More and more people are adding the best countries in Africa to their bucket list places to visit. Our continent is rich in wildlife, and magnificent natural beauty. This beauty had captivated many of the early visitors to Africa. They loved it so much that they wanted to keep it all for themselves, at any cost. Once again, as Africans, we open our doors to one and all to enjoy our uniquely African experience. Below are the 18 best countries in Africa that should be on your 2021 bucket list.
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Morocco is one of the most interesting and best countries to visit in Africa. Due to its location and history, it is a melting pot of cultures with lots of unique experiences. The main reasons to visit include the architecture, food and of course the amazing hospitality of the locals.
You can unite all those reasons in one experience by staying a few nights in one of the beautiful riads in Marrakech. They are typical examples of Moroccan architecture with a central courtyard and guestrooms on the upper floors. A lot of love goes into the interior design with intricate tile work and traditional furniture. Most riads are located in the medina, the old part of the city. So, staying there gives you the perfect starting point for your sightseeing in Marrakech too.
Make sure to enjoy at least one home-cooked dinner in the riad. The cooking will be much more authentic than what you will find in most restaurants. And of course, the staff will treat you with the hospitality that is customary for Morocco.
With stunning landscapes all around, the High Atlas Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and of course the Sahara Desert, there is no wrong time of the year to visit Morocco. During the summer months, the coast is perfect for swimming and surfing. In winter you can visit the Sahara, ride a camel and enjoy the clearest night sky for stargazing. And in between, the mountains call for a trekking adventure.
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Full of scenic beauty, and friendly people, South Africa is an incredible destination and one of the best countries to visit in Africa in 2021. You’ll find breathtaking coastlines, stunning canyons, dramatic mountains, wildlife, and Cape Town. Affectionately referred to as The Mother City by locals, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. If Africa was a country, then Cape Town would surely be its capital.
You can make incredible safari memories at one of the many National Parks, as you tick off all of the “Big 5” (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino) during exhilarating game drives through the golden savannah.
When you visit Cape Town, enjoy some time in the Cape Winelands. Hike to the top of Table Mountain and abseil down it if you dare, or take a helicopter ride for a bird’s eye view.
Journey to the breathtaking scenery at Cape Point. Don’t miss Boulders Beach, famous for its colony of adorable African penguins.
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In Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, you can visit Nelson Mandela’s house and explore the history in Soweto. Explore the Cango Caves or visit an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. If you like adrenaline activities, go cage diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai’s Shark Alley. South Africa really does have it all!
The best time to visit South Africa depends on what you would like to explore. The best time for a safari is between May and September. In September, the wildlife viewing is excellent with low grass, and bare bushes and trees. The best time for a beach holiday is November to March. Otherwise, South Africa is a fantastic year-round destination.
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Zimbabwe is a somewhat off the radar African Destination and one of Africa ‘s less visited countries. Countries like Namibia, Botswana, and Kenya are considered the best in Africa, by tourists, and they do indeed have a more well-developed tourism infrastructure. But Zimbabwe is worth considering because it has a few things that are really spectacular.
First among them is Victoria Falls. At 2,900 feet high, it’s one of the world’s largest and most spectacular waterfalls. Victoria Falls alone is enough to make Zimbabwe one of the best countries to visit in Africa. You can also see the falls from the Zambia side of the border, but the Zimbabwe side has a well-developed scenic hike and many providers who offer helicopter tours. While at Victoria Falls, you can also take a lovely sunset cruise on the upper Zambezi river.
Another reason to visit Zimbabwe is for wildlife. Hwange National Park and Mana Pools have many of the same animals as Botswana with giraffes, elephants, lions, and wild African dogs (or Painted dogs). Hwange is just a few hours drive from Victoria Falls and you can easily include both in the same itinerary. Zimbabwe has limited federal resources and they rely on partners like Painted Dog Conservation to work on wildlife conservation, community engagement, and anti-poaching efforts.
When to visit this lovely African country depends upon what you are after. They have a warm climate throughout the year with more cloud cover and muggy weather from September to February. It’s less muggy from April to August, but you are less likely to see the wild dogs during that time of year because they are denning. The elephants and lions are out and about all year.
Zimbabwe is very close to Botswana, one of the best African countries to visit also, so the “best time to go” is when you are already planning a trip to Botswana. It’s definitely worth adding it to your itinerary.
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Tanzania is clearly up there with the best countries to visit in Africa for bucket list-worthy experiences. Whether you seek adventurous activities or prefer to enjoy the landscapes and see wildlife, there are activities for all types of travelers.
Adventure seekers will love the opportunity to climb the tallest summit on the continent, Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) high. It’ll take a minimum of 6 days to complete this challenging trek.
Wildlife and animal lovers will enjoy going on a safari and seeing animals in their natural habitats. Most people head to the Northern Circuit to see the wildlife at Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Tarangire National Park, and/or Ngorongoro Crater.
You can’t miss the Great Migration of wildebeests and zebras at Serengeti, which is considered to be the best wildlife experience in Africa, or the high concentration of elephants at Tarangire. Besides the Northern Circuit, you can also go on a safari in the Western and Southern Circuit.
Some of the best places to visit in this captivating African country, Tanzania, include an organic coffee plantation, as coffee is the country’s largest export crop, and waterfalls such as Materuni Waterfalls, nearby Moshi.
The best time to visit Tanzania is from June to October for the dry season so you’ll encounter larger crowds. November to April is the rainy season, yet certain areas of the country will not rain. Have an amazing time when you’re in Tanzania!
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Located just off the East coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an African tropical paradise of a country, full of pristine, white-sand beaches with turquoise lapping waters. While it is a dream destination for some rest and relaxation, it also offers plenty more for those looking for a more cultural experience.
Although more commonly referred to as Zanzibar, the island is officially known as Unguja. It is the largest island in the Zanzibar archipelago and is an autonomous region of Tanzania. However, despite its affiliations with Zanzibar, it has preserved its own unique heritage and culture.
Having been inhabited for over 20,000 years, Zanzibar has a wealth of history. Due to its strategic location, it has been an important trade center for many years. It has a long history of trade, unfortunately also including the slave trade and a rich colonial heritage. This country also has a unique mix of African, Arab, and colonial cultures that can be most clearly seen in the capital city of Stone Town.
It is this melting pot of culture that led to the city being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Changuu Island, or Prison Island, also provides an interesting glimpse into the island’s darker past. Just a short boat ride from Zanzibar, it was once used to detain slaves, and then later as a quarantine island for those with yellow fever. Today, it serves as a nature reserve for giant tortoises and makes for a great day trip.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing, then head to the North of the island to Nungwi and Kendwa beaches where you can find postcard-perfect scenes to soak up some sun. Look out for the traditional dhow boats sailing by. You can also discover an incredible vibrant underwater world along the Mnemba Atoll on a snorkel or dive trip.
For the best weather, visit from June – September or January – February, during the dry seasons.
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Kenya is located in East Africa and the native language is Swahili although many people speak English. One of the incredible things about Kenya is its pleasant people. Kenyan people are warm, friendly and inviting to foreign visitors and are always willing to assist or share a story.
Kenya is known for its diverse wildlife and as a popular destination for an African Safari. An African Safari is a once in a lifetime trip and there are many options for safari including the Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo National Park Safaris.
Kenya has a total of 23 National Parks, 28 National Reserves, 4 marine National Parks, 6 marine National Reserves, and 4 national sanctuaries. These areas all have protected wildlife although they are not all fully fenced so the animals sometimes roam freely beyond the protected zones.
The best time to visit Kenya is during the dry season which runs from July to September. In July, the great migration takes place. This is a bucket list event for many people.
It is also possible to travel to Kenya during the rainy seasons which occur twice a year, from March to May and October to December. The advantage of traveling during the rainy season is that there are fewer tourists and options for accommodation and the safari may be cheaper during this time.
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Botswana, in particular the Chobe National Park, is one of the best places in Africa to see the wildlife in abundance.
Every trip to Southern Africa must have at least a day in the famous Okavango Delta for its teeming wildlife that can be viewed from the water. Boat safaris are amazing because they allow an eye vantage point and proximity, unlike Safari trucks. Also, from the water, there are no trees blocking the views.
Chobe National Park in Botswana is amazing as it offers land Safaris as well as Boat Safaris. The best way to enjoy both is to go on a land Safari in the morning and a sunset Boat Safari in the afternoon.
The National park is home to cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles and antelope, to name a few. The Delta is also home to hundreds of bird species. It’s a paradise for exotic bird watchers and wildlife photographers.
Botswana has good infrastructure for safari. The best way to enjoy land safaris is to get in one of the safari jeeps operated by the guides. The boat safaris depart from the Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane. It’s very popular so be sure to book ahead.
The best time to visit Botswana is between May and October, when it’s dry and warm. The water in the Okavango Delta is high and it’s easy to spot wildlife. In winter, this is less expensive and there are fewer tourists. Rainy season is a good time to spot babies but it’s not very fun in the rain.
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Cape Verde is a tiny archipelago nation that boasts a wide variety of stunning landscapes. Located off the coast of Senegal in West Africa, its ten volcanic islands differ drastically in topography and tourist offerings.
Each island in Cape Verde has its own flavor. Santo Antão is, without a doubt, the archipelago’s crown jewel. With soaring green hillsides and mist-shrouded peaks, it features scenery that looks straight out of a fantasy film.
The scenery on Santo Antão is unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. It is a place where terraced mountains plunge into churning water, and where picturesque villages cling to lush hillsides. For an unforgettable trip to Santo Antão, be sure to drive through the island’s Old Road, explore the Paul Valley, visit the village of Xoxo, and hike the coastal route from Ponta do Sol to Cha da Igreja.
Beyond Santo Antão, Cape Verde’s other islands are likewise enthralling. The islands of São Vincente and Santiago lure those interested in the country’s Afro-Portuguese music and history. Touristy Sal and Boa Vista attract European sun-seekers and beach-loungers with warm waters and sandy beaches.
If you’re looking to get away from it all, far-flung Fogo, Brava, and Maio boast opportunities for authentic off-the-beaten-path travel.
Cape Verde may be a small and one the most overlooked countries in Africa, but it packs a lot of punch when it comes to beautiful places to visit. With its combination of craggy mountains and rugged coastline, the African archipelago nation is a bucket list destination that you’re unlikely to forget.
Cape Verde is a year-round travel destination. Its tropical climate means warm winter temperatures and plenty of sunshine. If you’re looking to avoid the rainy season, consider visiting between December and July.
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Situated off the East coast of Africa, Mauritius has some of the most beautiful beaches in not only Africa, but the whole world, incredible natural attractions, historical sites, and more!
Although Mauritius might be famous mainly for its beaches, it boasts many natural wonders, including the Seven Colored Earth, Eau Bleue waterfalls, Black River Gorges National Park, the UNESCO site of Le Morne Brabant, Le Souffleur, the list goes on!
You’ll definitely find many things to do in Mauritius that cater to any type of traveler, making it one of the top countries in Africa! If you’re a foodie, head to Port Louis to sample the best street food and at the same time, discover Mauritius’ colonial past. For nature lovers, make sure to visit the National park, which is free and dotted with an abundance of hiking trails and waterfalls.
The more laidback travelers can simply enjoy the beaches, snorkel at the marine park at Blue Bay or visit the smaller islands like Ile aux Cerfs and Ile aux Benitier or the less popular Ilot Sancho.
There isn’t really a specific time to visit since Mauritius is – for the most part – a year-round destination. In fact, it mostly depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re on a budget and want to score the cheapest hotel deals, plan your visit during winter between May and October. Mauritius is a tropical island, so you’ll still get pleasant sunny days with minimal rainfall.
On the other hand, if you love hiking and want to see the waterfalls at their most powerful, you should visit between December and March.
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Tunisia is a wonderful country to visit in Africa in 2021, full of warmth, both in temperature and in the kindness of the people. There’s so much variety of places and things to enjoy in Tunsia. From the beautiful beaches to the warm and vibrant culture, Tunisia is one of the best countries to consider when thinking about visiting Africa.
The medina is full of character and the winding streets are perfect to get lost in. There are lots of artisanal products being made in Tunisia and Tunis is a great place to see them, from the beautiful glass of Sadika Keskes to olive oil and wine production. With some fantastic family hotels in Tunis, this really is a wonderful place to come and base yourself.
Just outside the city is the picturesque Sidi Bou Said, the blue and white town and the fantastic archaeological site of Carthage. Don’t miss the chance to explore the rest of the country though. There’s an amazing desert, islands and a whole coastline of beaches. There are plenty more archaeological sites too, including the spectacular El Jem amphitheater. There’s also wonderful food in Tunisia, from sweet sugary Bambalouni to spicy kebabs.
Tunisia is somewhere to visit at any time of the year but comes into its own in spring and autumn where the crowds are diminished but the temperature is perfect to explore.
SAO TOME & PRINCIPE
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Sao Tome & Principe, the second smallest country in Africa and unknown to most people as a tinny island nation in the Gulf of Guinea. It is located on the Western coast of Gabon and Nigeria.
While Sao Tome doesn’t have much wildlife to brag about, the country is one of the best places in Africa to see Leatherback turtles nesting on the beaches. The best of all, this small African country can be visited all year round since it’s located exactly on the equator, there’s even an equator crossing monument.
Sao Tome is known as a very clean country in Africa and home to some of the best beaches that Africa has to offer, together with world-class and eco-friendly coffee and chocolate production.
Sao Tome is the perfect destination in Africa to visit if you want to get off the beaten path and discover a little-known destination by the most foreign tourists. Since Sao Tome is small, you can easily visit the whole country in just a few day trips from the capital, which is also named Sao Tome.
Sao Tome & Principe is not really set up for tourism, so there is very little information and tourist infrastructure in the country. However, you’re best bet is renting a car and exploring all the 170km of roads that the country has, on your own.
If you do rent a car, you can visit a few old Portuguese coffee and cocoa plantations, some of which are still in use to this day, or hike to what might be the strangest looking mountain in the world, or you can simply just relax on a paradise beach without any other tourist.
THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)
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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a fascinating country to visit and encapsulates the best of what Central Africa is supposed to be. As the second-largest country in Africa, the DRC is extremely diverse in terms of people, cultures, and languages. However, French is the official language and spoken everywhere.
The land itself is as diverse as the Congolese people. From typical African savannahs to the dense rainforests of the Congo basin to the lofty, snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori mountains. These incredible landscapes are home to some of the greatest wildlife in the world: bonobos, chimpanzees, western lowland and mountain gorillas, forest elephants and okapis.
The best and most visitor-friendly place in Africa to experience the incredible wildlife of the DRC is in Virunga National Park in Eastern DRC, on the border with Rwanda and Uganda.
In Virunga visitors can experience the best wildlife experience in Africa, or perhaps even the whole world. Mountain gorilla trekking is an experience that you’ll never forget, and should be on the top of your list of things to do in Africa. Visiting a gorilla family in the jungle clad volcanoes, being just a meter or two away from these gentle beasts is a once in a lifetime experience.
Tourists visiting Virunga are directly contributing to a worthwhile conservation project. Virunga also supports several community projects, educating and empowering the local community who live around the park, that directly benefit from tourism.
Gorilla trekking in the Congo is cheaper (and better as groups are much smaller) than in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Located right on the equator, DRC can be visited throughout the year. However, if you’re coming for the gorilla trekking, consider coming between March and May when gorilla-viewing permits are offered at a 50% discount.
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Senegal is the best country to visit in West Africa. A recognition of its rich history, national parks, and extensive coastline. Indeed, Senegal’s history goes back millennia, but some of its darker times include the slave-trade history of the Goree Island, one of the country things to see from Dakar.
Another key attraction is the Great Mosque of Touba, in the center of the country. The Lac Rose, or Lac Retba as it’s officially called, is probably the most popular attraction in Senegal, where pink hues can be present and give the lake its nickname.
With numerous national parks and reserves, wildlife photographers will enjoy bird watching in the Djoudj National Park, going on a safari at the Bandia Reserve, or searching for the endangered West African lions in the Niokolo Koba National Park.
One of Senegal’s highlights is to explore the mangroves of the Sine Saloum Delta, where local people live from traditional fishing. Horseback riding, swimming, and birdwatching are popular things to do in the Saloum.
Another top experience is cruising along the Senegal River, which separates Senegal from Mauritania and stopping by Peuhl and Toucouleurs villages. Small kids play by the river, women clean up clothes or prepare meals, and men watch herds of cows.
Given its tropical climate, the best time to visit Senegal is during the dry season, between the month of November to June.
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Namibia is one of the best road trip destinations in Africa, with its otherworldly landscape and remote wilderness. Miles and miles of unpaved roads take you through one of the oldest deserts in the world. It’s an adventurer’s dream to discover the country’s diverse wildlife, giant dunes, and the Skeleton Coast, famous for its shipwrecks caused by treacherous conditions and thick fog over the Atlantic Ocean.
Visit Sousselvei and Deadvlei, clay pans with dead camel thorn trees and some of the highest dunes in the world. The largest dune called Big Daddy is 325 meters high and offers stunning views from the top.
Book the Sandwich Harbour half-day tour with Mola Mola Safaris from Walvis Bay, where your tour guide will take you on a 4×4 excursion to see where the dunes meet the sea. Seeing the Atlantic Ocean from atop the dunes is an incredible experience.
Stay at Grootberg Lodge, a remote lodge located in Damaraland offering awe-inspiring views of the Klip River Valley.
The best time to visit Namibia is during June – October when the temperature isn’t too hot and you have the lowest chance of rainfall and clouds.
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Egypt is an incredible African country to visit, whether you are looking to relax by its beautiful beaches or you want to dive into this very sea and see a unique underwater world. Egypt is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Africa for snorkeling, where you can get an international snorkeling license.
While you won’t be short of water activities in Egypt, the country also offers a unique culture and incredible hospitality. Don’t worry if you are suddenly invited for tea while walking through the city. Use the opportunity for a nice exchange and to escape the sun for a few minutes.
I highly recommend Makadi Bay neighborhood. From there, you can go to Hurghada for a city stroll but also other tours like a day trip to the Valley of the Kings. Make sure you know beforehand which tombs you want to visit and what you want to see on your way there. That way, you will have a little head start on the other tourists.
Egypt is still the country with the most ancient discoveries in the world. And of course, it is the home one of the wonders of the world, the famous pyramids of Giza. Every person should visit Egypt at least once in a lifetime.
The best time to visit Egypt is between September and April to enjoy moderate and dry weather.
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Ethiopia is one of the most beautiful and unique countries to visit in Africa, with an incredible array of places. Still unknown to mass tourism, it’s a country that has retained all of its local character, though it’s important to understand that traveling there can be a real challenge, especially in some places.
The country is huge, so unless you have a full month to explore you will be better off selecting a few places either in the North or in the South of the country and sticking to them.
Among the best things to do in Ethiopia, there’s visiting Lalibela, world-famous for the Rock-Hewn churches which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lalibela is located one hour by plane from the capital Addis Ababa. Another place not to miss is Gondar, easily the nicest city in the country and a great starting point for a long-distance hike in the Simien Mountains, home of the beautiful gelada baboons.
The Tigray Churches are the perfect place to visit on the way from Axum to Mekele, but they can be challenging to visit if you are afraid of heights, as you will have to climb to get there!
The Danakil Depression is the hottest place on earth and easily the highlight of your trip to Ethiopia. There, you’ll be able to see the lava flows and explosions of the very active Erta Ale volcano; you will be able to float on the salt-rich waters of Lake Giulietti; and finally explore the salt flats and the colorful sulfuric springs of the Dallol.
Hiking the Simien Mountains, visiting the Tigray Churches, and exploring the Danakil Depression all require guided tours. If you wish to include the Danakil Depression in your Ethiopia itinerary, you should travel there between November and January, when temperatures are slightly lower (though still terribly hot).
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Malawi is one of the best countries to visit if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience in Africa. It is a small, landlocked country in South-eastern Africa and is often overlooked – but that is what makes it special.
It is called the Warm Heart of Africa because of the kindness its people show to strangers. You will be made to feel very welcome.
It is home to Africa’s third largest lake and one of the deepest lakes in the world, Lake Malawi. Malawi may be landlocked, but you will feel like you are at the beach on the shores of Lake Malawi. In fact, one of Africa’s best beach destinations is on Likoma Island in the middle of Lake Malawi.
If you are into music festivals, The Lake of Stars is one of the best-known music festivals in Africa. It has been running since 2003 and attracts African and international artists as well as young Malawian talent. Its exact location changes each year, but it takes place on the shores of Lake Malawi each November, and attracts large numbers of visitors to Malawi.
Wildlife viewing is generally quite low-key in Malawi, and though it does not offer the glitzy safari experience of some of its larger neighbors, there has been significant investment into its National Parks and Wildlife Reserves (of which there are 9) and animal numbers are increasing. You will also be able to enjoy your safari experience without hundreds of other safari vehicles vying for sightings of the Big 5.
The best time to visit Malawi if you are looking for good weather is during the drier months of April to the end of October with the best wildlife viewing from August to October. As the topography of Malawi is quite varied, the weather can be variable. As a general rule, the lowlands around the lake are warmer for most of the year whereas the highlands can get very cold in the winter months (June to July).
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Located off the Eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is nearly the size of France. As the third-largest island in the world, Madagascar is among the best countries to visit in Africa.
The best time to visit Madagascar is between the months of April and October. This time frame is known as the dry season, meaning that you will experience fewer rain showers—optimal for observing wild animals, hiking, and enjoying water sports activities.
Organized tours are by far the easiest way to explore this spectacular African country. Most of these tours will hit all of Madagascar’s beautiful parks and destinations found in the center of the country.
Make sure to explore Parc National Isalo which boasts a beautiful, rugged landscape filled with ample wildlife. Head over to the Avenue of the Baobabs which is home to massive trees reaching over 100 feet tall and 35 feet wide.
Another great thing to do in Madagascar is crossing the limestone peaks on rope bridges, ladders, and fixed cables at Tsingy. Nosy Be is the go-to beach paradise in Madagascar, as a popular port on Africa cruises, Nosy Be is a volcanic island that spans over 120 square miles.
During your visit to Madagascar, check out the Malagasy and French cuisine popular in the region. Also, check out Le Restaurant La Varangue and Restaurant Sakamanga in Antananarivo to truly enjoy the delicious local foods.
Some say that Africa is the birthplace of humanity. If so, all our roots lead back to Africa. This is exactly the feeling you are likely to experience when you truly embrace Africa. It’s like finally returning home after wandering for an eternity. Every country in Africa has its own unique culture, identity, and atmosphere while still retaining its typical African charm. We have showcased some of the best countries to visit in Africa, right now. To those who didn’t visit Africa yet, “it’s time to come home“.