There are few regions in the world that can boast the astonishing cultural, culinary, natural, musical, and urban diversity of West Africa. While the travel hotspots of South Africa tend to get the most attention, West Africa is rising fast on travellers’ radars. The region represents the cornucopia of unforgettable experiences that Africa has to offer. From tropical rainforests, otherworldly deserts, volcanic outcrops, and sprawling, vibrant megacities, a West African itinerary leaves you truly spoiled for choice.
While this vast region is too rich to cover in this one piece, we thought it would be useful to provide those who are new to West Africa with a beginner’s itinerary that allows you to absorb the essence of the region. If you’re sitting at home and looking to plan your dream itinerary for when it’s time to travel again, here is why you should be making West Africa your next destination.
1. Start With a Sensory Overload in Nigeria
Where better place to start your West African odyssey than Nigeria, the continent’s fastest-growing country and premier cultural powerhouse. Begin your trip in the country’s sprawling, riotous commercial capital, Lagos, home to 21 million people and counting. While your first experience of the city may be challenging, your perseverance will be richly rewarded.
This city is one of the most liberal and energetic on the continent, which is reflected in the booming nightlife. As well as the classical streetside bar experience that can be had in every corner of the city, Lagos is one of the few places in Africa with a thriving casino scene, and a game at the roulette table is always a memorable experience.
Interestingly, Nigeria is one of the only places in Africa which also has also fully legalised online casino gaming, meaning that visitors can take advantage of the best online casinos on the continent. Once you’ve been thoroughly partied out by Lagos, make sure to book a couple of days in the serene colonial port town of Calabar for some R&R.
2. Nature and Tradition Meet in Cameroon
After the dizzying sensory overload of Nigeria, head to its southern neighbour, Cameroon, for a more relaxing change of pace. Here you will find rich tradition and jaw-dropping nature in equal abundance. Get the lowdown by starting your journey in Douala, the largest city, and home to some of the most noteworthy museums and historical institutions in the region.
The Musee de Douala, Douala Maritime Museum, and Doual’art can easily fill a whole afternoon, which you won’t regret. Once you’re sufficiently clued up on Cameroonian history, take a bus to volcanic Mt Cameroon, the tallest mountain in Western and Central Africa and home to a huge number of indigenous plant and animal species. When you’re not exploring the mountain and its surroundings, rejuvenate at the nearby Hotel Seme Beach Resort and Spa.
3. Eco-Friendly Beach-Hopping in São Tomé & Príncipe
After trekking through Cameroon, it’s time to hop aboard a tiny plane and jet off to the small island nation of São Tomé & Príncipe. Many travel writers have described this compact country as one of the closest incarnations of paradise on Earth they have seen, and it’s not hard to see why.
São Tomé & Príncipe has positioned itself as one of the world’s leading eco-tourism hotspots in recent years, offering unbeatable and sustainable experiences such as swimming with turtles on Praia Banana or mingling with crested mona monkeys at the breathtaking Parque Natural Obô de São Tomé.
All in all, São Tomé & Príncipe feels like a break from the rest of the world, a place that contains sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that few others have ever had the privilege of experiencing.
This itinerary is ideal for anyone wishing to get to grips with this beautiful corner of the world. If you have any tips for West Africa travel, let us know in the comments!