of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, the forest-covered Virunga Mountains are spectacular on their own right. What makes them worth visiting, however, is their population of mountain gorillas, the last remaining group of this critically endangered species. Gorilla-spotting treks are a hugely popular activity in this region.
Zambezi River, Zambia
Zambia’s Zambezi River offers people who want to spot Africa’s iconic wildlife in an alternative way the chance to do so. This meandering river is the fourth longest river in Africa, after the Nile, Zaire and Niger Rivers, and is a wonderful place to go on canoe safaris. Animals that may be spotted drinking on the river banks include zebras, elephants, giraffes and buffalo. The river itself is home to hippos and crocodiles.
Djenne, Mali, is one of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa, founded sometime around 800 AD. Situated on an island in the delta of the Niger River, Djenne used to be, and still is, an important trading town on the way between the vast forests in Guinea and the expansive Sahara desert. The absolute highlight in Djenne is the spectacular mud-made Great Mosque, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.