Africa: land of wildlife-spotted savannahs, magical spice islands and snow-topped peaks. You could spend a lifetime exploring this colossal continent, learning about its ancient tribal cultures, observing the world’s wildest animals and visiting its striking mountains, deserts, lakes and beaches. Don’t know where to start? From dream safari destinations to epic waterfalls, here are the 10 most iconic places to visit in Africa.
Maasai Mara or Serengeti
Pull up a seat for the world’s top wildlife show: The Great Migration. Every year, Kenya’s Maasai Mara and the Serengeti in Tanzania host this natural phenomenon, which sees over two million wildebeest, antelope and zebra traverse the parks, following the scent of life-giving rains. Watch herds storm across the plains, plagued by predators and the snapping jaws of Nile crocodiles during daring river crossings. Migration aside, both the Maasai Mara and Serengeti are UNESCO World Heritage Sites that boast some of the highest wildlife densities on earth, all year-round, including the coveted Big Five. Spot animals on dawn hot air balloon rides, game drives or walking safaris with a Maasai warrior.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Descend into the depths of the Ngorongoro Crater to discover a fertile landscape teeming with wildlife. As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and a UNESCO site, the crater was formed by a volcanic collapse nearly three million years ago. Thanks to its steep, 600-metre walls, the crater acts as a natural bowl home to over 30,000 animals, making it a great safari destination for guaranteed wildlife sightings. Watch big cats stalk through the grasslands, encounter giant-tusked elephants roaming the forests and picnic beside Lake Magadi to see 500 species of birds, including flocks of salmon-pink flamingos. You can even find the elusive black rhino in this prehistoric basin.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Visit Victoria Falls to feel the full force of this famous waterfall, known aptly by locals as mosi-o-tunya: The Smoke that Thunders. Often touted as one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, the falls are located on the Zambezi River bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. The surrounding national park has nature trails and lookout points where you can watch the largest curtain of falling water on earth crash 100 metres into a gorge, its spray rising in giant plumes up to 400 metres high. Adrenaline activities are aplenty, from ziplines and gorge swings to white-water rafting and helicopter rides. If you’re staying during a full moon, you might even witness a rare lunar rainbow.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s fascinating-yet-tumultuous history has resulted in a fusion of African, Asian and European culture, visible everywhere from its cuisine to architecture. One minute you could be sampling Cape Malay street food among colourful houses in Bo-Kaap, the next visiting the stirring District 6 Museum or shopping on the V&A Waterfront. Today the city is also loved for its vibrant blend of bars, restaurants and its thriving art and culture scene. Explore Cape Town’s complex history on a walking tour with a local guide or sail over to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was notoriously incarcerated. If it’s nature you crave, the city’s white-sand beaches of Clifton or Camps Bay await, along with hiking trails up Table Mountain for sweeping views over the Mother City.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Gaze in awe at the icing-sugar-dusted peaks of Africa’s highest mountain: Kilimanjaro. This mammoth free-standing volcano draws over 25,000 climbers a year. If you dream of scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, the eight-day Rongai Route is one of the most accessible. Accompanied by a guide and team of porters you’ll trek through the mountain’s diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to moorland and alpine desert, finally reaching the icefields and glaciers that decorate the rooftop of Africa. On summit day, watch the sunrise above the clouds at Gillman’s Peak before arriving 5,895 metres above sea level at Uhuru. If trekking isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy views of Kilimanjaro on a scenic flight from Arusha or on a safari in Amboseli National Park.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Discover a wildlife bonanza in Kruger National Park, the jewel in South Africa’s safari crown. Covering over two million hectares, it’s one of the world’s top destinations for wildlife spotting and an essential stop on any iconic Southern Africa itinerary. Spend your days traversing Kruger’s kopje-studded plains, savannahs and tropical forests on 4×4 game drives, binoculars at hand, for a chance to see the Big Five and a host of other African beasts. You’ll be spoilt for adventure in Kruger; sleep in luxury treehouses where you can enjoy baths under the stars, take micro-light flights for aerial views or get up-close to nature on a walking safari. At the end of the day, don’t forget to take some time to relax in the pool and sip on a sundowner.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Experience the magic of Volcanoes National Park, a land where hulking volcanic peaks rise from mist-swathed rainforests home to some of the last mountain gorillas. It may be small at just 62-square-miles, but this protected park is Rwanda’s most famous attraction, named after a chain of dormant volcanoes: the Virunga Massif. Come to trek through the forest with an expert guide, on a quest to spot some of the park’s 340 gorillas. Catching a glimpse of huge silverbacks and tiny, human-like baby gorillas in the wild is a true bucket-list moment. Take some time to hike the Dian Fossey Trail, which leads to the primatologist’s former research base where she wrote Gorillas in the Mist and is now buried alongside some of her precious primates.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Sail along the maze-like waterways of the Okavango Delta in a traditional mokoro canoe to experience this UNESCO-listed landmark. Set in northern Botswana, it’s one of the planet’s largest inland deltas and an oasis in the middle of the semi-arid Kalahari Desert. The delta is fed by the mighty Okavango River and provides a lifeline for wildlife, especially when floodwaters arrive in May, attracting immense herds of herbivores, birds and predators. Explore by boat and 4×4 for a chance to see the Big Five as well as water-based wonders like Nile crocodiles and basking hippos. Known as the river that never finds the sea, the Okavango Delta is the place to come if you’re looking for an intimate, exclusive safari experience.
Garden Route, South Africa
Follow winding coastal roads bordered by topaz sea and rugged mountains on South Africa’s Garden Route. Starting just east of Cape Town at Mossel Bay, this popular 200-kilometre road trip takes you all the way to Storms River and is ideal for a self-drive adventure. Along the way, stop off at seaside towns and national parks to hike, seek out wildlife and enjoy adventure activities, from bungee jumps to ziplining and canyoning. Key stops include Oudtshoorn where the 20-million-year-old Cango Caves drip with stalactites and stalagmites, Knysna lagoon with its jagged heads and Plettenberg Bay, where you can take boat trips to see dolphins and Cape fur seals or trek in nature reserves.
Enjoy beach time at its best in Zanzibar, a paradisical archipelago set in the Indian Ocean that’s famed for its spices. Days here should be spent basking on sherbet sands in the shade of a coconut tree or snorkelling the glass-clear waters in search of rainbow fish, rays and graceful turtles. For a real Robinson Crusoe style experience, head to Pemba, one of the lesser-visited islands where remote resorts and authentic Swahili life rule. While in Zanzibar, tour UNESCO-listed Stone Town with its teak carved doors, mosques and former palaces then take a spice tour to learn how Zanzibar’s spices are grown and exported all over the planet.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Laura, who's travelled extensively in South Africa. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - ex banker who can show you the hottest foodie spots in Cape Town, the award-winning young sommelier who can introduce you to Stellenbosch's finest wines and the walking safari ranger who can guide you to the best game.
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