A bustling powerhouse of industry, Nigeria is one of the largest and most populous countries in Africa. It can be tempting to spend your whole trip in the city of Lagos, but stepping out of your comfort zone and into the less explored parts of Nigeria will offer you adventures, stunning natural beauty, and unique experiences.
Home to over 16 million people, Lagos is the biggest and most densely populated city in the country. Don’t let the size intimidate you though, this is a city that’s just begging to be explored! The high-energy capital has everything from high street fashion, laid back beaches, hip night clubs, and vibrant art galleries. For art and culture, check out the Jazz Hole and Bogobiri; for Nigerian history and heritage, head to Freedom Park; and for some of the best food in Africa, take a guided food tour and learn more about the city while you eat.
While you’re in Lagos, take a day trip to the nearby Lekki Conservation Center. The center is a breath of fresh air after days of pounding the pavement in Lagos. Take a guided tour to walk over mangroves, see colorful birds and dangerous reptiles, and have more than a few encounters with some monkeys. The center is also home to the longest canopy walk in Africa, which lets you see the park from a different, somewhat higher, angle. It might look a little scary at first glance, but the walkway is totally worth possible vertigo. You’ll get some breathtaking views and snap tons of Instagram-worthy pictures.
One last thing to do before leaving the Lagos area is to check out Lekki Market. Support local craftspeople by buying colorful fabric, wooden sculptures, masks, and jewelry. The market is home to art and crafts from all over Nigeria and even western Africa. When you have everything you need, grab a snack from a food vendor and find a spot to people-watch. Get there early to peruse the stands without the massive afternoon and evening crowds.
Located in southwest Nigeria, Abeokuta is the capital of Ogun State. Streets lined with decaying mansions, historic religious institutions, and small shacks make for a strange and completely unique cityscape, and the naturally occurring rocks that form the background of Abeokuta are equally intriguing. Although you might feel out of place in Abeokuta, you’ll also get to experience a version of Nigeria that few tourists take the time to see.
Abeokuta was founded directly under Olumo Rock, and the rock continues to have great spiritual and cultural importance to locals and visitors alike. The best way to experience the landmark is to hire a tour guide and climb the rock. Your guide will stop at interesting places on the way up, including popular hideouts during the tribal wars and a variety of sacred shrines and trees. The climb gets pretty steep at certain points, but there is an alternative route with steps. The top of the rock offers a breathtaking view of Abeokuta and the surrounding countryside.
Taking time to observe local wildlife while visiting Nigeria is an absolute must, and Yankari National Park is the perfect place to do it. At Yankari, you’ll get to see a huge variety of Nigeria’s most precious wildlife, such as buffaloes, hippos, and baboons. There are also 300 elephants living in the park, so have your phone charged and get ready to take some incredible pictures. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see some of the roaming lions in the area. After a day of exploring, go relax in the nearby Wikki Warm Springs. The springs are a constant 87 degrees Fahrenheit, making them perfect for soaking in after a long hike.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a place unlike anywhere else. The sacred grove is surrounded by lush forest just outside the city of Osogbo, and it’s thought to be where the Yoruba fertility goddess Osun lives. This grove is one of the last remaining sacred sites of the Yoruba people, so it’s incredibly important to be respectful and cautious when visiting. Take a guide when you visit to ensure you don’t damage this special place.
If you get to choose when you visit Nigeria, make sure you go during the Osun Festival. Although visiting the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a must, being there during the Osun Festival makes the experience truly unforgettable. The rich and ancient Yoruba tradition involves ceremonies that bring humans closer to the divine. During the ceremonies, practitioners are renewing their vows to honor the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove.
Located near the Cameroon border, the Drill Rehabilitation & Breeding Center--also known as Afi Mountain Drill Ranch--is the place to go to experience a close encounter with primates. Drills and chimps are rescued and brought to the ranch to be cared for and rehabilitated. The ranch has cabins as well as campgrounds, and you should definitely spend at least two nights to get the full experience. Not only will you get to enjoy the beautiful Nigerian countryside, but you’ll also get to see drills and chimps up close and personal. The short-tailed drills are one of the most endangered animals in Africa, so seeing one in person is a truly special experience.
The Gashaka-Gumti National Park is another one of Nigeria’s incredible national parks. Established in 1991, Gashaka-Gumti is located along the Cameroon border and it's famous for being Nigeria’s largest national park. Spend a few days in the area and hire a guide for breathtaking hikes through the park. You’ll get to see a huge variety of the region’s local flora and fauna, including buffaloes, African golden cats, and the largest population of chimps. This is also one of the best places for bird watching, so do some research beforehand and see how many different species you can spot!
The sprawling Benin City is a historically important metropolis that goes back to the 15th century. Famous for being the birthplace of the African art form known as Benin brassers, the city is still alive with art and culture. While you’re there, make sure you walk down Brass Caster Street. The street is full of sculptors and craftspeople practicing lost-wax sculpture. Watch the artists work and pick up a small piece to take back home with you.
Calabar is the capital of Nigeria's southeastern Cross Rivers State, and it's famous for having been one of the biggest slave ports. The city is tourist-friendly and home to a huge number of cultural and historical centers. Visit for a few days to explore the museums, markets, and local primate conservation centers.