Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, with 54 countries nestled on its 11.7 million square miles. The terrain ranges from vast deserts to lush, tropical rainforests; when it's summer in the north, the southern countries are experiencing winter's cold. With such a variety of landscapes, countries, and cultures, there's something for everyone in Africa. The continent saw the beginnings of humankind, so history lovers can find fascinating sites of great importance. Africa's unique animals and landscapes inspire awe and are sure to create amazing photos for you to share with the folks back home.
Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 19,340 feet, making it Africa's highest mountain and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Located in northern Tanzania, Kilimanjaro doesn't require any specialized climbing skills to reach the top, so if you have a reasonable level of fitness you can watch the sunrise from the peak. It takes 5-9 days to climb, although slower treks allow more time to acclimatize to the altitude. Climbers must travel with a registered guide, and good trekking agencies also supply a cook, porters, water, and camping equipment.
Many people include on their bucket list seeing elephants, lions, and hippopotamuses in their natural habitat. Thankfully, most corners of southern Africa offer safaris, so it's easy to add one to any trip. If you're going specifically to see the wildlife, the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is a good choice; the reserve is also home to the famous wildebeest migration. A trek to see the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda is a good option for adventurous travelers.
If you're looking for a relaxing holiday with Instagrammable views around every corner, Africa can provide. The island nation of Seychelles has white sand, turquoise waters, and excellent accommodation. From the capital of Victoria, you can venture out to explore the beaches, jungle, and wildlife on the country's 900 islands. Mauritius is another good choice for relaxation, with crystal clear waters and an abundance of sea life that may tempt you to go diving.
Seeing the Pyramids of Giza is a must, as there are few places that are a testament to what humans can accomplish. The pyramids aren't the only ruins in Egypt, though, and if you're looking for a quieter place to explore, take the time to venture further down the Nile. There are many opportunities to explore ancient history along the river's banks, from the Temple of Horus to the Temple of Seti I. You can also explore prehistoric times through rock carvings located at the Kharga Oasis.
Victoria Falls is known to locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or the smoke that thunders, perhaps because you can hear it from a mile away. The entire width of the Zambezi River plunges over the falls in the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls straddle the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and can be seen from either country. Victoria Falls is at its most stunning during the wet season, but the dry season gives you opportunities to swim in Devil's Pool or go white water rafting on the Zambezi.
Deserts often seem like an alien landscape, so venturing out onto the sand is an amazing experience. Namibia has some of the highest sand dunes in the world and you can climb to the top or see them from above in a hot air balloon. If you're in the north of the continent, seeing the Sahara is a must. Tours leave from Marrakech and generally include a camel ride through the dunes and a night spent under the stars.
Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site is known as the Louvre of the Desert, as it has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. It's a sacred place to the San people, also knows as Bushmen, who have lived in the area for around 70,000 years. Tours with the San include walking through the Kalahari Desert, which will allow you to learn more about this culture first-hand. For an authentic experience, look for tours run by the community.
The markets of Morocco have delights around every corner, and foodies can tempt their palate with the amazing array of spices on display. The country's capital, Marrakech, is home to Spice Trader's Square, which is part of D'Jemaa el-Fna where you can buy carpets and argan oil products. There is plenty of street food around so you can taste the spices as you wander. Other cities in Morocco, including Fes and Casablanca, also have an abundance of markets worth exploring.
If you visited Africa hoping to explore the land where humanity began, you should add the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site to your bucket list. Located just 90 minutes from Johannesburg, the site is home to almost 40% of the world's human ancestor fossils. Tours of Sterkfontein Caves take you deep into the Earth to see where fossils were discovered. While in the area you can also visit animal sanctuaries, go on safari, and explore art galleries.
Wild lemurs only live in Madagascar, so if you want to see one in person, then a visit to the island nation is essential. Madagascar can be difficult to get to, but this means that it's often overlooked by tourists. Crowds are small and most vistas unspoiled. Lemurs aren't the only reason to visit; the country has incredible biodiversity, including unique animals and plants. Companies are also promoting eco-tourism on the island so you can support the environment and local communities as you travel.