Best Things to Do, See, and Eat in West Africa

a road somewhere in West Africa

West Africa, a region comprising 16 countries, is a treasure trove of unique experiences, from ancient kingdoms to modern cities.

The region offers genuine cultural encounters and unspoiled tourist sites, making it an ideal destination for adventurous travelers seeking an authentic African experience.

With its rich history, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality, West Africa is a region that deserves to be explored responsibly and sustainably.

Highlights of West African Countries


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Ghana is renowned for its historical forts, beautiful beaches, and the vibrant Ashanti kingdom. The Volta Region offers nature enthusiasts ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Some must-visit attractions in Ghana include:

  1. Cape Coast Castle: A historic fort that played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade.
  2. Kakum National Park: A lush rainforest reserve offering canopy walks and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  3. Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park: A park dedicated to Ghana’s first president, featuring a mausoleum and museum.
  4. Elmina Castle: Another historic fort with a dark past, once a major hub for the slave trade.
  5. Wli Waterfalls: The highest waterfall in West Africa, located in the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary.
  6. Aburi Botanical Gardens: A serene garden established in 1890, offering a peaceful retreat and beautiful flora.
  7. Makola Market: A bustling market in Accra where you can find local fabrics, food, and souvenirs.
  8. W.E.B. DuBois Center: A memorial center and library dedicated to the life and work of the prominent African-American scholar and activist.
  9. Mole National Park: Ghana’s largest wildlife park, home to elephants, antelopes, and various bird species.
  10. Accra Mall: A modern shopping center with international stores and restaurants.
  11. Bojo Beach: A picturesque beach near Accra, perfect for relaxation and swimming.

Ivory Coast

The-Basilica-of-Our-Lady-of-Peace-Ivory Coast
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Ivory Coast offers a perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. Its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife provide ample opportunities for unwinding, while the Toura Mountains offer hikers lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls.

Bouake, the second-largest city in Ivory Coast, is a hub for experiencing the Baoule culture, known for its intricate mask-making traditions and vibrant festivals.

Foodies will delight in authentic Ivorian cuisine, which features dishes like kedjenou, a slow-cooked chicken stew, and aloco, fried plantain served with grilled fish or meat.


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Guinea-Bissau’s archipelago is a hidden gem, teeming with wildlife and offering a glimpse into traditional West African life. The Bijagos Islands are home to a variety of species, including saltwater hippos, rare birds, and nesting sea turtles.

The Archipelago is a collection of 88 islands. These islands are a haven for those who appreciate pristine nature, offering an array of unique flora and fauna, including saltwater hippos and green turtles.

Bissau, the capital city, is steeped in history, with notable landmarks such as the Presidential Palace and the Fortaleza d’Amura.

Cape Verde

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Cape Verde, an archipelago off the coast of West Africa, is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Each island offers a unique landscape, from the rugged volcanic terrain of Fogo to the lush green valleys of Santo Antao.

Hiking trails crisscross the islands, rewarding trekkers with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The islands also boast a vibrant food and nightlife scene, with Sal Island being a popular spot for beach parties and live music.

The Gambia

The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa, packs a punch when it comes to wildlife and historical sites. The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project on Baboon Island is a must-visit.

The Gambia River is dotted with historical islands that played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade, such as James Island and Kunta Kinteh Island.


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Senegal is a country that effortlessly combines modernity with cultural richness. Its capital, Dakar, is a bustling metropolis with a thriving art scene, colorful markets, and delicious cuisine.

Nature enthusiasts can explore the Sine-Saloum Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its mangrove forests and abundant birdlife.

Senegal is also famous for its music festivals, such as the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival and the World Festival of Black Arts, which celebrate the country’s diverse cultural heritage.


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Togo offers a mystical and enchanting experience for travelers. Voodoo, an ancient religious practice, is deeply ingrained in Togolese culture with colorful ceremonies in various parts of the country.

Togo’s natural landscapes are equally captivating, with Lake Togo and the Mono River offering serene spots for relaxation and water activities.

The country’s cuisine is a fusion of African and European influences, with dishes like fufu, a staple made from cassava or yam, and yassa, a spicy chicken or fish stew, being popular among locals and visitors alike.

Outdoor Adventures and Natural Beauty

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West Africa’s natural beauty is unparalleled, with hiking opportunities in various countries, such as the Fouta Djallon highlands in Guinea and the Dogon Country in Mali.

Wildlife conservation efforts in the region have led to the establishment of numerous national parks and reserves, such as the Pendjari National Park in Benin and the Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal, with elephants, lions, and other iconic African species.

Other notable wildlife destinations in the region include:

  1. Mole National Park, Ghana: Home to elephants, antelopes, and various bird species.
  2. Kakum National Park, Ghana: A lush rainforest reserve offering canopy walks and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  3. Aburi Botanical Gardens, Ghana: A serene garden with beautiful flora and fauna.
  4. Parc National du Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a haven for birdwatchers, with millions of migratory birds.

Beach lovers will find paradise in West Africa, with stretches of pristine coastline in countries like Gambia, Senegal, and Ivory Coast. The region’s beaches offer a range of activities, from surfing and snorkeling to simply relaxing under the sun.

For those seeking a more unique experience, Cape Verde’s Fogo Island offers the chance to hike on an active volcano and explore lush green valleys.

West Africa’s history is also deeply intertwined with its natural landscape, with the slave trade leaving an indelible mark on the region. There are historical sites like the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and the House of Slaves on Goree Island in Senegal.

West African Cuisine

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West African cuisine is diverse and flavorful, with dishes that often include ingredients like black-eyed peas, palm oil, mustard, lemon juice, and various meats, cooked in distinctive ways that are specific to the region.

Popular staples include jollof rice, a flavorful rice dish cooked in a tomato-based sauce, and fufu, a dough-like dish made from pounded cassava or yam.

Ghanaian cuisine features dishes like kenkey, a fermented corn dough wrapped in corn husks, and red-red, a stew made from black-eyed peas and served with fried plantain.

Nigerian cuisine varies by region, with dishes like suya, spicy grilled meat skewers, and egusi soup, a creamy soup made from ground melon seeds, being popular throughout the country.

Senegal is known for its thieboudienne, a flavorful rice and fish dish, while Ivory Coast’s kedjenou, a slow-cooked chicken stew, is a must-try.

Cultural Experiences and Festivals

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West Africa’s rich cultural heritage is celebrated through various festivals and events throughout the year. In Burkina Faso, the International Festival of Masks and the Arts (FESTIMA) showcases the country’s dynamic mask-making traditions, with performers donning colorful costumes and intricate masks.

Senegal’s Saint-Louis Jazz Festival attracts music lovers from around the world, with performances by local and international artists.

Benin and Togo are known for their voodoo festivals, which offer a unique glimpse into this ancient religious practice. The Ouidah Voodoo Festival in Benin and the Akodessewa Fetish Market in Togo are must-visits for those interested in learning about the spiritual beliefs of the region.

You can take part in traditional ceremonies, such as the Ashanti Akwasidae festival in Ghana or the Gouro mask dance in Ivory Coast, and learn about the culture and history of the region directly from its people.

Responsible Travel and Tips

Eco-conscious travelers can support local communities by staying in eco-lodges and participating in community-based tourism initiatives. Ask for permission before taking photos of people or sacred places.

Packing essentials for a trip to West Africa include insect repellent, sunscreen, and a backup battery for electronic devices.

Consider timing their trip to coincide with cultural events and festivals, which offer a unique insight into the region’s dynamic heritage.


West Africa is a region that offers an unparalleled travel experience, with its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality.

From the historical sites of Ghana to the mystical voodoo ceremonies of Togo, there is something for every type of traveler in this vibrant region.

With its unique offerings and authentic experiences, West Africa is a region that should be on every adventurous traveler’s bucket list.

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