Africa has 54 sovereign countries—the most on any continent—and is the second largest continent in terms of both land area and population. Africa is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by the Red Sea to the northeast, and by the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Africa is a vast continent spanning over 8,000km (5,000 mi) north to south and 7,500km (4,800 mi) east to west (not including islands) and contains a wide array of peoples, skin colours, religions, and cultures. Africa contains the world's longest river—the 6,650km long (4,100 mi) Nile River running from Burundi to Egypt—while the Congo River in the DRC is the second largest in terms of discharge as well as the deepest with a depth of over 230m (750 ft) in some spots. Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free-standing mountain at 5,890m (19,340 ft). Djibouti's Lake Assal is the second lowest point on Earth, the saltiest lake outside Antarctica, and one of the hottest places on Earth.
While the first activity most people associate with Africa is safaris, there are endless possibilities for adventure. You can purchase crafts in markets, venture into the Sahara with a Tuareg caravan, visit pygmy villages, hike through jungle to watch gorillas, relax on tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, experience arguably the world's best wildlife safaris, snack on exotic treats, travel down a river in a dugout "pirogue", travel across savannah on a colonial-era railway, and much more.
Africa is a very diverse continent, with each country, or even each part of a country having its own unique culture. While some people in the West refer to Africa as if it were a single country, one should remember the sheer size of the continent, and that Africa is not one country but 54 different countries, meaning that it is impossible to make generalisations of Africa as a whole.
Africa today is a vast continent with many bustling metropolises, some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, and amazingly diverse and beautiful landscapes. While there are places resembling the stereotypical Africa of war, famine, and poverty, most of the continent is peaceful. Except for Liberia, Darwiish State and Ethiopia, the entire continent was occupied during the Scramble for Africa.
North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara)
The countries that rim the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Sahel (Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sudan)
The desert and savanna nations that span the Sahel and southern half of the Sahara Desert.
West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo)
The tropical Atlantic coastal nations.
Central Africa (Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Sudan)
The heart of Africa.
East Africa (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda)
The nations that border the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Nations at Africa's southern tip.
The pyramids at Giza: the most famous Pharonic relic and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Modern humans, homo sapiens, are believed to have originated in East Africa somewhere between Ethiopia and Kenya. Despite this long history of habitation, there is very little (or little known about) African history prior to the second millennium AD outside of North Africa, Sudan & Ethiopia, as most were hunter-gatherers similar to some cultures still found today on the continent, with no writing systems nor lasting structures, arts, or crafts (aside from some cave paintings). North Africa, on the other hand, has a recorded history dating back several millennia with bountiful structures, writings, arts, and crafts which have survived to this day. The ancient Pharonic civilization centred in modern-day Egypt is recognized as the longest-lasting and one of the, if not the, greatest ancient civilizations lasting from around 3300BC until the invasion of Persians in 525BC. Today, their legacy lives with many of their cities well-preserved and now popular tourist attractions along with a few museums hosting their artefacts. Modern Jews believe themselves to be descendants of slaves in ancient Egypt and much of the Hebrew Bible, religious texts for both Jews and Christians, was based and written in the region. The other great early civilizations on the continent were the Nubians in northern Sudan and southern Egypt, who were very similar to the ancient Egyptians, leaving behind the city of Meroe in Sudan, and the Aksumite Empire from the 4th century BC until the 7st century AD in modern-day Ethiopia and eastern Sudan which was important to trade between India and the Roman Empire and an important centre of early Christianity.
As the second largest continent, there is a wide range of climates to be found. However, since the continent is nearly centred on the equator, much of the continent is quite warm/temperate with very few, small areas on the continent experiencing any temperatures that can be considered "cold". In the temperate regions (parts of northern Morocco & the Mediterranean coast as well as South Africa), temperatures generally range from the 10s C to the mid-30s°C (40s-90s°F) year round. Closer to the equator and on islands like Cape Verde or Mauritius, temperatures may only vary less than 20 degrees Celsius (15-35°C/65-95°F) throughout the year. In the deserts and arid regions like the Sahel and Horn of Africa, temperatures routinely hit 40°C+ (and even 50°C+ in the heart of the Sahara) but because sand does not retain heat like most soil does, those same places can easily fall down to 15°C at night. There are a few bastions of cooler weather, however. Higher elevations, such as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco & Algeria or in Lesotho, are quite cold and snowy during winter and Mount Kilimanjaro, almost on the equator, is cold year-round (cold enough to support glaciers!). Peaks on islands such as Reunion, the Canary Islands, Mount Cameroon and more are cool enough to necessitate a jacket much of the year.
A far more important factor to consider when travelling to Africa is when the rain/monsoon season occurs. Timing varies a bit even in neighbouring countries, so check the page of the country you are visiting for more info. In West Africa the season starts in March around Cameroon, but not until June in Senegal or the Sahel and ends around September. While rain may not be a huge factor when travelling to southern or East Africa, it is very problematic in West Africa and on islands in the Indian Ocean. In West Africa, rains will often flood and make many roads and railways impassable and, due to poor drainage, can literally result in rivers of water flowing down streets and sewage lines to overflow. In the Sahel, it can result in flash floods in low-lying areas.
The largest weather-related dangers for travellers to Africa are lightning and tropical cyclones. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has more lighting strikes each year than any other country on earth, especially in the eastern part of the country near Goma. Lightning risk is highest from western Kenya/Tanzania and Ethiopia west to Senegal and south to Angola and Zambia. Tropical cyclones affect the islands of the Indian Ocean, with the season running from 15 Nov-30 Apr (15 May in the Seychelles and Mauritius). Tropical cyclones also infrequently affect the horn of Africa near Djibouti & Somalia, but when they do, the arid land results in major flooding. Tropical cyclones often form off the coast of western West Africa (Guinea/Senegal) during the early part of the Atlantic Hurricane Season (June-August) and will rarely impact Cape Verde, for which these particular storms are called "Cape Verde-type hurricanes".
Algiers — the capital of Algeria, northernmost capital and biggest city on the south mediterranian coast, a mix of europian colonial architecture and arabian medina.
Accra — the capital of Ghana and one of the most accessible cities in West Africa for travellers
Addis Ababa — the huge capital of Ethiopia and a major hub for NGOs and the African Union
Cairo — the largest city in Africa with major monuments of Ancient Egypt nearby
Cape Town — the iconic Mother City of South Africa with Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope and numerous other attractions
Dakar — the capital of Senegal and the westernmost city in Africa
Johannesburg — South Africa's largest city and perhaps the continent's key financial and economic centre
Luanda — the capital of Angola, which has been through a huge renaissance in the past decade
Marrakech — a blend of the ancient and modern in Morocco
Nairobi — the capital of Kenya and the largest city in East Africa
Aksum — the ancient capital of Ethiopia, famous for its stelae and the ruins of various palaces
Hoggar and Tassili national parks in Algeria with breathtaki g old volcanoes and one of the best sunsets in the world.
Dogon Country — a region of south-central Mali renowned for its secluded villages embedded on cliffs and a very distinct culture
Kruger National Park — a well managed and very popular national park in South Africa
Leptis Magna — extensive Roman ruins in Libya
Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa's highest mountain and a great trekking destination in Tanzania
Serengeti National Park — huge national park in Tanzania, perhaps the archetypal African game park; becomes the Maasai Mara National Reserve over the border in Kenya
Valley of the Kings — the site of Ancient Egypt
Victoria Falls — magnificent waterfalls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia
Volcanoes National Park — a very important site for Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda
Africa is plagued by visa bureaucracy and policies that differ widely from country to country. However, there are currently four customs unions in effect in Africa:
Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland)
West Africa (Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Niger, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone)
Central Africa (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Gabon)
East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi)
To See in Africa
Flora & Fauna
Many visitors are attracted by the African flora and fauna and several countries benefit from Safari tourism to African National Parks.
Africa is home to many famous natural wonders, from the Nile River, the world's longest river, to Victoria Falls. The continent is home to two of the world's four volcanoes with permanent lava lakes—the dramatic Mount Nyiragongo which rises hundreds of metres above Goma, DRC and Erta Ale in Ethiopia's stark Danakil Depression (the others are Mt.Erebus in Antarctica & Kilauea in Hawaii). Both volcanoes can be climbed by the adventurous tourist to stand at the rim gazing in awe at the bubbling lava below, an especially incredible sight at night!
While the continent's diverse and unique wildlife is often all that is mentioned in regards to African travel, as home to the oldest civilizations on the planet, Africa has equally impressive cultures and history. The most famous civilization on the continent, and arguably in the world, is that of ancient Egypt. From the southern city of Abu Simbel to Luxor and all the way north to Alexandria and Cairo, including the Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving of the original Seven Wonders of the World and the most iconic symbols of this ancient kingdom. Sites from the Nubian-Kushite Kingdom that broke away from Egypt can be found in Sudan, such as Gebel Barkal and many other pyramids in Meroe.
Ethiopia offers many ruins from the ancient Axumite Kingdom where the Queen of Sheba ruled. The obelisks and Dungur ruins in Axum were built prior to the kingdom's conversion to Christianity, while many other great monuments, such as the Ezana Stone and the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where the Arc of the Covenant is said to be stored, were built after the conversion as religious sites. Other famous Christian structures built later by the kingdom's successor, the Abyssinian Empire, especially during the 12th and 13th centuries, can also be found in Lalibela.
In West Africa, structures from the ancient Mali Empire can be found in Timbuktu and Djenne. Although there are Islamic influences, the architectural style of the Malian Kingdom's mosques are still quite unique and recognizably African. The cliff dwellings in Mali's Dogon Country, built by the Dogon people, are also impressive ancient structures in Mali. Often overshadowed by Africa's other monuments, Sungbo's Eredo in Ijebu Ode, Nigeria, built by the Yoruba people, is actually the largest pre-colonial structure remaining on the continent. Today it towers over the city, covered in vegetation.
Ruins from the ancient Swahili culture can be found in the coastal areas of East Africa, particularly in Kenya and Tanzania. The Swahili structures combines elements of African architecture with Islamic architecture, which was quite prominent around the 14th century. Some of the most famous Swahili structures include the Gedi Ruins and Pillar Tombs around Malindi and Kilwa Kisiwani. Zanzibar's Stone Town features Swahili structures spanning hundreds of years from its early days to the 18th century.
In Southern Africa, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe have fascinated visitors ever since Europeans discovered them. No one had believed that the inhabitants of black Africa were capable of creating any great monuments on their own until the ruins of this ancient culture were discovered.
Roman structures are scattered throughout North Africa, with the ancient city of Carthage being the most well-known abroad. Many cities, such as Leptis Magna, Timgad, and Dougga feature Roman ruins as impressive as those in Europe itself. Many other European structures can be found throughout the continent, dating back to the earliest days of imperialism.
Article includes information from https://wikitravel.org https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/