10 Places to visit in West Africa
This list is comprised of ECOWAS destinations I’ve visited and highly recommend and of places in this same region that would like to go to, someday.
Goree Island, Senegal
Lying off the coast of mainland Senegal, the Island of Goree was the largest trading centre of enslaved people off the West African coast between the 15th-19th centuries and was ruled and colonized, in succession, by several European nations namely Portugal, the Netherlands, England and France. Today, the island serves as a memorial to this grim period in history when human lives were so grimly exploited and abused.
Cape Coast, Ghana
Similarly to Goree Island, the Cape Coast of Ghana carries with it a grim history that was inflicted on the island during the days of the Transatlantic Slave trade when it was one of the largest and busiest slave trading posts in the region. Housed on the island is the domineering Cape Coast Castle - one of several UNESCO World Heritage slave forts.
Mindelo, Cape Verde
Home to over 90% of the island’s population, the city of Mindelo lies on the island of Sao Vincente and is considered the cultural capital of Cape Verde. The town is surrounded by mountains and a coastline that offers serene and picturesque views of the Atlantic.
The capital of Nigeria’s Cross River State, located in the southeastern region of the country, the city is set on a natural hill overlooking the Calabar River and was also once set-up as a center of slave trade by British colonists in 17th century. Nowadays, the city is fast becoming a cultural and tourist hub in the country and the annual Calabar Carnival attracts visitors from all over Nigeria, different parts of Africa, the diaspora and around the world. The Calabar Carnival is the largest street cultural festival in Africa.
Lying on the southern coastline of the country, Cotonou is Benin’s largest city. Easily accessible by road from Lagos - a lovely drive if no interruptions and inconveniences are experienced - this coastal city is a great getaway from the hubbub and seemingly never-ending grind of bigger West African cities such as Lagos, Accra and Abidjan.
Arguably the most famous town in Mali, Timbuktu is a city rich with multiple layers of history as it played a central role in the geographic locale of defining periods in West African history such as the Mali and Songhai Empires, as well as the Islamization of Africa. Many of the monuments in the town - including mosques and mausoleums - have been put on the list of World Heritage sites in danger due to frequent attacks on the area in recent years. Timbuktu is home to three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, all built from mud.
The gorgeous coastal capital of The Gambia, Banjul is slowly becoming a popular visiting area for tourists wanting to make the most out of a beach holiday without intense amounts of maddening stereotypical tourist crowds. Apart from its coastline and beaches, this small West African city offers much to do and see from visiting the River Gambia National Park to fishing excursions and seeing some of Gambia’s historic monuments.
Lakka, Sierra Leone
With a population of a little less than 5,000, ten miles west of the capital Freetown lies the coastal resort town of Lakka. Known for its large beaches that border the Atlantic Ocean on Africa’s western coast, Lakka is a fishing town that attracts tourists from around the region due to its serenity and idyllic atmosphere.
San Pedro, Ivory Coast
A coastal city located in the southwestern area of Ivory Coast, San Pedro is the nation’s second largest port and is home to the Taï National Park - one of the last sanctuaries of the pygmy hippopotamus, which is listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Not often seen as a city to visit as a tourist destination, Liberia’s capital should not be simply dismissed or overlooked when planning a trip to West Africa. Monrovia lies close the western coast of the country giving residents and visitors access to the some of the country’s most pristine beaches. Furthermore, places such as the Sapo National Park, Blue Lake, Lake Piso and Providence Island are must-see areas for anyone visiting central Liberia.
P.S.: Before you travel anywhere, it is important to do your research on the place(s) you plan on visiting and make an informed decision on whether visiting there would be in your best interests, as well as that of the local community.
November: Highlighting Travel & Exploration in Africa