The Best Places To Visit in Africa (and What to Do There)


People tend to think of Africa as a country, not a continent. But with 54 countries calling it home, Africa’s topography, landscape, and activities vary drastically by region. I’ve been to the continent 26 times, yet each time I go I’m surprised at just how many new things there are to see and do.

Where to Go in Africa

To make it easier for you to plan a trip, I’ve highlighted some of the most popular countries and best places to go in Africa, as well as what to see and do there, when to go, and where to stay. Hopefully this primer will get you motivated to hop on a plane.



1- Uganda




Why go: One of only three countries in the world where you can trek to see mountain gorillas in the wild (there are only 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the world), the experience in Uganda is truly amazing.

In Uganda is home to the Nyakagezi gorilla family with its two silverbacks (adult males). It holds a certain allure, since it boasts one of the highest concentrations of silverbacks within a family. Tours are small, no more than eight people, and once the gorillas are spotted, you have 60 minutes with them—and believe me, it goes really fast.
I was surprised to see how playful the juveniles are, not unlike my own little kids. One even came up and gave me a light fist bump to the leg (the animals can do what they want, but we were instructed to stay seven meters away from them; they came much, much closer).
For me, witnessing the adult silverback males in action was the most moving experience. Pounding their chests, making conversation with guttural sounds, climbing effortlessly up the bamboo trees to build a nest—they seem so human-like, which isn’t surprising given that these mammals share 98 percent of our DNA. Seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat was one of my favorite experiences in Africa.

When to go: Since it’s a rain forest, there’s a chance you’ll get wet anytime, so there’s no really bad time to go. Just be sure to pack appropriately.



2- Kenya and Tanzania




Why go: Kenya and Tanzania are often combined into one trip. Many people consider these two counties among the best places to go in Africa because they’re where you can see the Great Migration—where 2 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle make a migratory circle from the Masa Mara in Kenya to the Serengeti in Tanzania and back again.
But even if you don’t go during the migration, Kenya and Tanzania have some of the most extensive populations of wildlife in all of Africa; it’s not uncommon to see 50 elephants in a herd, or to see the Big Five (lion, rhino, cape buffalo, elephant and leopard) on your first game drive.

When to go: “Avoid the long-rains of April and May. If you’re going to catch the migration, it’s July through September,”.



3- Zambia and Zimbabwe




Why Go: Head to these two countries to see Victoria Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world. Plus, you can go white water rafting down the Zambezi river, chock-full of crocs and hippos (it’s an amazing experience and one I highly recommend).
“Additionally, Zambia focuses on fantastic walking safaris in wonderful national parks like South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi. In the latter, you can also do canoeing and fishing in addition to the game drives and walks,” says Hippo Creek Safari’s Daniel Saperstein. “The game is very good and the experience in Zambia feels like Kenya did 30 years ago—still very raw and real.”

When to go: “Peak season will be their winter time, when it is dry and mild—anywhere from June through September is ideal,” says Saperstein. “It can be very hot from October through January.”


4- Namibia








Why go: In Namibia, you can climb some of the highest sand dunes in the world (or better yet, take a hot air balloon ride over them). The scenery is dramatic and vaults Namibia into the discussion for one of the best places to go in Africa.

Best time to go: Namibia is a year-round destination, but remember that since it’s a desert environment, you can get a big shift any day of the year, from very hot to very cold.  Pack both warm-weather and cool clothes.


5- Botswana




Why go: This country’s focus is on high-end, low-impact tourism, so the properties are all very luxurious and the crowds you see in East Africa are noticeably absent here. It’s where to go in Africa for up-close wildlife experiences, sans crowds.

When to go: The game viewing gets progressively better in the winter, from June through September, after the Okavango Delta floodwaters have started to recede. September is considered peak season.


6- South Africa




Why go: From shark cage diving and malaria-free safari zones to experiencing the flavors of Durban, an enclave of Indian culture in Africa that rests right on the Indian Ocean, South Africa combines a European and African flair.
Private game reserves abound in South Africa, which makes it easier to see the Big Five animals up close and in limited time than in other destinations. You can also go on wine tours or get in some hiking up table mountain on its own, one of the best places to go in Africa for a day trip.

When to go: Almost any time of the year is great for game viewing; but December through February sees the bulk of the rain and May through July are the coldest months.



7- Egypt








Why go: Visiting the pyramids and taking a cruise up (yes up) the Nile River is a bucket list adventure for good reason. “Egypt is the cradle of Western civilization. Few experiences can measure up to the massive scale of the  and the sphinx,” says Claudia Worth, Product Manager of Abercrombie and Kent
“Discover the Aswan islands by felucca (traditional sailboat) or privately tour the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities home to artifacts recovered from Tutankhamun’s tomb.” This part of Northern Africa appeals to history buffs and those interested in a cultural journey.

When to go: “Egypt is a year-round destination, but the most comfortable temperatures are between October and April,” notes Worth.



8- Morocco




Why go: Visit the famous spice markets and entrench yourself in Arab culture. “With a history stretching back nearly 10,000 years, the country’s great cities—Marrakech, Tangier, Fez and Rabat—offer a look into ancient traditions,” says Worth.
Morocco offers so many different kinds of experiences—I did a camel Trek in the Sahara Desert and slept under the stars, and had tea with nomadic Berbers to learn about their lifestyle. In Marrakech, known as the red city,  there’s plenty to grab your attention.
“A must is the Djemaa El Fnaa, the largest market in Morocco and the biggest square in Africa,” says Worth. “Make sure to have a walk around the square in the evening when musicians, dancers, and storytellers come out.”
Wander around the many souks adjacent to Djemaa el Fna, where you can buy everything from spices to teapots.

When to go: Morocco is a year-round destination and one of the best places to go in Africa. Marrakesh can be hot in the summer months, however, and the desert gets very cold in January.

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