Africa has 54 sovereign countries—the most on any continent—and is the second largest continent in terms of both land area and population. Africa is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by the Red Sea to the northeast, and by the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Africa is a vast continent spanning over 8,000km (5,000 mi) north to south and 7,500km (4,800 mi) east to west (not including islands) and contains a wide array of peoples, skin colors, religions, and cultures. Africa contains the world’s longest river—the 6,650km long (4,100 mi) Nile River running from Burundi to Egypt—while the Congo River in the DRC is the second largest in terms of discharge as well as the deepest with a depth of over 230m (750 ft) in some spots. Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain at 5,890m (19,340 ft). Djibouti’s Lake Assal is the second lowest point on Earth, the saltiest lake outside Antarctica, and one of the hottest places on Earth.
While the first activity most people associate with Africa is safaris, there are endless possibilities for adventure. You can purchase crafts in markets, venture into the Sahara with a Tuareg caravan, visit pygmy villages, hike through jungles to watch gorillas, relax on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, experience arguably the world’s best wildlife safaris, snack on exotic treats, travel down a river in a dugout “pirogue”, travel across savannah on a colonial-era railway, and much more.
Africa is a very diverse continent, with each country, or even each part of a country having its own unique culture. While some people in the West refer to Africa as if it were a single country, one should remember the sheer size of the continent, and that Africa is not one country but 54 different countries, meaning that it is impossible to make generalisations of Africa as a whole.
Africa today is a vast continent with many bustling metropolises, some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and amazingly diverse and beautiful landscapes. While there are places resembling the stereotypical Africa of war, famine, and poverty, most of the continent is peaceful. Except for Liberia, Darwiish State and Ethiopia, the entire continent was occupied during the Scramble for Africa
|North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara)|
The countries that rim the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
|Sahel (Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan)|
The desert and savanna nations that span the Sahel and southern half of the Sahara Desert.
|West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo)|
The tropical Atlantic coastal nations.
|Central Africa (Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Sudan)|
The heart of Africa.
|East Africa (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya,|
Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles,
Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda)
The nations that border the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
|Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Eswatini, Zambia, Zimbabwe)|
Nations at Africa’s southern tip.
Travel Guide Africa
- Algiers — the capital of Algeria, northernmost capital and biggest city on the south mediterranian coast, a mix of European colonial architecture and Arabian medina.
- Accra — the capital of Ghana and one of the most accessible cities in West Africa for travellers
- Addis Ababa — the huge capital of Ethiopia and a major hub for NGOs and the African Union
- Cairo — the largest city in Africa with major monuments of Ancient Egypt nearby
- Cape Town — the iconic Mother City of South Africa with Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope and numerous other attractions
- Dakar — the capital of Senegal and the westernmost city in Africa
- Johannesburg — South Africa’s largest city and perhaps the continent’s key financial and economic centre
- Luanda — the capital of Angola, which has been through a huge renaissance in the past decade
- Marrakech — a blend of the ancient and modern in Morocco
- Nairobi — the capital of Kenya and the largest city in East Africa
- Aksum — the ancient capital of Ethiopia, famous for its stelae and the ruins of various palaces
- Hoggar and Tassili national parks in Algeria with breathtaking old volcanoes and one of the best sunsets in the world.
- Dogon Country — a region of south-central Mali renowned for its secluded villages embedded on cliffs and a very distinct culture
- Kruger National Park — a well managed and very popular national park in South Africa
- Lake Tanganyika — second oldest freshwater lake in the world
- Leptis Magna — extensive Roman ruins in Libya
- Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa’s highest mountain and a great trekking destination in Tanzania
- Serengeti National Park — huge national park in Tanzania, perhaps the archetypal African game park; becomes the Maasai Mara National Reserve over the border in Kenya
- Valley of the Kings — the site of Ancient Egypt
- Victoria Falls — magnificent waterfalls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia
- Volcanoes National Park — a very important site for Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda
As the second largest continent, there is a wide range of climates to be found. However, since the continent is nearly centred on the equator, much of the continent is quite warm/temperate with very few, small areas on the continent experiencing any temperatures that can be considered “cold”. In the temperate regions (parts of northern Morocco & the Mediterranean coast as well as South Africa), temperatures generally range from the 10s C to the mid-30s°C (40s-90s°F) year round. Closer to the equator and on islands like Cape Verde or Mauritius, temperatures may only vary less than 20 degrees Celsius (15-35°C/65-95°F) throughout the year. In the deserts and arid regions like the Sahel and Horn of Africa, temperatures routinely hit 40°C+ (and even 50°C+ in the heart of the Sahara) but because sand does not retain heat like most soil does, those same places can easily fall down to 15°C at night. There are a few bastions of cooler weather, however. Higher elevations, such as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco & Algeria or in Lesotho, are quite cold and snowy during winter and Mount Kilimanjaro, almost on the equator, is cold year-round (cold enough to support glaciers!). Peaks on islands such as Reunion, the Canary Islands, Mount Cameroon and more are cool enough to necessitate a jacket much of the year.
A far more important factor to consider when travelling to Africa is when the rain/monsoon season occurs. Timing varies a bit even in neighbouring countries, so check the page of the country you are visiting for more info. In West Africa the season starts in March around Cameroon, but not until June in Senegal or the Sahel and ends around September. While rain may not be a huge factor when travelling to southern or East Africa, it is very problematic in West Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean. In West Africa, rains will often flood and make many roads and railways impassable and, due to poor drainage, can literally result in rivers of water flowing down streets and sewage lines to overflow. In the Sahel, it can result in flash floods in low-lying areas.
The largest weather-related dangers for travellers to Africa are lightning and tropical cyclones. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has more lighting strikes each year than any other country on earth, especially in the eastern part of the country near Goma. Lightning risk is highest from western Kenya/Tanzania and Ethiopia west to Senegal and south to Angola and Zambia. Tropical cyclones affect the islands of the Indian Ocean, with the season running from 15 Nov-30 Apr (15 May in the Seychelles and Mauritius). Tropical cyclones also infrequently affect the horn of Africa near Djibouti & Somalia, but when they do, the arid land results in major flooding. Tropical cyclones often form off the coast of western West Africa (Guinea/Senegal) during the early part of the Atlantic Hurricane Season (June-August) and will rarely impact Cape Verde, for which these particular storms are called “Cape Verde-type hurricanes”
Air fares to Africa can be very expensive, but there are ways to save. The best way to get great airfare to the continent is fly directly to an African country from its former colonial rulers. For example, it can easily cost hundreds of euros/dollars more to fly from London to a former French colony, or conversely from Paris to a former British colony. About the only exceptions are Egypt, which has plentiful, cheap connections with the Middle East & Europe and a handful of West African destinations (e.g. Cape Verde, Morocco) popular with British tourists and accessible with cheap holiday flights.
Airline consolidators can also be used for discounted air fares. If you have additional travel time, check to see how your total fare quote to Africa compares with a round-the-world fare. Don’t forget to add in the extra costs of additional visas, departure taxes, ground transportation, etc. for all those places outside of Africa.
See your destination’s article for more specific information on flights. Bear in mind that many African countries only offer a few international flights each day, or in some cases, each week. While it isn’t hard to reach South Africa or Egypt, getting to Malawi or Togo can be quite a challenge.
There are more flights to Africa from Europe than from any other continent. Popular holiday destinations such as Egypt, Morocco, Cape Verde, & South Africa are well-served from Europe’s major cities, even with discount and charter airlines. Royal Air Maroc, Ethiopian Airlines, South Africa Airways & EgyptAir have a good selection of European destinations and Ethiopian, Kenyan, South African, Arik Air, Air Algérie and Tunisair serve a few major cities (London, Paris, etc.). The cheapest flights to African cities are often through the African country’s former colonial power. Cities with large immigrant populations such as London, Marseilles, & Paris have a good number of flights to Africa.
Chief among European airlines flying to Africa are:
- Air France is the best (although not cheapest) carrier serving French-speaking Africa, with service to most major cities of West, Central, & North Africa along with service to Johannesburg, Cairo, Lagos, Accra, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, & Djibouti.
- British Airways offers regular flights to a selection (albeit a surprisingly small one) of former British colonies, and a few other destinations: they have services to Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. Flights are expensive and when flying from London it is often cheaper to choose a rival airline or an indirect flight.
- Brussels Airlines flies from Brussels to most francophone countries in West and Central Africa along with Entebbe (Uganda), Nairobi, & Luanda.
- Lufthansa flies to major cities in North Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ethiopia, & Eritrea.
- TAP Portugal flies to former Portuguese colonies (Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome & Principe, Mozambique, Angola), Algeria, Morocco, & Senegal.
- Iberia, the flag carrier of Spain, offers flights from Madrid to Morocco, Senegal, Algeria and Equatorial Guinea.
- Alitalia flies from Rome to Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Many European discount airlines serve major tourist destination in Africa (especially Morocco, Cape Verde, Tunisia, Egypt, & the Gambia), including Jetairfly, EasyJet, & Corsairfly.
From North America
The following routes are operated from North America as of November 2018:
- New York-JFK: Delta Air Lines to Accra (Ghana) and Dakar (Senegal); South African Airways to Johannesburg; EgyptAir to Cairo; Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca (Morocco), Kenya Airways to Nairobi (Kenya).
- Newark: Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa via Lomé (Togo).
- Washington-Dulles: South African Airways to Johannesburg via Accra or Dakar; Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa (via Rome); Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca; United Airlines to Accra.
- Atlanta: Delta Air Lines to Johannesburg and Lagos (Nigeria).
- Los Angeles: Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa (via Dublin).
- Houston: SonAir to Luanda (Angola).
- Toronto: EgyptAir to Cairo; Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa.
- Montréal: Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca; Air Algérie to Algiers; Air Canada to both Casablanca and Algiers.
- Havana: TAAG Angolan Airlines to Luanda.
In addition, there may be charter flights from Houston to certain countries in the west of Africa, catering mainly for the oil industry in Texas.
Outside the peak travel times to Europe (e.g. summer) you might be able to get a good deal to London or Paris and book a fare from there to Africa separately on a European travel website. But don’t book the United States to Europe portion until you get confirmed on the Europe to Africa portion first. Through fares to Africa from the United States can be quite expensive, so avoiding peak travel times to Europe can sometimes save a lot. However, since new non-stop flights to Africa have recently been added, and Europe is much more expensive than it used to be, try getting a direct quote first, then see if you can do better. Another growing option is flying through the Middle East on Emirates, Etihad, Qatar or Turkish Airlines, all of which serve a reasonable selection of African & American cities.
From South America
The following routes are operated from South America:
- São Paulo: South African Airways to Johannesburg; TAAG Angolan Airlines to Luanda; Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca; Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa via Lomé, Togo.
- Rio de Janeiro: TAAG Angolan Airlines to Luanda.
- Recife: TACV Cabo Verde Airlines to Praia.
From Asia & the Middle East
If you’re flying to a small African country, Africa’s major airlines all have extensive coverage in Africa and fly to a handful of Asian destinations:
- Ethiopian Airlines: Bahrain, Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai.
- Kenyan Airways: Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing, Mumbai, Dubai.
- South African Airways: Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore.
Nearly all North African countries along with Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, & Somalia have extensive connections with the Middle East. And similarly, countries with large Muslim populations are likely to have a connection to Jedda/Mecca either year-round or seasonal (e.g. during hajj). North African destinations aside, connections with the Middle East include:
- Emirates flies from Dubai to: Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.
- Qatar Airways flies from Doha to: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda.
- Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi to: Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
- Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul to: Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Madagascar, Eritrea, Mali, South Africa, Morocco, Guinea, Benin, Senegal, Tanzania, Djibouti, Cameroon, Uganda, Sierra Leone (beginning 24 Feb. 2018), Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Mozambique, Mauritius, Somalia, Kenya, Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
Other flights from East and South Asia include the following: Cathay Pacific flights to Hong Kong. Furthermore, due to increased Chinese investment many cities have service from Beijing, cities with direct flights to Beijing-Capital include Luanda, Algiers, Lagos, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, & Harare. Malaysian Airlines serves Johannesburg from Kuala Lumpor. Korean Air serves Cairo from Seoul. Air Austral flies to Bangkok seasonally from Reunion. Air Seychelles flies to Singapore and Male from Mahe. Air Madagascar flies from Antananarivo to Bangkok & Guangzhou.Air Mauritius flies from Mauritius to Bangalore, Chennai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, & Singapore. Singapore Airlines flies to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The best option to fly from East or South Asia is likely on Emirates or Qatar, both of which have a decent selection of destinations in Asia & Africa, or via Europe on airlines such as British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa which all offer an extensive number of destinations across Africa
There are only a handful of connections to Australia:
- Qantas between Johannesburg & Sydney.
- South African Airways between Johannesburg and Perth
- Air Mauritius operates flights from Mauritius to Sydney, Melbourne, & Perth.
- Air Austral flies a triangle service to Sydney & Noumea, New Caledonia from Saint Denis, Reunion (ends in March 2012).
Qantas’ flight is one of only two commercial routes that pass over sea ice near Antarctica (the other is Qantas between Buenos Aires [Santiago after March 2012]& Sydney). International aviation rules require polar gear that takes up several rows of seats to fly over Antarctica (specifically, south of 72 degrees), so there are no commercial routes over the continent. The 747 flies close on the westward journey, Sydney-Jo’burg, because there are very strong tailwinds near Antarctica (flight-time is 11.5 hours westward vs. 14 eastward). With a clear sky and a window seat—especially on the left—you should be able to see a vast expanse of sea ice and perhaps even continental Antarctica near the horizon! Other airlines fly further north because their 2-engine planes must remain closer to diversion airports in Western Australia/the Mascarene Islands, in case of engine failure. A New Zealand-South Africa flight would be only route where the Great Circle (shortest) route would pass over continental Antarctica, but no airline has ever flown this route.
The only land connection to another continent is the 163km-wide Isthmus of Suez, which is found in Egypt (although the Sinai peninsula is sometimes considered a part of Africa for geopolitical reasons). Thus the only way to drive into Africa is to drive through Egypt. Most people driving from the Middle East to Africa travel through Jordan and take a short car ferry to Egypt to avoid transiting Israel, since Egypt’s two African neighbours (Sudan & Libya) deny entry for persons with Israeli stamps or Egyptian/Jordanian stamps indicating travel to Israel.
Despite there being just one, narrow land crossing into the continent, there are other ways to bring vehicles into Africa by short car ferries. The short crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco is crossed by several ferries daily and relatively inexpensive. Other car ferries include:
- Italy–Tunisia ferries are operated by a couple of different companies: . However, you must pass through Algeria to Mauritania/Niger -or- Libya to Egypt, both very expensive and difficult to enter with a car.
- Yemen-Djibouti ferries may be running weekly or more frequently (information about this crossing is little and conflicting) to avoid Egypt (because of the extremely high import taxes) or Sudan (as the Ethiopian-Sudan border is prone to banditry). It is also possible to cross by dhow in motorcycles or small/light vehicles.
- Port Said, Sudan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia car ferries are run daily and are a great way to avoid the very high tariffs to enter Egypt, although visas for SA are difficult to obtain.
Several overland trucks make journeys which cross between Europe or the Middle East and Africa, these companies are listed below under “Get around/Overland trucks”.
Many Mediterranean cruises stop in North African countries such Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, the Canary Islands, & Cape Verde. Some ocean liners will stop in the Canary or Cape Verde Islands on trans-Atlantic crossings or in South Africa, Madagascar, Zanzibar, the Seychelles, or Mauritius on round-the-world trips.
Elsewhere is Africa, cruises are limited to luxury or ’boutique’ cruise lines often aboard small vessels and quite expensive or “freighter cruises” which do not offer much to “passengers” but may spend a few days in a handful of ports. Grimaldi Freighter Cruises, , has weekly departures to West Africa making the round-trip from Amsterdam in 38 days.
The Seychelles, Reunion, & Mauritius are popular destinations for yachts and private vessels, but piracy around the Horn of Africa has kept a lot of the European vessels away.
For a truly unique experience, take the RMS St Helena from the UK to Cape Town via St Helena-one of the world’s most remote islands
Travel Guide Africa
Africa is plagued by visa bureaucracy and policies that differ widely from country to country. However, there are currently four customs unions in effect in Africa:
- Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland)
- West Africa (Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Niger, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone)
- Central Africa (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Gabon)
- East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi) but for visas only Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are part of the T12 East Africa Tourist Visa
Safari is the swahili word meaning to travel, however many outsiders interpret “safari” to mean a visit a game area to interact with African wildlife. The most common types of safari are “hunting safaris” where game is mainly hunted for trophy, and “photographic safaris” where wildlife is primarily watched and photographed, and the goal is often to see the Big Five. Photographic safaris can be in the form of dry or wet safaris; dry being driving safaris and walking safaris; wet being safaris from various types of water vessels. The best place for safari is on the African continent in the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, where there are dozens of parks, reserves, sanctuaries, etc, set aside for safari. Discerning safari enthusiasts will arrange their safari around the safari jurisdiction, the time of year, the type of safari vehicles, the proficiency of the guides, the camps and food, the size of the travel party, etc. A good resource for African safaris is Lion Dog African Safaris based in North America, and the African Travel Resource based in Europe.
Africa does not have tall, jagged mountain ranges comparable to the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, or Alps and there are very few mountains requiring technical gear. The Atlas Mountains across Morocco, Algeria, & Tunisia; the Drakensberg in South Africa & Lesotho; the Semian Mountains in Ethiopia; and the Rwenzori Mountains between Uganda & the DRC are the only considerable mountain ranges on the continent, all with numerous peaks which can be easily climbed. Additionally, there are some tall volcanoes along the Great Rift Valley, on the Indian Ocean islands, & in Cameroon. Some of the continent’s most climbed or unique mountains are:
- Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m) in Tanzania near the Kenya border is the continent’s highest peak, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, and perhaps the most climbed mountain on the continent, owing to its accessibility and the lack of need of technical gear. The range of scenery one passes from base to peak makes it a destination almost all climbers have on their wish list.
- Mount Kenya (5199m) is Kenya’s tallest mountain and also popular climb with many non-technical walking and climbing routes through lush scenery and is less than 100km from [airobi. The surrounding national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Jbel Toubkal (4167 m) near Marrakech, Morocco is the tallest peak in the Atlas Mountains and can be climbed without technical gear in summer.
- Mount Cameroon (4040 m) in Cameroon is an active volcano that rises straight out of the ocean and is covered in tropical forest and almost always shrouded in clouds/mist. Fast-paced hikes to the top and back are possible in a day.
- Mount Nyiragongo (3470 m) in the DRC on the Rwanda border is one of just 3-4 volcanoes in the world with a lava lake in its crater. A climb takes ~8 hours and involves camping on a ledge at the top—a safe 700 m above the lake—for the night (of course, the steaming, bubbling lava is more spectacular at night).
Abseiling and rock climbing can be done in many parts of Africa, with many opportunities in South Africa.
Trekking & hiking
Most of Africa’s mountain ranges and highlands are suitable for trekking. The Drakensberg in South Africa & Lesotho, Ethiopian Highlands, and Mali’s Dogon Country are the most popular trekking destinations in Africa and most guidebooks to these countries describe the most popular routes. In the dense jungles of the CAR & DRC treks, almost always organized, to pygmy settlements are available. Established trekking routes exist in the forests of Guinea’s Fouta Djallon highlands and Cameroon.
The Aïr Massif in Niger is popular for hiking around its sand scraped rock formations and oases, usually short distances from your camel or vehicle transport. Hiking can also be done in many forests with established paths. In Uganda, Rwanda, & the adjacent DRC, hiking to see the endangered mountain gorilla is a major tourism draw, although permits are US$500 to spend hours hiking through tropical forests to spend 1 hour in close proximity to the gorillas.
There are a good number of great scuba diving sites across Africa. The Red Sea off Egypt offers clear, tranquil waters. Diving in the Indian Ocean is common off all islands and on the continent from Kenya south. Diving in South Africa is most famous for “shark dives”, where divers are lowered in cages to watch sharks feed on bait, although other diving opportunities exist. Few locations inland are popular with divers; Lake Malawi—which is clear, deep and filled with unique species—is the only lake with a significant number of dive operators.
Relax on a beach
Africa has a very long coastal line with thousands of beautiful beaches as it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west