18 Best Places to Visit in Djibouti

Djibouti

Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa that is often overlooked as a travel destination. However, it offers a unique blend of cultures, stunning landscapes, and rich history that make it worth considering for your next trip.

In this blog post, we will highlight 18 of the best places to visit in Djibouti. From the capital city to the otherworldly landscapes of Lake Assal and Lake Abbe, there is no shortage of sights to see and experiences to be had in this East African gem. Let’s dive.

Djibouti City

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Djibouti City features various attractions such as mosques, lakes, and national parks. It’s a secure, pedestrian-friendly metropolis with Arabian-European architectural influences.

The European Quarter displays French colonial houses and Moorish architecture, while the African Quarter provides local souvenirs, food, and cultural insights.

Key city attractions are Place Menelik, L’Escale marina, and Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Bon-Pasteur, showcasing cultural and architectural diversity.

It also appeals to shopping enthusiasts with the Grande Pecherie Street Market and Les Caisses Market and offers diverse shopping and dining options near Siesta Beach. The nightlife is vibrant, particularly at Sixteen Eleven Kitch’n and corniche bars, offering a blend of drinks, music, and shisha.

Day Forest National Park

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Day Forest National Park, located 20 km from the Gulf of Tadjourah and 60 km north of the capital, is a significant protected forested area in the country.

The park houses multiple bird species and wildlife, including the unique Djibouti sunbird, Toha sunbird, Djibouti francolin, and Grevy’s zebra. It’s accessible by road and offers birding safaris for a closer view of the wildlife.

Hanlé Plain

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The Hanle Plain is a large region marked by alluvial soil, acacia scrub, shallow channels, and sand mats, all encircled by mountains. It sustains many life forms, such as breeding ostriches and water birds because of its permanent freshwater areas.

The plain, with its acacia scrub and shallow wadis, is a habitat for diverse bird species like the three-banded plover, black crake, and Egyptian goose. It offers opportunities for wildlife observation and water activities. The area also houses numerous eateries.

Gulf of Tadjoura

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The Gulf of Tadjoura reaches up to 3,550 feet and is notable for its stunning scenery, including the Goda Mountains and marine life. It’s an excellent spot for diving and snorkeling, particularly due to the presence of whale sharks.

The region’s diverse landscapes include sandy dunes and islands like Moucha and Maskali, which have historical importance. The gulf is rich in fish and pearl oysters, making it ideal for fishing. In addition to its natural attractions, the area also offers cultural insights.

Goda Mountains

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The Goda Mountains offer hiking and views of peaceful Afar villages. Nearby, Foret du Day features unique plant and animal species. Campement Touristique de Dittilou and Campement Touristique de Bankouale provide rustic huts, guided walks, and local cultural experiences.

Activities for all abilities include exploring plane wrecks, hiking, and visiting waterfalls. Eco-friendly camps use solar power and support local communities.

Doralé and Khor Ambado

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Doralé and Khor Ambado in Djibouti offer serene beaches, ideal for relaxation and water sports. Located around 10-15 kilometers from Djibouti City, these beaches are best visited between November and April. Activities include swimming, snorkeling, and enjoying sunsets, with the backdrop of black lava cliffs.

For accommodation, consider staying in Djibouti City and driving to the beaches. The Djibouti Palace Kempinski Hotel is a recommended choice. To avoid crowds, it’s suggested to visit during weekdays.

Tropical Aquarium

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The Tropical Aquarium in Djibouti, one of Africa’s largest and finest, is in the city’s historic district. It realistically recreates marine ecosystems, particularly those of the Red Sea, giving an impression of being underwater.

The aquarium showcases a wide range of tropical fish, rare marine species, and beautiful underwater flora and shells. It is open daily, except during Ramadan, from 4:00 until 18:30, inside an old building.

Lake Abbe

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Lake Abbe, a salt lake at the Djibouti-Ethiopian border, is recognized for its captivating landscapes. It’s one of six interconnected lakes, situated where three continental plates are separating.

The lake’s unusual terrain and cinematic history offer an unconventional travel experience. Spanning 450 square kilometers, Lake Abbe adds a distinctive hue to the bordering countries.

Exploring the site is possible via a 4×4 vehicle. Reaching Lake Abbe necessitates a 6-hour drive from Djibouti City, usually involving a guide and a driver, costing around 650 USD for a two-day trip.

Djibouti Mosques

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Djibouti’s population is predominantly Muslim. Other faiths include Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Baha’i, with foreign communities supporting Greek Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

The Hamoudi Mosque, an old and significant worship place, is uniquely shaped due to its triangular corner island location. Its construction date is uncertain, but sources suggest it was between 1913 and 1920.

Notable sites include Al Molk Mosque, seating 1,000 people, and Lake Assal, the lowest and saltiest point on Earth, featured in “Planet of the Apes”. The Nouriya and Al Sada Mosques, in the city center, offer distinct art, architecture, and courtyards.

Lake Assal

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Lake Assal, Djibouti, is known for its extreme buoyancy and is Africa’s lowest point, following the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. It features unique geography, like snow-like edges, cinder cones, a canyon, and salt caravans to the Ethiopian Highlands.

To reach Lake Assal, travel from Lake Abbe across the Great Barra to the Dikhil region, then trek the Danakil Desert. The journey includes a night at Wadi Abbe Bad and volcanic landscapes, culminating in views of Lake Assal’s white salt plains and emerald-to-baby blue saline waters.

Djibouti People’s Palace

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The People’s Palace in Djibouti, erected in 1984, is a notable landmark that pays tribute to the country’s independence struggle and the heroes who contributed to it.

The palace houses a monument honoring Djiboutians who sacrificed their lives for independence and several flag masts displaying the national flag. It includes a grand pavilion with columns and a Martyrs’ Monument, situated on Rue de Geneve.

Ali Sabieh

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Ali Sabieh, Djibouti’s second-largest city, is situated halfway between Djibouti City and Lake Abbe. Known for its sprawling layout in a basin surrounded by granitic mountains, Ali Sabieh is a vibrant community and home to the country’s largest mosque and Qat market.

With an altitude of 756 meters, Ali Sabieh experiences a moderate climate during summer and cold, but not extreme, winters, attracting tourists who appreciate its scenic views and temperate weather. The city is well-connected by paved roads and shared taxis, making it easily accessible.

Moucha Island

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Moucha Island, part of the Moucha Islands in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti, is known for its diving, snorkeling, and fishing opportunities. The islands, which include Maskali Island and a coral reef, feature a rugged landscape of sand, fossilized coral, cacti, and small shrubs.

While the terrestrial wildlife is limited to tiny lizards and occasional animal bone discoveries, the rich marine biodiversity makes Moucha Island a prime destination for diving enthusiasts and those seeking unique outdoor adventures.

This unique terrain offers scuba diving experiences up to 60 feet deep, with diverse marine life like emperor angels and giant eels. The clear night skies showcase constellations far from light pollution.

Arta Beach

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Arta Beach in Djibouti is a stunning coastal destination with golden sand, offering basic amenities and activities like swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. The beach is dog-friendly if kept on a leash.

It’s a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers, with incredible visibility, well-preserved corals, and the chance to see whale sharks. Organized excursions are recommended. Nearby dining options include Le Palmier Restaurant and La Voile Rouge, serving international and local cuisine.

Accommodation choices range from Hotel Residence de l’Europe to the luxurious Djibouti Palace Kempinski. The beach offers free parking and is close to attractions like Arta Cave and Day Forest National Park.

Place Menelik

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Place Menelik, in Djibouti, is a multicultural central square that serves as a tranquil spot by day and a lively nightlife area after dark. It’s popular for its mix of bars, restaurants, historic buildings, and marketplaces, attracting a diverse crowd, including foreigners, Ethiopians, and Yemeni merchants.

Grand Canyon Of Djibouti

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Djibouti features a unique canyon created by the movement of three tectonic plates, offering exceptional views and photo opportunities. Known by some as the Grand Canyon of Djibouti and by others as Belvedere Sul Canyon, it boasts colorful metal oxides and scenic vistas of the Bay of Djibouti and surrounding mountains.

Though not as vast as the Grand Canyon, it remains a remarkable site. The country also offers excellent diving spots and rich marine life, including dolphins and whale sharks.

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