Africa is the second largest continent, and its 54 countries offer some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Travelers can explore Africa's vast deserts, stunning waterfalls, diverse wildlife, and ancient pyramids. Rich with culture and home to at least 1,500 different spoken languages, travelers will also be able to experience a wide variety of different cultures and ethnicities in Africa.
There are almost endless opportunities for taking a tour in Africa, so we're here to help you narrow down your options according to activity and location. But whether you end up focusing on northern, southern, eastern, western, or central Africa, you're certain to have a spectacular time.
The Sahara Desert is larger than the entire continent of Australia, and is the biggest hot desert in the world. It spans several countries in northern and western Africa, and exploring on camel-back is a particularly exciting way to see the landscape. For example, explore the pyramids in Egypt, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, on a camel-back tour for an unforgettable experience.
White-water rafting is a great activity for those fast-paced adrenaline junkies looking for a splash in intense rapids of the Zambezi River, which feeds into Victoria Falls. Adventurers can choose to ride the rapids on a single-day trip, or tackle them over the course of several days, camping overnight in between. As with all activities that could be potentially dangerous, it's important to find a highly reputable white-water rafting tour operator who don't cut corners on safety.
Safaris & Gorilla Trekking
Africa is full of diverse wildlife, and there are plenty of opportunities to experience it. Head to one of Africa's many national parks. South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya are particularly popular countries to go on safari and spot the Big Five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo. Safaris can take place over the course of one day to multiple days. Certain times of the year are better for seeing wildlife, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. While many safari camps can set you back a pretty penny, budget-friendly options are also available.
Alternatively, follow the paths of our favorite primate relatives into the mountains of East Africa. Uganda, Rwanda, and a portion of the DR of Congo are the best spots to encounter Mountain Gorillas as they roam free in the wild. Permits can be pricey, and the number of people allowed into Gorilla habitats are restricted to preserve the environment and the animals' welfare, so joining a reputable tour company is essential.
Africa is home to many mountains and hiking trails, as well as a particularly famous mountain that can be summited relatively easily: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This is the highest peak in Africa, and climbing it is many adventurers’ dream. At 19,341 feet it's not an easy mountain to climb, but it is quite easily accessible. The climb is difficult and mentally and physically challenging, but rewarding. Always climb in a group, with an experienced guide, for extra safety.
The coastline of Africa is long and remarkable, making the continent a top destination for water sports. Ghana and South Africa are some of the more popular destinations for surfing in Africa.
The beaches in both Ghana and South Africa are outstanding and offer gorgeous sunsets, a quiet atmosphere in which to relax, and untouched beaches that many visitors do not see. Independent travelers can rent surf boards in beachside towns, but an advantage of going on an organized tour is that you will be taken to some more off-the-beaten-path locations.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Africa
- Northern Africa - Countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, and Libya are best to visit during November through March, when the weather is relatively cool.
- Southern Africa - Countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are best to visit during the dry season, from November to March.
- Eastern Africa - Countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda are best to visit during the two dry seasons, December through February, and June through September.
- Western Africa - Countries such as Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo are best to visit during the dry season, which is November through April.
What to Look For in a Tour in Africa
If you're traveling in Africa with a tour company, make sure they are reputable. Reading reviews and talking to people who have had previous experiences with the company is always a great way to see if that company is a good fit for you.
Each country in Africa has something different to offer, with different cultures, ethnicities, languages, and activities on offer. Choose your countries based on the type of experience you're looking for and the ones that best suit your needs.
If you have a lot of time to explore Africa, it's possible to join guided tours that visit multiple countries and include a lot of different kinds of activity. While such tours lasting two or more months will set you back a few thousand dollars, you will see much more than you would if trying to negotiate local transportation on your own.
Average Tour Costs
Many countries in Africa are relatively cheap compared to countries in the West. However, there is a lot of diversity throughout the continent, with some countries have more developed economies and tourism infrastructure than others.
Visitors to many places in Africa will usually be staying in hotels as opposed to hostel dorms. Hotels tend to be on the more expensive side in many cities in Africa, especially around tourist destinations like Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. Food is relatively cheap (depending on where you eat, of course), and travelers can opt to buy their food at local grocery stores and cook it themselves to save money.
One of the cheapest countries in Africa is Egypt, where travelers can easily budget for $15-25 USD per day. Transportation is usually around $2 USD, and hostels are usually around $6/night. Morocco and Tanzania are next on the list, with accommodation around $15/night, and a daily budget of $20-30/day. Kenya and South Africa are more expensive countries, where travelers can budget themselves around $25-40 USD a day, on top of tour costs.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
You will need to dress appropriately for the activities that you'll be doing in Africa. If you're going on a safari, neutral clothes with long pants are recommended.
Africa is home to a huge variety of cultures and religions, so it's best to play it safe and dress modestly to avoid accidentally disrespecting local people and their customs. Besides, loose cotton clothes are great for the hot and humid temperatures you're likely to experience in Africa.
On most tours, operators will include gear rental in the price, but make sure to confirm this in advance. For most adventure sports, you will not need to bring anything. If you plan on hiking, bring comfortable broken-in shoes. Surfers will have the option to check their surfboard onto their flight, though renting locally is typically cheaper and easier.
Some countries in Africa require a visa before entering the country while others do not. Make sure to research this in advance.
Health & Safety
Some countries in Africa require visitors to have vaccinations before entering the country. Proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever vaccine is required for many countries. This map from the Centers for Disease Control shows which countries have a high risk of the disease. If visiting one of these destinations, make sure to arrive with proof of your vaccination.
Visitors should also be up-to-date on their Hep A and B vaccinations, as these are high-risk diseases in many countries in Africa. While malaria pills are not mandatory, they are highly recommended for Africa. Many countries in Africa have a very high malaria risk. Talk to your healthcare provider to figure out which type of malaria pills would work best for you.Visitors should also be up-to-date on their meningitis shot, as Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly afflicted with this disease. Other routine vaccinations are also highly recommended.
Only drink bottled water in Africa, and take care to make sure food has been properly stored and cooked. Be wary of perishable food that has been sitting out for a long time in the hot sun.
While many countries in Africa are considered safe for visitors, especially around the more touristy areas, there are few countries that visitors should be cautious of visiting. For example, there is currently a travel warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where travelers are warned against non-essential travel. Before visiting any country in Africa, make sure there are no current travel warnings, and stay up-to-date with the news throughout your trip.