Africa remains one of the most unique, unspoiled and interesting travel destinations in the World and yet many backpackers have yet to discover all the treasures this fascinating continent has to offer. Only in Africa you can ride ostriches, dive with sharks and stalk lions all in one day. Only in Africa can you go wine tasting, bungee jumping and trekking in deep dark jungles with mountain gorillas on one trip. There really is no better place for an adventurous backpacker than Africa.
Below we take you through 10 of the most backpacker-friendly travel destinations in Africa that are sure to fill you with wanderlust and a sense of adventure!
1 Ssese Islands, Uganda
While Uganda is probably far from most traveler’s bucket list, it is slowly but surely growing as an interesting spot for people backpacking through East Africa. The Ssese islands are a sort of unspoiled paradise smack bang in the middle of Lake Victoria, which in case you didn’t know, is the biggest tropical lake in the world!
Think remote beaches, pineapple plantations, freshly caught fish for lunch and an unlimited supply ice-cold Ugandan beer that’s cheap as chips. These islands can be challenging to get to, and the boats often only pick you up once or twice a week, so a trip here is definitely only for the adventurous!
2 Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is definitely the backpackers capital of Africa. Long street, in the city center, is a mecca for backpackers and the street is lined with some of the coolest hostels you will ever come across. Outside the city center, you will find luxury backpacker lodges with green garden spaces and views overlooking the spectacular 12 apostles and Camps Bay.
Expect trips to the beach, volleyball tournaments, group hikes up table mountain, pub crawls around the city center and wine tasting trips out to the winelands of Stellenbosch and Somerset West, all with a crazy melange of international travelers who you won’t find anywhere else.
3 Mombasa, Kenya
There’s a backpackers hostel on Diani beach, South of Mombasa, with the tagline, “It’s not a business. It’s a house with a bar and a pool,’ and honestly that is exactly how things are in Kenya; laid-back, friendly and perfect for backpackers.While Kenya is lacking decent hostels in general, there is a plethora of cheap accommodation options for the traveler on a budget from cheap hotels to wooden chalets lining the beaches North and South of Mombasa.
The coast is an incredible spot for snorkeling and scuba diving trips, learning to sail a dhow or exploring all the ancient ruins such as Fort Jesus in Mombasa or the Ruins of Gedi near Malindi.
4 Zanzibar, Tanzania
When most people think of Zanzibar, they think of an tropical island full of 5 star hotels and people on their honeymoon. While you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, there is so much more to Zanzibar that most people don’t know about. First of all, it is also an amazing location for budget travelers looking for a break from the difficult trails of mainland Kenya and Tanzania. It is chance to sit back and relax on some of the most pristine white beaches in the world with not a worry in the world.
Zanzibar also has many activities and events specifically for it’s budget tourists. From cheap beach bars and full moon beach parties in Kendwa, to relaxing sailing trips, spice tours and walking tours of Stone Town, there really is something here for every budget and every taste.
5 Inhambane, Mozambique
Think long white sandy beaches, hammocks, palm trees, fresh coconut cocktails and staying in rooms made of bamboo that line the beach. No jet-skis, no salespeople, no fancy restaurants at rip-off prices…this is true backpacker paradise. You can spend your days lying in a hammock reading a good book, or head out on a traditional dhow for some snorkeling in some of the most undisturbed coral reefs in the world.
The only trouble you’ll have when it come to Inhambane is actually getting there! One tip for travel in Mozambique would be to pay a bit more for the luxury buses as you might be travelling for up to 10 hours. Also, stay out of Maputo, the capital, unless you’re pockets are overflowing with cash – it’s expensive as hell.
6 Taghazout, Morocco
Taghazout is the surfing Mecca of North Africa and attracts both beginner and professional surfers from all over the world. The small town is a backpackers paradise as it is full of funky hostels with a beach view and cheap restaurants that could feed even the most frugal of backpackers. Surf lessons, quad biking, dune buggies and camel rides are just a few of the fun activities on offer, in this otherwise quiet seaside town.
Close by you will find Paradise Valley, a beautiful palm-lined gorge created by an earthquake many moons ago, which you can hike up to on a day trip and even do a spot of cliff jumping with the locals.
7 Livingstone, Zambia
If you want to visit Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the worlds, and don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars to stay in one the limited hotel accommodation options in the area, there are some great budget hostels in Livingstone that will blow you away. You can’t really go wrong with a large backpackers lodge situated mere minutes from one of the seven natural wonders of the world and in a small town known as the ‘Adrenaline Junkie Capital of Africa.’
Bungee jumping, rock climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, gorge swings, micro lights flights and walking safari’s are just some of the nail-biting activities on offer. For those just looking to sit back and enjoy the view, you can do your own thing while exploring the National park then head back to your hostel and relax by the swimming pool,a luxury that even the cheapest hostels in Livingstone provide.
8 The Wild Coast, South Africa
Most of South Africa is backpacker friendly so it’s difficult to pick the best parts. One stand out region would be the Wild Coast, a desolate but beautiful region of the country where travelers can stay with locals in traditional mud huts or can check in at funky backpackers hostels just a stone’s throw from the beach.
Think long walks across green hills to find secret sea arches, sitting in the back of an open top jeep flying past spectacular coastal scenery searching for the best surf spots and whale watching locations or simply whiling away the afternoon in a hammock with not a worry in the world. If this sounds good, then The Wild Coast is the place for you!
9 Bale Mountains, Ethiopia
So not a lot of people know that you can actually go to Ethiopia on your vacation. Lot’s of people haven’t a clue how green this country is, so full of trees and wildlife and mountains. People just think of poverty, sand and the desert. This does not describe Ethiopia. In fact, tourist agencies in the country promote it as the land of ’13 months of sunshine’ (thanks to its bizarre 13 month calendar!) and after spending a few weeks there, you will definitely agree.
The Bale mountains, in Southern Ethiopia, are unbelievably beautiful and a perfect spot for backpackers you like the great outdoors and sleeping in nature. You can organize a one or two week trek on horseback fairly easily on arrival. You’ll meet medicine men and local child shepherds, you’ll learn about the medicinal properties of every plant and tree you pass, pick what animal you would like killed and cooked for your dinner and see a way of living that you never imagined possible. A trip here is something you will never forget.
10 Lake Malawi, Malawi
Malawi is often referred to as the most friendly country in Africa, and after a few days of wandering this beautiful stretch of Southern Africa, you will quickly see why. Even if you are backpacking by yourself, one stop in a local bar and you find yourself instantly with a group of new friends.
Even though it is a small country where you can easily make in from one end of the country to the other in one day, it also offers so much in that small geographical space. From spending time relaxing and sunbathing on the lake at Cape Maclear to tracking elephants at nearby Vwaza Marsh, from island hopping from Likomo to Chizimulu or trekking up Mulanje mountain to see spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, Malawi truly is the hidden pearl of Africa.