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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!