Which African countries are best for backpacking?

Not many people ever think of backpacking in Africa. Either security concerns or a lack of interest seems to put people off, but it may surprise you to learn that there are large parts of the continent that are actually really impressive to travel – and not just in the usual places like Morocco and South Africa, either.

Rural life in Bahir Dar
Rural life in Bahir Dar

Ethiopia has a backpacking circuit all of its own with culture and natural beauty abound. Beginning in the capital city of Addis Ababa, you should head north to Bahir Dar, which is the gateway to Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls. Even further north you have the wonders of the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, and for amazing scenery why not check out the Simien Mountains National Park – just watch out for those baboons!

The magic of Marrakech
The magic of Marrakech
Luxor Temple
Luxor Temple

Morocco and Egypt need no introduction to the average backpacker. In fact, backpackers were coming to these countries way back in the day when Afghanistan was still popular with hippies! Marrakech is the main place to see in Morocco, although depending on time, you may also want to head west and visit the seaside town of Essaouira. In Egypt, there is security concerns nowadays, but if you want to visit the country then the immense temples and statues in Luxor should be your first port of call!

Accra is a great place to chill and eat!
Accra is a great place to chill and eat!
Togo has some great rural villages in the north
Togo has some great rural villages in the north
The People of Benin are very friendly
The People of Benin are very friendly

In west Africa, you may want to consider a road trip through Ghana, Togo, and Benin. I didn’t know this was before detailed planning, but from Accra in Ghana you can hop on a coach to Benin – via Togo – and experience all that these charming and safe countries have to offer. Ghana is often described as “Africa-lite” (meaning that it is easy to get used to by foreigners), and it is in Benin where you will encounter the birthplace of Voodoo! Watch out for those fetish dolls!

Gorillas in the Mist
Gorillas in the Mist
Mount Kilimanjaro: The Roof of Africa!
Mount Kilimanjaro: The Roof of Africa!

Further south, it is possible to travel overland from Uganda to Tanzania (or perhaps even Kenya). The border crossing between the two countries is a challenge, but nowadays many people do it. It must be incredible to see the tropical jungles where gorillas live and then experience the savannah where lions and other safari animals roam. Tanzania, in particular, has so much else to see other than just wildlife, including the island of Zanzibar and Mount Kilimanjaro!

Safari drives in Zambia are usually very secluded
Safari drives in Zambia are usually very secluded
The "Great Zimbabwe" Ruins
The “Great Zimbabwe” Ruins

Zambia and Zimbabwe are relatively off-the-beaten-track alternatives to other safari nations such as Tanzania and Kenya. These two countries share the picturesque Victoria Falls – although the sights are actually slightly better from the Zimbabwean side. Getting visas for Zimbabwe is not easy for most nationalities, but this relatively untouched country is certainly worth the effort!

Tsingy Stone Forest
Tsingy Stone Forest

Madagascar is VERY hard work, but very rewarding for backpackers who have a real interest in the culture of the country. The sights around this huge island off the west coast of Africa are very spread out, and after arrival in the capital Antananarivo you are faced with drives of many hours to points of interest, such as the Stone Forest, the Avenue of the Baobabs, and to the many exquisite national parks – and who knows, you may see a native lemur while you’re there!

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Which African countries are best for backpacking?

  1. I’m sad (but not surprised) to see that Nigeria didn’t make this list. Tourism is certainly not the focus of the government but the industry is witnessing big improvements lead by young locals passionate about travel.

    I understand that safety and security are valid concerns, so you’d typically need to be more cautious in certain parts of the country.

    As for backpacking , south west Nigeria is good to begin with. There, you can go hiking, visit traditional palaces, waterfalls, etc. The east also has some cool places to visit.

    I hope you get to visit soon ☺

    Like

    1. Hi! 🙂 I have had many people recommend Nigeria to me in the recent past, so maybe one of these days I will have to see what all the fuss was about. I could even add it on at the end of my Benin-Togo-Ghana itinerary! Thanks for the tips of what to do and where to go. Would you say staying in Lagos is a bad idea?

      Like

      1. Lagos would most likely be your first port of entry, so no. Plus, you’re already accustomed to culture shocks and chaos ☺, so you should be fine.

        If you choose to go on a southwest tour, it would also be the point where you start and end. Abuja is nice too (north central and FCT) and Calabar or Uyo (around the east).

        Amarachi.

        Like

  2. I was backpacking back in the 70s, and in Greece I heard horror stories from three people (all women, all teachers) who had made it through Africa into Europe – racing a car through one border with gunfire behind you, and stripped of almost all possessions by the ‘friendlier’ border guards.

    Like

  3. It’s a lot easier to drive through Africa these days, I have driven through 42 countries on the continent, one or two border posts were painful, but more because of how slow they were rather than dangerous!

    Liked by 1 person

Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s