East Africa is a region teeming with unbelievable activities and things to do. Hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, experiencing the savannah of the Serengeti, trekking with the endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and observing the lion prides of the Maasai Mara are all well-known bucket list items in East Africa. While those hot spots are undeniably incredible, there are so many adventures and sights in the area that intrepid tourists shouldn’t miss. Check out our guide to some of the best hidden gems in East Africa for your next trip.
Safari in Akagera National Park
Tourists in East Africa generally check out the famous safari parks of Tanzania and Kenya. Although the Serengeti and Maasai Mara are impressive beyond belief, the hordes of tourists sitting engine to engine in these serene spaces are much less enjoyable. Plus, it is wildly expensive. For a more quiet, cheaper, and off the beaten path safari experience, check out Akagera National Park in Rwanda. Akagera has recently been able to reclaim its title of a Big Five safari park, with both lions and rhinos reintroduced to Rwanda in the past few years. For just $40 USD in safari fees per day, roam the stunning wetlands and savannah of East Africa’s most underrated safari destination.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Hike Mt. Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Mt. Nyiragongo, located just outside of the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an active volcano that boasts the world’s largest lava pool. Tourists are welcome to participate in an overnight hike to the crater, and though the hike is incredibly steep and long, it is doable and so worth it. Spend the night basking in the red volcanic glows, while marveling at the stunning and expansive views from the top.
Visit Mafia Island in Tanzania and snorkel with whale sharks
Located just off the coast of Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Mafia Island is one of East Africa’s best diving locations. Scuba divers visit this small archipelago from all over the world in order to see an assortment of healthy coral reefs and massive schools of fish. The real reason, however, to visit Mafia Island is to encounter a whale shark. These gentle sea giants are found just a few kilometers from the Mafia Island harbor, and snorkelers can spot up to 20 of these graceful creatures at a time.
Explore the ancient streets of Lamu in Kenya
Although Stone Town in Zanzibar is a beautiful old island with fascinating Arabic influences, it is often critiqued as being overrun by tourists. If you’re looking for a calmer destination, check out Lamu Island in Kenya. Reachable only by boat from Mombasa or Diani, this island possesses the similar Arabic influences of Stone Town at a fraction of the price. Explore old ruins, indulge in fresh seafood, and laze your days away on bright white sand beaches.
Go white water rafting on the Nile in Jinja
The roaring white rapids of the Nile river in Jinja have delighted travelers and locals for many years. Located just a few hours from the Ugandan capital of Kampala, spend a day or two testing your wits and physical prowess against some of the roughest waters on earth.
Hang on the beaches of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi
Though Burundi has experienced political unrest since the attempted coup in 2015, Bujumbura, the country’s capital city, still possesses one of the best beach scenes in the region. Head to Bora Bora beach club for parties every weekend, or just spend the days relaxing on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Party in Nairobi
No where else in East Africa does a city throw down like Nairobi. A lot of tourists do a quick layover in Nairobi on their way to go on safari, but for a real Kenyan experience, include a few extra days in your trip to bar hop and dance the night away in East Africa’s most bumping capital.
Kayak the calm shores of Rwanda
Known for gorillas, Rwanda has a lot more to offer the intrepid traveler than just primates (though hiking with the gorillas is a pretty special experience too). Check out Kingfisher Journeys, and consider booking a multi-day kayaking trip along the vibrant coastline of Lake Kivu. Kayak through small towns, coffee roasters, and fish farms, while getting a chance to experience Rwanda’s stunning hills through a unique perspective.
Visit Gombe Stream National Park in Tazania for chimpanzee trekking
Made famous by Jane Goodall, Gombe Stream National Park is home to the Kasakela chimpanzee community. A limited number of trekking permits are available daily, as visitors are led through the park by rangers familiar with the chimpanzees and their habits. This park is not easy to reach, as Gombe Stream can only be accessed by boat, making this experience all the more adventurous.
Hike through Sipi Falls in Uganda
Sipi Falls is a collection of stunning waterfalls in Eastern Uganda. Independent or guided hikes can be arranged from an assortment of comfortable guesthouses in the area, as well as rock climbing, abseiling, and more. Used by many travelers as a base for climbing Mt. Elgon, the falls themselves are worthy enough of a visit.
Bike through Hells Gate National Park in Kenya
This national park, located just a few hours northwest of Nairobi, sits in a particularly beautiful area of the Great Rift Valley. Cheap park entry fees and a lack of big cats and predators have made this park known for its excellent bike trails. This is one of the only major safari parks in the world where visitors can bike alongside herds of zebras, buffalos, and gazelles.
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