Spanning a length of 5,000 miles and made up of 54 distinct countries, Africa is one of the largest and most diverse continents in the world.

From the vast sand dunes of the North to the soaring plateaus of the South – and everything in between – Africa boasts spectacular scenery, captivating culture, and wonderful wildlife. This is a continent where adventure truly abounds.

Plus, while other tourist destinations can often be overrun with tourists, many African hotspots are quieter and more authentic – places where outdoor adventure is all about immersive cultural experiences and embracing sustainable travel. So if you’ve always wanted to go to Africa or you’re dreaming about returning, we’ve got some inspiration for you.

Many of us will already be used to hearing about Kenyan safaris or trips to see the Egyptian pyramids. But we’ve pulled together a list of eight exciting and different African destinations for a life-changing adventure.

1. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Namibia is one of Africa’s most stunning countries, and parts of it have a truly unearthly beauty.

The seemingly endless dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Southern Namibia are just one example, but while this area might be best known for its red and orange sand, there are also canyons, mountains, and even lakes to explore here.

Sossusvlei is one of the most popular parts of the park, but it still feels wonderfully remote, and even if there are other tourists, it’s difficult to spot them in this vast sea of sand. This is a place that looks just like a painting: blackened dead trees grow out of dazzling white salt pans, and towering orange dunes roll beneath endless blue skies.

The red sand here is believed to have originated in the Kalahari around three to five million years ago, and a sense of ancient wonder pervades the whole park.

The best way to explore Sossusvlei is by 4×4, but you can trek over these mountainous dunes too – though due to the unforgiving climate, you should stick to 90-minute hikes and pack plenty of water.

But there’s much more to Namib-Naukluft than sand dunes. During the wet season, the Tsauchab River completely transforms this landscape, turning the cracked ground into an idyllic turquoise lake that’s frequented by gemsboks, ostriches, and all kinds of aquatic birds.

Sesriem Canyon is also a must-visit, and here you can camp under the desert stars after a day of exploring.

Get immersed in Namibia’s outstanding natural beauty

2. Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Africa is known around the world for its wildlife, and many of its national parks are famous across the globe. Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Kruger National Parks may be the best known, but there are many other beautiful and fascinating national parks to explore – and Chobe, in Botswana, is one of the best.

Chobe was first designated as a wildlife reserve in the 1930s, and in 1968 it became Botswana’s first national park.

Famous for its huge herds of enormous elephants, Chobe is also home to predators like lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas. Buffalos and antelopes also roam the plains, and rhinos are slowly being reintroduced. There are also more than 440 recorded bird species here too, so birdwatchers will be in their element.

Encompassing nearly 12,00 square kilometres, Chobe is the size of a small country, and there are three distinct areas within the park. These are Chobe Riverfront, where you can spot prides of lions and herds of buffaloes and elephants from your boat; the Linyanti Marshes, which are a haven for predators; and soulful Savuti, which has a wonderfully remote appeal.

If you’re an independent traveller, you can go on a self-driving safari, where you can camp under the gleaming Botswana stars – but if you fancy a bit more comfort, there are plenty of luxury lodges to choose from too. Wherever you stay in Chobe, it’ll be an unforgettable adventure.

3. Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Few countries are so misunderstood as Ethiopia. Its association with drought and famine mean many people don’t consider visiting it, but really it’s one of the most beautiful and distinct countries in Africa. As the most populated landlocked country on Earth, it’s also extraordinarily diverse, with a fascinating history and unique culture.

But it’s Ethiopia’s landscape that’s perhaps its most powerful calling card; in particular, the Simien Mountains National Park in the far north. This is a land of primaeval forests, mist-wrapped peaks, alien-like plants, and exotic wildlife – and if you enjoy hiking, there are few places in Africa that’ll offer such breathtaking views.

The Simien Mountains National Park is studded with deep ravines and jagged pinnacles, and as you trek up steep ridges, along alpine meadows, and through the fertile lowlands, you’ll be blown away by the dazzling diversity. From the top of sheer cliffs, you can look down onto thundering waterfalls, forested valleys, and rocky turrets shrouded by ribbons of mist.

But the wildlife here is no less special. The mountains are home to the walia ibex, the gelada baboon, and the Ethiopian wolf, as well as leopards, desert lynxes, spotted hyenas, and golden jackals. Thick-billed ravens and bearded vultures also soar through the sky.

Even the plants are incredible, and the giant lobelias and red hot poker plants will make you question what planet you’re on.

4. Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia

If you’re looking for an African adventure but can’t decide whether to focus on wildlife, culture, or natural scenery, then Zambia might be the destination for you – in particular, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. This might be one of Zambia’s smallest national parks, but it’s undeniably the most unique.

Part of what makes Mosi-oa-Tunya so special is that it’s the home of Victoria Falls, one of the largest and most spectacular waterfalls in the world. If you have the nerve, you can swim in the Devil’s Pool, a natural pool that forms right at the precipitous edge of the falls. You can also go white-water rafting on the Zambezi River, take a micro-flight over the falls, or even go bungee jumping.

There’s also the wildlife, which includes one of Africa’s only populations of white rhinos. You can track these incredible creatures on foot, but because they’re so well protected by anti-poaching rangers, you have to join special tours.

There are also elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, monkeys, and antelope in the park, so you’ll spot lots of exotic animals! If you fancy facing your fears and getting up close to some of the world’s largest predators, you can also take a canoe safari along the Zambezi River!

Livingstone will probably be your base while you’re exploring Mosi-oa-Tunya – and this laidback, friendly town is home to the biggest and best museum in Zambia, where you can learn all about the history and culture of this beautiful country.

5. Table Mountain, South Africa

Table Mountain, South Africa

When you think of Cape Town, chances are it’s an image of Table Mountain that first springs to mind.

At around 600 million years old, this 1086-metre flat-topped mountain is an iconic sight – and until you’ve stood on the summit and taken in the breathtaking coastal views in front of you, you can’t really say you’ve visited Cape Town!

However, Table Mountain isn’t just a mountain – it’s also a national park that stretches for 220 square kilometres. The scenery here is astonishingly diverse, and you can walk through shady forests, along boulder-strewn beaches, and over hulking granite hills. If you don’t fancy trekking to the top of the mountain, you can take a cable car to the top.

Aside from its staggering natural beauty, Table Mountain is such a wonderful destination because of all the different adventures it offers. The park is a hotspot for abseiling, paragliding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, snorkelling, diving, and wildlife watching – so whatever you’re into, you’ll find something to test your limits.

But Table Mountain is more than just a stunning backdrop or a place for adventure; it’s the very heart of Cape Town itself, and it splits the city into clear zones.

A trip here will also allow you to visit historic vineyards and picturesque gardens, stroll along the bustling waterfront, learn about the country’s apartheid history, and generally make the most of this vibrant and unique metropolis.

See Table Mountain up close

6. Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antananarivo, Madagascar

The African island of Madagascar is a place like no other. As the fourth-largest island in the world, it’s more of a continent than a country – but even this doesn’t do it justice.

Madagascar is so unique that it feels like another plane. It’s a place that’s only been occupied by humans for around 1,300 years, a primal Eden that’s home to 5% of all animal and plant species.

Even Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo is like no other city. As the main arrival and departure point on the island, most people will pass through Antananarivo – known as ‘Tana’ to the locals. But while many visitors head straight out, preferring to focus on the weird and wonderful creatures that this island is known for, to skip this colourful city is to do Madagascar a disservice.

Antananarivo is the cultural heart of this country. It’s a city built around emerald rice paddies, steep hills, and shimmering lakes where you can stroll along cobbled streets, and past ramshackle shanties and pastel-coloured colonial houses. You can learn about the city’s fascinating history on a walking tour, sample the excellent food, and lose yourself in the bustling artisan markets.

But of course, a visit to Madagascar isn’t complete without exploring its wilderness, and if you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find that here.

You can trek through sandstone canyons, over jagged mountains, and through sultry rainforests; spot ring-tailed lemurs, carnivorous fossas, and colourful chameleons; and dive beneath the turquoise ocean to discover a hidden underwater world.

7. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

For animal lovers, few wildlife experiences compare to the magic of seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to approximately 400 gorillas, with around 12 different families living within this steep mountain rainforest, which covers over 330 square kilometres.

Spending time with mountain gorillas in their own home can be an otherworldly experience – and looking into the soulful brown eyes of these gentle giants and admiring their beauty and brawn is mesmerising. Their human-like mannerisms can also be startling to see – but then again, we do share 98% of the same DNA.

If you want to track mountain gorillas, you’ll have to join an official tour, as you’ll need a guide and to follow strict rules. Once you find a family of gorillas, you’ll be able to spend an hour in their presence, and you shouldn’t get within seven metres of them. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t approach you; they’ve been known to come right up to tourists!

The hour will fly past, but you’ll remember it forever. You can spot young gorillas chasing each other and swinging from the trees, mother gorillas cradling and suckling their babies, and the big silverback calmly taking it all in. Gorilla tracking isn’t cheap, but it’s genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

8. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania

If you want to feel like an intrepid explorer, and like the idea of scaling one of the world’s most famous peaks while admiring the jaw-droppingly spectacular scenery, you may want to head to Tanzania.

Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and the world’s tallest freestanding peak, and while the trek to the top is definitely a slog, it’s more achievable than you might think.

Located on Tanzania’s northern border, on the edge of Kenya, Kilimanjaro is an incredibly impressive sight. This enormous flat-topped mountain looms across the sun-drenched plains, but in spite of its 5,895-metre height, the ascent is gradual, meaning most people can reach the summit as long as they’re fit and healthy, and take time to acclimatise to the altitude.

Kilimanjaro is made up of three dormant volcanoes, and the routes to the top are as impressive as you’d hope. There are six different trails, and all take you past stunning scenery, and give you great chances of spotting the region’s unique animals and birds. Watching the sunrise over the Tanzanian plains and shimmering ice fields is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But you don’t have to scale Kilimanjaro to appreciate its beauty, and Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is a magical place.

The lower slopes of the mountain are home to lush rainforests, alpine meadows, and cultivated farmlands, and here you can enjoy some more gentle trekking – as well as spot animals including buffaloes, elephants, leopards, monkeys, and spiral-horned antelope.

Have an unforgettable experience in Tanzania

Final thoughts…

From the vast sand dunes of Namibia to Ethiopita’s mysterious Simien Mountains and the dense forest of Uganda, Africa is a continent that’s as diverse as it is dazzling.

While the souks of Morocco and the Egyptian pyramids are Africa’s most popular tourist hotspots, this continent is a treasure trove of natural and cultural wonders…and many destinations remain blissfully unspoiled.

Whether you’re looking to spot unique wildlife, trek across lunar-like desert landscapes, hike up dramatic mountains, or try your hand at all kinds of adventure sports, Africa offers all this and more.

Home to 54 countries, it’s almost impossible to put together a comprehensive list of Africa’s most captivating destinations, but these are eight of our favourites – all of which offer adventures so special that they may well change your life.

For more adventurous ideas, why not visit the travel section of our website?