Backpacking in Africa

Countries  »  Africa

Why go?

Discover Africa

Africa, in case you hadn't realised, is massive. It's the world's second largest continent, accounting for over 20% of our land area. There's a whopping 54 countries and 3 different surrounding oceans. As a result there's a huge amount to see and do in Africa, and many backpackers travel here for their entire gap year to make sure they don't miss a thing.

The most popular backpacking destination is South Africa, home to Cape Town and Johannesburg, incredible scenery, game reserves, extreme sports, and much besides. There's also Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Seychelles, Madagascar, Botswana, and many, many more.

Travelling in Africa can be a mixed bag in terms of ease and cost. Many countries don't have established travel networks, and political turmoil can sometimes make some areas unsafe to visit. As a result it's definitely worth planning ahead. To make Africa feel a little less daunting, we've broken it up into a number of regions, so you can work out exactly what you want to see.


Southern Africa

Why Visit Southern Africa?

This is generally the most popular region of Africa for backpackers, largely as it boasts some of the best travel infrastructure, making it easier to take advantage of what the region has to offer. Compared to elsewhere in Africa the south is much more about having outrageous fun and going along for the wild ride offered to visitors.

Most people will start in South Africa, often in Johannesburg, a thoroughly modern city packed with shopping, restaurants, and vibrant nightlife, or Cape Town, which has all of those things alongside the beautiful coastline and Table Mountain.

In many ways South Africa is a microcosm of the continent: the massive Kruger National Park has zebras, elephants, and big cats galore, the coast is laden with beaches and resorts, and inland the scenery looks even better than the documentaries promise. You zipline, sample wine, fine dine, bungee jump on a piece of twine, and marvel at landscapes divine. South Africa kind of has it all.

From there you can travel to Botswana or Namibia, the latter particularly renowned for its ecotourism and must-see destinations like the Skeleton Coast Park, Caprivi Strip, and the Etosha Salt Pan. You could even try your hand at sandboarding the giant dunes of Namibia's Swakopmund. The region also includes Swaziland and Lesotho, although these countries are not particularly well-equipped for travellers. 

You're likely to pay a little more in southern Africa than you might elsewhere on the continent, but it's bound to be worth it.

Top Countries

South Africa

South Africa

Botswana

Botswana


Northern Africa

Why Visit Northern Africa?

The north of Africa almost feels like a different continent entirely, and is incredibly popular with travellers and tourists alike. Like the south there is good travel infrastructure, making it reasonably easy (and often very affordable) to move around the region at will. 

For many the main event will be Egypt, and for all the obvious reasons: pyramids, Valley of the Kings, the River Nile, and some relaxation time at Sharm el-Sheikh. Many can scratch off half their bucket list in Egypt alone. 

From there you can travel to Morocco for its ancient walled cities, red-sand dunes, and bustling markets, to Algeria, the largest country in Africa and a fantastic place to venture (safely) into the Sahara Desert, or to Tunisia, famed for its golden beaches and the ancient ruins of Carthage. Prices in Northern Africa will vary depending on where you visit, but it is generally a very affordable gap year region.

Top Countries

Egypt

Egypt

Morocco

Morocco


Western Africa

Why Visit Western Africa?

For a start, it played a vital role in the birth of humanity, it being here that sedentary farming began. You can read more about that in our A Brief Visual History of Travel feature. 

Although there's no stand out favourite country in this region of Africa for travellers, there's a bunch that deserve a place on any itinerary.

Many start with Nigeria for its national parks and game reserves, before moving on to the likes of Ghana for more of the same, as well as beautiful coastline, some rapidly developing cities, and a thriving cultural scene.

There's also the island of Cape Verde, where tourism is improving as people arrive to admire the volcanic coast, Ivory Coast, Togo, and Gambia. There isn't much travel infrastructure in much of western Africa, so it can be an ideal region to visit if you're after 'real' Africa, but it can also prove a difficult journey.

It should also be noted that some countries in western Africa are frequently unsafe to visit. Due to politics, extreme poverty, and social turmoil, countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone are not recommended for travellers, unless you are part of an official volunteer program.

Top Countries

Ghana

Ghana

Nigeria

Nigeria


Eastern Africa

Why Visit Eastern Africa?

This is the place to go if you're after island paradises and drop dead gorgeous scenery. The two tallest peaks in Africa, Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, are here. It's also one of the best regions to see the 'big five' wild animals: elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, and the black rhinoceros. In many areas the heat is nowhere near as harsh as elsewhere on the continent. 

The number one stop is Kenya, where tourism is a huge part of the economy thanks to attractive beaches and expansive national parks, as well as the snow-capped Mount Kenya attracting intrepid climbers and hikers. There's also Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world. From there you might find yourself spoiled for choice. Tanzania has the stunning volcanic cones of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, as well as more beautiful national parks. Reunion is a scorching, charming French island, and Eritrea is a melting pot of cultures and histories. 

If you're in the mood for relaxation, you can visit Mauritius and Seychelles, where you can hop between islands to make the most of the beaches, wildlife (including giant tortoises), and coral reefs. This can be a great to unwind after a long trek across the mainland of Africa.

Top Countries

Kenya

Kenya

Tanzania

Nigeria


Central Africa

Why Visit Central Africa?

This region of the continent isn't as popular with travellers, as getting into the middle of this enormous land mass can prove difficult and, occasionally, dangerous. There is a great deal of poverty in this region, so many backpackers will only visit as part of a volunteer program

The countries that make up this region are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. Although Chad has some transport networks, travel infrastructure in this region can prove incredibly limited. Much of this region is not safe for travellers who are not part of an official volunteer organisation or an organised trek.

Best Experiences

Top Experiences in Africa

Where to begin, where to begin? You'd have to emigrate to experience absolutely everything Africa has to offer. If that's not a possibility, we've put together a list of what we believe are the very best experiences in Africa - it's time to fill up that bucket list and get inspired. Scroll away!

Get wild in Serengeti National Park

This is quintessential Africa, and although you'll see a lot of wildlife on your stay there, there are few sights to match the migration of over a million wildebeest.


Marvel at the Pyramids of Giza

Not much needs to be said about this, surely a mainstay on any traveller's bucket list just begging to be crossed off with reckless abandon.


Discover the history of Great Zimbabwe

This World Heritage-listed medieval city is an arresting place to explore in itself, but also offers insight into a history you may never have realised existed.


Take a cable car up Table Mountain

You can hike up it, too, but in the heat this revolving car is the best way to take advantage of the incredible views from 1086m above Cape Town.


Get wet at Victoria Falls

The 2km-wide Zambezi River drops a spectacular 100m to form Victoria Falls, and there are footbridges, rafting, bungee jumping, and abseiling if you're feeling brave.


Search for lemurs on Madagascar

The unique and bizarre ecosystem of Madagascar hosts a ludicrous wealth of wildlife, the most popular being the lemur - 90% of the world's known species of it are here.


Eat like a local in Mechoui Alley, Marrakech

Morocco is famous for its local dishes, and here you'll find the best mechoui (slow-roasted lamb) in the city, served with fresh bread and olives.


Go island hopping in the Seychelles

There are 115 of them, navigable by boat and local planes, offering pristine beaches and rare wildlife like the Giant Tortoise and Seychelles Black Parrot. 


Volunteer and build a school in Kenya

Volunteering in Africa is one of the most rewarding things you can do on your gap year, be it building a school in Kenya, teaching in Uganda, or offering humanitarian aid in Burkina Faso.


Track down the 'Big Five.'

Cheating a little here, as we've already listed a National Park, but Africa's wildlife is so amazing you shouldn't miss the chance to see the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros in their native habitat.


Conquer Bloukrans Bridge Bungy, South Africa

This 216 metre plunge from a bridge over the Bloukrans River is the highest in the world, and the perfect way to test your gap year mettle.


Sandboard Namibia's giant sand dunes

The dunes are a spectacular sight by themselves, made even better when you're carving down them on a plank of wood strapped to your feet.


Visit a galaxy far, far away in Tunisia

The desert between Chebik and Mides is officially Tatooine, the planet in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker was born. This is a pilgrimage for any Star Wars fan.

Itineraries

Let Us Do the Work

We've put together a tasty selection of itineraries to help you explore Africa without having to stress out too much about planning. Remember, we're experts in creating tailor made gap year adventures, so if you have a particular experience in mind we want to make it happen. Just call the number on the big blue button below. 

Essential African Overlander

Essential African Overlander

Trans Africa Expedition

Trans Africa Expedition

South African Adventure

South African Adventure

Uganda Community Volunteers

Uganda Community Volunteers

*Calls are included in free mobile minute allowance
Monday to Friday: 9am to 6pm  |  Saturday: 10am – 5pm

Advice

Our Best Articles on Africa

Looking for advice on backpacking in Africa? Well, you have stumbled upon just the place. We have articles covering a wide range of African destinations and experiences. If these don't inspire and advise you, nothing will. 

Highlights from South Africa

Highlights from South Africa

Volunteering and Travelling in Kenya

Volunteering and Travelling in Kenya

Shopping in Egypt

Shopping in Egypt

Volunteering in the Seychelles

Volunteering in the Seychelles

Sports Coaching in Ghana

Sports Coaching in Ghana

Exploring Southern Morocco

Exploring Southern Morocco

Life as a South African Game Ranger

Life as a South African Game Ranger

Gorilla Trekking in Northern Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking in Northern Rwanda