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Lonely Planet Africa

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Africa is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Take a refreshing dip at Victoria Falls, explore the ancient pyramids of Egypt, or take a walking safari in South Luangwa National Park; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Africa and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Africa Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including history, local customs, music and wildlife
  • Over 235 maps
  • Useful features - including Month by Month (annual festival calendar), Itineraries (suggested routes that maximise your time and money), and Planning Safaris
  • Coverage of Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Egypt, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices)

  • Zoom-in maps and images bring it all up close and in greater detail
  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps let you stay offline to avoid roaming and data charges
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Easily navigate and jump effortlessly between maps and reviews
  • Speedy search capabilities get you to what you need and want to see
  • Use bookmarks to help you shoot back to key pages in a flash
  • Visit the websites of our recommendations by touching embedded links
  • Adding notes with the tap of a finger offers a way to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Inbuilt dictionary to translate unfamiliar languages and decode site-specific local terms

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Africa, our most comprehensive guide to Africa, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

  • Looking for just a few of the destinations included in this guide? Check out the relevant Lonely Planet Country Guides or Regional Guides, such as Lonely Planet Morocco or Lonely Planet Southern Africa.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

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Country Map

ePub

 

    Algeria

ePub

Algeria

pop 37.4 million

Africa’s largest country lies just a short hop from Europe and, with tourists still a novelty, offers attractions as unpeopled as they are varied. The capital, Algiers, is one of the Maghreb’s most urbane and charismatic cities, with a heady, nostalgic mix of colonial and modernist architecture, and a traditional medina at its vertiginous heart. Across the north are stunning coastlines, lush rural hinterland and a number of well-preserved Roman cities.

Algeria’s trump card is, though, its extraordinary Saharan region. Whether it’s a glimpse of the sand seas that surround Timimoun, or a plunge headlong into the far south from Tamanrasset, these are the desert landscapes of dream and legend.

Perhaps best of all, Algerians welcome visitors with warmth and a genuine curiosity. For accessible adventure and a complex, enthralling cultural odyssey, head for Algeria now.

Nov–Apr Less fierce temperatures = high season in the Sahara (the autumn date harvest a bonus).

 

    Egypt

ePub

Egypt

pop 83 million

Herodotus let the cat out of the bag in the 5th century BC, leaving the door open for over a millennium of conquerors and adventurers to gawp, graffiti and pilfer Egypt’s mammoth racks of pharaonic rubble. Today it may be ‘gawping-only’ allowed but these ancient monuments still inspire the same reverence in travellers as they have for centuries.

Walk away from the click of a million camera-shutters for a minute though and you’ll discover Egypt isn’t just mummies and colossal columns. Sink into a meditative stupor of shisha (hookah) smoking in a cafe. Bed down on a desert dune. Watch the sun rise over the palm-tree-fringed Nile banks. Stand streetside when the call to prayer wafts over the nightmare symphony of car horns. Modern Egypt can frustrate and confound but it enchants in equal measures. The temples, tombs and pyramids will still be there when you get back to them; basking in their sheer awesomeness as they have done since time immemorial.

 

    Libya

ePub

Libya

Libya is a classic North African destination and its primary appeal derives from its position as an ancient crossroads of civilisations – these civilisations bequeathed to the Libyan coast some of the finest Roman and Greek ruins in existence, among them Leptis Magna, Cyrene and Sabratha. This is also one of the best places in Africa to experience the Sahara Desert, from seas of sand the size of Switzerland and sheltering palm-fringed lakes (the Ubari Sand Sea) to remote massifs adorned with prehistoric rock art (the Jebel Acacus), labyrinthine caravan towns (Ghadames) and an isolated black-as-black volcano (Wawa al-Namus) in the desert’s heart.

The upheaval caused by Libya’s democratic revolution in 2011–12 continues, but Libya’s tourism and transport infrastructure are excellent. As such, once peace returns fully to the country, expect it to be one of the hottest travel destinations on the continent.

» Leptis Magna One of the world’s best-preserved Roman cities looking out across the Mediterranean

 

    Morocco

ePub

Morocco

212 / pop 33.3 million

For many travellers Morocco might be just a short hop by budget airline, or by ferry from Spain, but culturally it’s a much further distance to travel. On arrival, the regular certainties of Europe are swept away by the full technicolour arrival of Africa and Islam. It’s a complete sensory overload.

Tangier – that faded libertine on the coast – has traditionally been a first port of call, but the winds quickly blow you along the coast to cosmopolitan, movie-star-famous Casablanca and the whitewashed fishing-port gem Essaouira. Inland the great imperial cities of Marrakesh and Fez attract visitors in droves; the winding streets of their ancient medinas hold enough surprises to fill a dozen repeat trips.

If you really want to escape from everything, Morocco still has a couple of trump cards. The High Atlas Mountains seem custom-made for hiking, with endless trails between Berber villages, and North Africa’s highest peak to conquer.

Morocco can feel like another world, but you don’t need a magic carpet to get there.

 

    Sudan

ePub

Sudan

Wake at the break of day under the golden pyramids of godlike kings of old; traverse a searing desert to the place where two Niles become one and watch a million blood red fish swarm through gardens of coral. Whichever way you look at it, there’s just no denying that among Sudan’s sweeping hills of sand lie treasures the rest of the world are only just beginning to understand.

Until July 2011 Sudan was the biggest country in Africa, but now, with South Sudan having broken away to form a new nation, maps of Africa are being redrawn. This redefining of national boundaries is making for huge changes, geographically, politically, financially and culturally, for the Sudanese. But for a traveller some things never change; Sudanese hospitality remains second to none, and for most people, travelling through Sudan is such an eye-opening and rewarding experience that many come away saying that Sudan was their favourite country in Africa.

Nov–Feb Winter offers perfect temperatures and clear skies.

 

    Tunisia

ePub

Tunisia

216 / pop 10.67 million

It’s but a slim wedge of North Africa’s vast expanse, but Tunisia has enough history, cultural diversity and extremes of landscape to fill a country many times its size. With a sand-fringed, jasmine-scented coast, it’s a destination usually equated with Mediterranean sun holidays. But get beyond the beaches and you’ll find stunning Roman sites, forested hinterland, Saharan dunes and mountain oases, all of which can be experienced in a few days.

The country’s tourist sector has struggled mightily since the historic Jasmine Revolution of 2011. Isolated incidents of instability grab international headlines, but it’s essentially business as usual. Tunis, the capital, continues to offer an enthralling mix of tradition and modernity, Islamic serenity and seaside hedonism. Surprisingly, while much of the tourist industry founders, there’s a number of new guesthouses and small hotels popping up throughout the country. Now, more than ever, Tunisians will welcome you with open arms.

 

    Benin

ePub

Benin

pop 9.6 million

The birthplace of voodoo and a pivotal platform of the slave trade for nearly three centuries, Benin is steeped in a rich and complex history still very much in evidence across the country.

A visit to this small, club-shaped nation could therefore not be complete without exploring the Afro-Brazilian heritage of Ouidah, Abomey and Porto Novo, learning about spirits and fetishes.

But Benin will also wow visitors with its natural beauty, from the palm-fringed beach idyll of the Atlantic coast to the rugged scenery of the north. The Parc National de la Pendjari is one of the best wildlife parks in West Africa. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants and hundreds of other species thrive here.

In fact, Benin is wonderfully tourist friendly. There are good roads, a wide range of accommodation options and ecotourism initiatives that offer travellers the chance to delve deeper into Beninese life. Now is an ideal time to go because the country sits on the cusp of discovery.

Nov–Feb Warm and dry weather. Prime wildlife watching. Harmattan can produce hazy skies.

 

    Burkina Faso

ePub

Burkina Faso

pop 17 million

Burkina may not have many big-ticket attractions, yet it invariably wins the hearts of travellers for the warmth of its welcome. The Burkinabé are disarmingly charming and easygoing, and wherever you go you’ll be greeted with a memorable bonne arrivée (welcome).

The country’s other big draws are its enchanting landscapes – from atmospheric Sahelian plains, to rolling savannah and surprising geology – and the lively cultural scene. Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina’s two largest and gloriously named cities, are famous for their musical traditions and beautiful handicrafts. Throw in Fespaco, Africa’s premier film festival, held in the capital every odd-numbered year, and there’s enough to engage your mind and senses for a couple of weeks or so.

Tourism infrastructure is fairly limited, but there is a handful of gems, especially in Ouaga, Bobo and Banfora, as well as family-run, simple campements (guesthouses) in more remote areas.

 

    Cameroon

ePub

Cameroon

pop 20.1 million

Cameroon is Africa’s throbbing heart, a crazed, sultry mosaic of active volcanoes, white-sand beaches, thick rainforest and magnificent parched landscapes broken up by the bizarre rock formations of the Sahel. With both Francophone and Anglophone regions, not to mention some 230 local languages, the country is a vast ethnic and linguistic jigsaw, yet one that, in contrast to so many of its neighbours, enjoys a great deal of stability.

With good infrastructure (think decent roads and functioning trains), travel is a lot easier here than in many parts of Africa. Still, you’ll miss none of those indicators that you’re in the middle of this fascinating continent: everyone seems to be carrying something on their heads, makossa music sets the rhythm, the street smells like roasting plantains and African bliss is just a piece of grilled fish and a sweating beer away.

Nov–Feb It’s dry but not too hot, though you can usually expect a harmattan haze.

 

    Côte d’Ivoire

ePub

Côte d’Ivoire

225 / pop 21.9 million

Blighted by recent conflict but bejewelled by beaches and rainforests, it would be a shame to sidestep Cote d’Ivoire because of its baggage.

Cote d’Ivoire is a stunner, shingled with starfish-studded sands, and forest roads so orange they resemble strips of bronzing powder.

In the south, the Parc National de Taï hides secrets, species and nut-cracking chimps under the boughs of its trees, while the peaks and valleys of Man offer a highland climate, fresh air and local art.

The beach resorts of low-key Assinie and arty Grand Bassam were made for weekend retreats from Abidjan, the capital in all but name, where lagoons wind their way between skyscrapers and cathedral spires pierce the blue heavens.

May–Jul Storms to rival those in Oct–Nov; be prepared for buckets of rain and lightning.

Jun–Oct Wet in the north but humid with bursts of rain in the south. Temperatures about 28°C.

 

    The Gambia

ePub

The Gambia

pop 1.8 million

The tiny sliver of Africa’s smallest country is wedged into surrounding Senegal, and is seen as a splinter in its side, or the tongue that makes it speak, depending on who you talk to. For many, The Gambia is a country with beaches that invite visitors to laze and linger on package tours. But there’s more than sun and surf.

Small fishing villages, nature reserves and historic slaving stations are all within easy reach of the clamorous Atlantic resorts. Star-studded ecolodges and small wildlife parks dot the inland like a green belt around the coast and The Gambia is a bird lovers’ utopia: on a leisurely river cruise, you’ll easily spot more than 100 species while your pirogue charts an unhurried course through mangrove-lined wetlands and lush gallery forests. You won’t be able to resist wielding binoculars with the excellent network of guides.

 

    Ghana

ePub

Ghana

pop 25 million

Hailed as West Africa’s golden child, Ghana deserves its place in the sun. One of Africa’s great success stories, the country is reaping the benefits of a stable democracy in the form of fast-paced development. And it shows: Ghana is suffused with the most incredible energy.

With its welcoming beaches, gorgeous hinterland, rich culture, vibrant cities, diverse wildlife, easy transport and affable inhabitants, it’s no wonder Ghana is sometimes labelled ‘Africa for beginners’.

It’s easy to come here for a week or a month, but no trip can be complete without a visit to Ghana’s coastal forts, poignant reminders of a page of history that defined our modern world.

Travel north and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in a different country, with a different religion, geography and cultural practices. The beauty is that this diversity exists so harmoniously, a joy to experience and a wonder to behold in uncertain times.

 

    Guinea

ePub

Guinea

Imagine you’re travelling on smooth highway, and then get tempted by a tiny, dusty turn-off into rugged terrain, where surprising beauty and treacherous vistas define the route. Guinea is that turn-off. This is a country blessed with amazing landscapes; from the mountain plateau Fouta Djalon to wide Sahelian lands and thick forests.

Overland drivers are drawn here by rugged tracks, and the challenge of steering their vehicles over rocks and washed-out paths. Nature lovers can lose themselves on long hikes past plunging waterfalls, proud hills and tiny villages, or track elephants through virgin rainforest. While Guinea is not famed for its beaches, those it does have are stunning, and often deserted.

» Îles de Los Stretch out on palm-fringed strands, sipping fresh coconut juice

» Fouta Djalon Ramble through the mountains and swim in the waterfalls of this majestic mountain plateau

 

    Guinea-Bissau

ePub

Guinea-Bissau

245 / pop 1.5 million

For a country that consistently elicits frowns from heads of state and news reporters, Guinea-Bissau will pull a smile from even the most world-weary traveller. The jokes here, like the music, are loud but tender. The bowls of grilled oysters are served with a lime sauce spicy enough to give a kick, but not so strong as to mask the bitterness. The buildings are battered and the faded colonial houses bowed by sagging balconies, but you’ll see beauty alongside the decay.

Here, bare silver trees spring up like antler horns between swathes of elephant grass, and cashew sellers tease each other with an unmistakably Latin spirit. Board a boat for the Bijagós, where you can watch hippos lumber through lagoons full of fish and spot turtles nesting.

Despite painful wars, coups and cocaine hauls, Guinea-Bissau buzzes with joy, even when daily life is tough and the future bleak. There must be magic in that cashew juice.

Dec–Feb The year’s coolest months, when sea turtles emerge from their nests.

 

    Liberia

ePub

Liberia

231 / pop 4.1 million

It wasn’t long ago that Liberians talked with obvious nostalgia of ‘normal days’. Now, over a decade after the war has ended, ‘normal days’ are back in this gorgeous green land.

They can be seen in the Liberian designer who’s launched a fashion store in Monrovia; the former refugee who runs a motorbike-taxi business; the Liberian surfer who’s touring West Africa and the salesman investing in ecotourism.

You might be among his customers, leaning back in a string hammock on the edge of a forest singing with tropical birds. Or you might visit Monrovia, exploring the relics of Liberia’s rich history and the American influence that still shapes it. Sapo National Park is one of the most stunning patches of rainforest left in West Africa, while the sands of pretty Robertsport are shingled with fishing canoes and huge granite gems.

Today’s ‘normal days’ are the spark that will light your travels in Liberia.

Jan–May This is the hot, dry season, so head to the beaches. The mercury can easily top 32°C.

 

    Mali

ePub

Mali

223 / pop 14.5 million

Like an exquisite sandcastle formed in a harsh desert landscape, Mali is blessed by an extraordinary amount of beauty, wonders, talents and knowledge.

Yet for now, it’s landscapes, monuments, mosques and music bars are off-limits, sealed from tourists by a conflict that is threatening the culture of this remarkable country.

The beating heart of Mali is Bamako, where Ngoni and Kora musicians play to crowds of dancing Malians from all ethnicities, while in the Dogon country, villages still cling to the cliffs as they did in ancient times.

Further west, Fula women strap silver jewellery to their ears and their belongings to donkeys, forming caravans worthy of beauty pageants as they make their way across the hamada (dry, dusty scrubland).

And in the northeast, the writings of ancient African civilizations remain locked in the beautiful libraries of Timbuktu.

» Dogon Country Rose-coloured villages, big blue skies, sacred crocodiles and sandstone cliffs

 

    Mauritania

ePub

Mauritania

222 / pop 3.36 million

If West Africa is a playground for overlanders, then Mauritania often seems to be little more than a transit between the better-known attractions of Marrakesh, Dakar or Bamako. That’s a shame because Mauritania has some tremendous secrets to reveal.

Just as impressive as the cultural diversity is some of the continent’s grandest scenery. The Adrar region offers epic sand dunes, eye-popping plateaus and Africa’s biggest monolith. The Tagânt has similar charms, and both hide ancient (and World Heritage–listed) caravan towns – Chinguetti, Ouadâne and Oualâta. The World Heritage feast continues along the coast at Parc National du Banc d’Arguin, which attracts millions of migratory birds and is a renowned birdwatching site.

If you just breeze through, you’ll miss out on a truly incredible country. No one in Mauritania is in a rush, and you shouldn’t be either.

Nov–Mar The most pleasant months to visit the desert, although nights can be cold.

 

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