The 12 Most Beautiful Places in Africa

The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt | © Nick Brundle Photography / Getty Images
Photo of Matthew Keyte
15 November 2017

In Africa, there are just too many magnificent sites for any one list to encompass all. We’ve had a go and tried to cover as many different types of place as possible. So here’s a rundown of amazing antiquities, stunning towns, and spectacular and sublime natural features from around this incredible continent.

Victoria Falls

Natural Feature
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LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA - Victoria Falls Waterfall
Victoria Falls | © Edwin Remsberg / Alamy Stock Photo
On the Zambezi River and the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls was named by the explorer David Livingstone for Queen Victoria. But its native African name is much more expressive, Mosi-oa-Tunya, the ‘Smoke that Thunders’, is a reference to the immense spray and rumbling that the Falls generate. With a width of 1,700 meters and a depth of 108 meters, the Falls are twice the height of Niagara Falls. And they’re surrounded by the savannah, which is full of rhinos, hippos and lions.

Pyramids of Giza

Historical Landmark
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Cairo, Egypt Tourists and camel drivers with their camels resting in the desert with the three Great pyramids of Giza in the bac
The Pyramids of Giza | © Edwin Remsberg / Alamy Stock Photo
We sometimes overlook how extraordinary the Pyramids of Giza are because the image of them is commonplace today. The work of thousands and thousands of laborers, the Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they were known to the ancients as a Wonder of the World. The Giza Complex just outside Cairo on the fringes of the Libyan Desert is sublime and mysterious, built to house the dead pharaohs and all the items they would need to rule the afterlife.

Sidi Bou Said

Historical Landmark
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North Africa, Tunisia, Sidi Bou Said. Views of the Gulf of Tunis and the traditional white houses of the Medina.
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia | © Norbert Scanella / Alamy Stock Photo
Sidi Bou Said is the gloriously pretty village in Tunisia on the Mediterranean coast that has drawn great painters and writers for over a century. Once it was a local religious site looking out onto the azure waters of the ocean, before the French artist Baron Rodolphe D’Erlanger instigated a color scheme of whitewash and light blue that now covers the whole village. The buildings are famous too for their great studded doors, with crescent patterns on many. Matisse, Klee, and Auguste Macke all came here to paint, and Andre Gide and Simone de Beauvoir came to write.


Natural Feature
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Sossusvlei sand dune, Naukluft National Park, Namibia, Africa
Sossusvlei, Namibia | © John Dambik / Alamy Stock Photo
You might not have heard of the Sossusvlei, but its iconic landscape is often seen in film. It lies in Namibia in the southern Namib Desert, a region of dry lake, clay pan and orange and red sand dunes. Its name combines the Afrikaans word ‘vlei’ meaning ‘marsh’, and the local Nama word meaning ‘of-no-return’. The area has a remarkably spare, clean beauty, dead acacia trees, the deep blue of the sky, and the shifting, burnished red of the sands make for a stunning vision.


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The Monday market infront of the great mud mosque, Djenne, Mali, West Africa
The Monday market in front of the great mud mosque, Djenne, Mali | © Louise Bretten / Alamy Stock Photo
Djenné in Mali is a remarkable site, composed up of thousands of adobe buildings made from earth baked hard in the African sun and reinforced with palm fronds. The ancient town dates back to the 3rd century and beyond, but it really grew with the Saharan trade routes when slaves, gold and salt were transported across the desert to the Levant. The unspoiled earth buildings, particularly the Great Mosque built in 1907 by the French colonial authorities, make Djenné a unique place to explore and to see. The Old Town is, of course, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Table Mountain

Natural Feature
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Rappelling on Table mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
Rappelling on Table mountain, Cape Town, South Africa | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Table Mountain looms over Cape Town at the southern tip of the continent at the Cape of Good Hope. Along with the peaks of Signal Hill, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head, it forms a huge natural amphitheater in which the Dutch settlers of the 17th century first established what would become Cape Town. With its flat top well over a thousand meters above sea level at its highest point at Maclear’s Beacon, Table Mountain is often obscured by clouds from ground level. But you can take the famous cable car up to the top.

Lake Malawi

Natural Feature
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Lake Malawi The Lake of Stars
Lake Malawi | © William Uzuriaga / Alamy Stock Photo
The furthest south of the African Great Lakes straddles Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. With its clear waters, unspoiled beaches and the backdrop of mountain on all sides, it forms a spectacular natural site. When David Livingstone came here he coined the name ‘Lake of Stars’ due to the lamps of the fishermen he saw out on the lake in the darkness.

Zanzibar Archipelago

Natural Feature
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Zanzibar beach
Zanzibar beach | © Pavel Chonya / Alamy Stock Photo
The Zanzibar Archipelago is a tropical paradise off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Golden beaches, cerulean waters, and swaying palm trees make for an amazingly beautiful place. There are four main islands, Unguja, Pemba, Mafia and the uninhabited Latham Islands, along with many smaller islands that surround them. You’ll find Zanzibar City, famous for its historic Stone Town area and its connection to the spice and slave trades in the 19th century, on Unguja Island.

Sahara Dunes

Natural Feature
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Morocco, Erg Chebbi, sand dunes in the Sahara Desert near Merzouga
Sahara Desert near Merzouga | © Cosmo Condina / Alamy Stock Photo
The Sahara stretches from Egypt in the east, all the way across North Africa to Morocco in the west. It’s at its most spectacular and romantic in Morocco, close to the border with Algeria, where you’ll find the Erg Chebbi, a sand sea made up of undulating dunes formed by the blowing of the winds, which has been much photographed and filmed. The ideal base to explore the sands is at the village of Merzouga from which groups head out on the backs of camels to see the unspoiled desert sands.

Rwenzori Mountains

Natural Feature
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The beautiful Rwenzori mountains are seen from Kasese District, Uganda, forming the border of Uganda and the DRC.
The beautiful Rwenzori mountains, Uganda | © Jake Lyell / Alamy Stock Photo
The Rwenzori Mountains are found in western Uganda and part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Often overlooked, they boast a climate that combines the Alpine with the tropical. You’ll find heather along with rare plants like lobelias and spectacular mountain peaks topped with snow, and glaciers, waterfalls and lakes. Africa’s third highest mountain, Mount Stanley, is in the Rwenzori range, as is the highest and most permanent source of the Nile. The first European to set eyes on the mountains was Henry Morton Stanley in 1889.


Archaeological site
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Elk200-2296 Ethiopia, Gondar, Royal Enclosure, Library
Gondar, Royal Enclosure, Ethiopia | © John Elk III / Alamy Stock Photo
Gondar, often known as the ‘Camelot of Ethiopia’, is known for its massive historical remains. The Emperor Fasilides and his successors built the picturesque royal enclosure known as the Fasil Ghebbi in the 17th century. It’s a place full of palaces, libraries, banqueting halls and castles for the Ethiopian aristocracy, built under the influence of the European Baroque brought here by Portuguese missionaries.

Serengeti National Park

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Baby African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, East Africa, Africa
Baby African elephant, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Last but most definitely not least, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is where you’ll find lions, leopards, giraffe, buffalo, rhinos, and gazelle across plains, woodlands and savanna. And it’s where every year the Serengeti Migration takes place, with millions of antelope, zebra and wildebeest heading for green pasture lands in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It’s one of the most remarkable sites in the natural world. There are plenty of companies available to help you find the best time and location to witness the migration.

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