I asked other travel bloggers about their favorite places to visit in East Africa and got lots of responses and a long list of amazing destinations. For anyone planning a trip to East Africa, this post is helpful to give an idea of all the places you can visit. The countries covered here are Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Seychelles, and Uganda.
This is a four-part series including East, North, West and Southern Africa. You can see the other posts below:
By Gabriela of Gabriela Here and There
I have to start with my own experience traveling in Comoros. Comoros is a true off the beaten path destination, one of the least visited countries in the world. I had fun exploring two different islands even though traveling there can be complicated and exhausting. The local people are very helpful and welcoming, and they truly made my stay a special one. Read my blog posts for more information: Grand Comoros and Mohéli.
By Mar of Once in a Lifetime Journey
Sandwiched by Ethiopia and the Red Sea and located in Africa’s hotspot for pirates, Djibouti is a save heaven in a region marred by violence, terrorism and conflict. For such a small place, Djibouti packs a punch. You can go to the otherworldly landscapes of Lake Abbe or float in the salty Lake Assal. In season, you can dive with whale sharks or trek mountains. This very important naval base receives hardly any tourists so if you are looking for a truly offbeat destination, this is it.
By Lina of Divergent Travelers
Unlike some of the other countries you can visit up the East coast of Africa, Ethiopia is not a place you will see large groups of tourists. The country is significantly less traveled and can provide you with an authentic, almost otherworldly experience during your visit. Ethiopia is rustic, raw and a true picture of Africa.
This area is located in Southern Ethiopia and borders Kenya and Sudan. It is a final frontier and travel to this area is rough but well rewarded for those that choose to endure it. Basing in the small town of Jinka, you can locate opportunities to travel several hours into the valley and visit some of Africa’s famous tribes. Due to the recent popularity from being featured in National Geographic, the tribes are difficult to photography without providing payment, and the visits can be exhausting however well worth it. If you time it right, try to witness a Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony during your visit.
The capital of Ethiopia is an underlying heartbeat for the country. I’ve never had an experience before that I could compare to my time in Addis Ababa, but it was enjoyable. People tend to base here for several days and explore surrounding areas, as well as pay a visit to the National Museum where the bones of ‘Lucy’ humans closest ancestor can be observed.
Seeking out a meaning of Orthodox Christianity will bring you to Bahir Dar and the shores of the golden Lake Tana. Take a boat across the lake to one of the many islands to see astonishingly well-preserved monasteries. Another day outside the city can be spent exploring the Blue Nile Falls, arguably the source of the Blue Nile River.
A visit to Ethiopia is not complete until you make your way to Lalibela and spend some time marveling at centuries old rock-hewn churches carved from the earth. With an entrance price of $50, you can explore the interior and exterior of all the churches in the area. a guide can tell you the history and lead you to the most famous church, shaped like a cross from above, of Saint George. There is acceptable accommodation in this area, but the town is quite small.
Most commonly known as the jumping off point for trekking in the Simien Mountains, Godar is also said to be the Camelot of Africa featuring huge castle ruins that reflect the times when all of Ethiopia was ruled from this very town. It’s worth spending a few days exploring the many castles and taking in the street life of this unique city before heading into the mountains to enjoy some trekking. While the trekking comes with a stiff set of rules- you must have a government approved guide and an armed guard with you at all times- the views you’ll get are second to none, and you’ll even get a chance to mingle among the Gelada Baboons, a species that exists only in these mountains. Trekking in the Simien Mountains is one of the Top 100 Travel Adventures in the world.
Kenya: Lake Elmenteita
By Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren
Lake Elmenteita is one of the Great Rift Valley soda lakes in Kenya. A soda lake is very alkaline with high concentrations of carbonate salts. For this reason, as well as an unlimited supply of carbon dioxide, they are the most productive aquatic environments in the world.
Over 400 bird species live at Lake Elmenteita and the other two lakes in the Kenya Lake System (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Over four million Lesser Flamingos travel between these three soda lakes. It’s a significant region as 13 globally-threatened, and eight regionally threatened species live and thrive there. It’s the only breeding colony in East Africa for Great White Pelicans. You’ll find many other species of migratory birds there, including the African Spoonbill, Yellow Billed Stork, Gull Billed Tern, Black-Necked Grebe, and others. Lake Elmenteita plays an important role in the African-Eurasian flyway system, as billions of birds travel from northern breeding grounds to warmer African locations during the winter.
You can travel to Lake Elmenteita while visiting the wildlife preserve, Soysambu Conservancy. I volunteered at this wildlife conservancy, participating in field monitoring projects for the endangered Rothschild giraffes and the birds at Lake Elmenteita.
Kenya: Maasai Mara
By Chris from Aussie on the Road
Home to the world-famous Wildebeest Migration for a few months each year, Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve is part of the same ecosystem that comprises the massive Serengeti in Tanzania.
With its kopjes and savannah, the Maasai Mara is the prototypical safari destination – home to the entirety of the popular Big Five as well as vast herds of wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes.
Another element of the reserve that makes it stand out are the tribal people who share their name with the park. With their brightly coloured outfits and distinctive style of dance, the Maasai live and hunt in and around the park. Seeing their herds or warriors out on the plains is not uncommon.
What many don’t know about the Maasai Mara is how affordable it can be during the lengthy off-season between visits from the Migration. November is an especially good time to visit, with luxury properties all over the reserve available for a fraction of their usual cost.
By Margherita of The Crowded Planet
The Tsingy de Bemaraha are one of the most spectacular and unique landscapes I’ve ever seen – a ‘stone forest’ of razor-sharp karst formations, with lemurs hopping between one spire and another. The Tsingy are located in Western Madagascar, in an area that can only be reached by 4X4, so they are not overrun with tourists which makes the place even more special. You have two choices to explore the Tsingy – from ground level, or climbing on the rocks themselves with via a ferrata-like system of cables and ladders. In any case, don’t miss the Tsingy when visiting Madagascar!
By Nicole of Travelgal Nicole
I spent six months travelling through Africa. I had researched all of the countries we were visiting, but when I got to Malawi, I realised I didn’t know that much about it. Malawi is one of those countries that does not get a lot of tourism but is well worth a visit. We flew into Lilongwe Airport from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and then made our way to Lake Malawi.
After we arrived in the capital of Lilongwe, we drove to Kande Beach, a beautiful spot on the Lake. We stayed in a lodge along the waterfront. The waterfront has a beautiful white sand, and we went for a swim in the lake every day. The lake is full of tropical fish and is a beautiful spot to snorkel in. The Malawian way of life revolves around the lake, and you can also sit, and people watch all day as people are swimming and fishing in the lake.
By Verushka of Spicegoddess
Often seen only as Honeymooners paradise, Mauritius is that and so much more. In 2015 my family headed off to Mauritius for my brother’s wedding for seven days. In between the wedding festivities did I realise that I needed at least seven days extra to explore the Island properly. From the amazing Hindu Temples of Ganga Talao to the lush green gardens of Pamplemousse to the bustling streets of Port Louis, Mauritius has something to offer all tourists besides the beaches.
A rich culture is interwoven with the French, Indians, Chinese and African which is all evidently seen in everyday life on the island. Mesmerised by the Sega dancers and music one learns about the history of the slaves on the Island.
With a large variety of cultures on the island, it is no wonder that the food available is of a high quality and not forgetting the famous Green Island Rum which is locally produced on the island. Chinese and Indian dishes feature on most menus with a twist of French.
By Melanie of Mafambani
Mozambique is still a hidden gem, and if you’re looking for a beautiful beach off from tourist masses, Tofo is the place to go. This little paradise is 500 km away from Mozambique’s capital Maputo. Tofo is known for it’s beautiful, long and untouched beaches. One of the reasons it’s never overcrowded is because it’s quite exhausting to get there. There are several options, though. Either you take one of those packed minibusses, rent a car or take a plane to Inhambane and from there it’s only 24 km until you reach Tofo. There are many activities to do, but you could also just relax for a few days in a hammock and at the beach. If you prefer more action, rent a surfboard and go surfing and I highly recommend you to go diving. My favorite diving school was Liquid Dive Adventure. If you’re lucky and in the right season you might see manta rays or even whale sharks in the warm water. Also, you could go on a boat ride and explore the area around. Also, try local food in the little restaurants and enjoy your evenings in the local bars with live music. If you ever need something, just ask. Mozambicans are warm-hearted and helpful.
Rwanda: Volcanoes National Park
By Matilda of The Travel Sisters
One of my favorite places in Africa is Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda where you can hike for an up close view of mountain gorillas. The endangered mountain gorillas can be found in three countries in Africa (Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo) but Rwanda is the most accessible and offers the best views of the gorillas. Trekkers are assigned a gorilla family to visit depending on fitness level and trek anywhere from one to five hours. Encounters with the gorillas are tightly controlled, with only eight visitors a day allowed to see each gorilla group and each visit limited to one hour. It is one unforgettable hour in the company of an enormous silverback and family eating, playing, fighting and just hanging out. With less than 1000 endangered mountain gorillas left in the world, the experience is a humbling and amazing privilege.
By Hannah of Getting Stamped
A trip to Africa must include a safari game drive! I have gone on two overland safari trips, the first one was 42 days, and I loved it so much I returned the next year for a 68-day safari. My favorite place is the Serengeti; no words can describe out of this world. A simple way to describe it is like watching the real life lion king movie. You will never be able to go a zoo again. Sleeping in a tent in the middle of the park hearing the lions roaring in the distance is such an epic experience. When packing for a safari bring layers, the Serengeti is hot during the day but really cools down at night especially in the Ngorongoro Crater. Don’t worry there will be a campfire at night! On my last trip, we literally had water buffalo & elephants walking through our camp as we sat by the campfire.
Tanzania: Mount Meru
By Andrew of Passport Chronicles
Mount Meru, the second tallest mountain in Tanzania, is often overlooked for its taller and more famous cousin Kilimanjaro. I’m here to make the argument that it shouldn’t be. Although not as tall, it’s summit sits at 4,562 meters, just shy of reaching the lofty status of 15,000 feet (it’s officially 14,968 ft above sea level). What it lacks in height, it makes up for in challenging and varied terrain. In comparison to Mount Kilimanjaro, the hike is more technical; there is some light scrambling necessary to reach the summit and a bit more exposure to boot. Furthermore, the view of the volcano cone that can be seen on the ridge to the summit is one of the most unique in all of Tanzania. Located inside Arusha National Park, Mount Meru is an hour and a half from downtown Arusha, so you’ll need to be accompanied by an armed ranger as wildlife roams free here. In particular, Buffaloes are known to charge if startled. On the way down from the summit on the last day, we were able to walk within 10 meters of a group of giraffes. Something that you won’t be able to claim if you hike Kilimanjaro.
Tanzania: Tarangire National Park
By Gábor of Surfing the Planet
Northern Tanzania is full of magnificent national parks, and the Tarangire National Park is one of them. The latter has a total area of ca. 3000 sq. km, and it’s the sixth largest park in the whole country. The name of the Tarangire River, which is the main water source in the park, comes from the Swahili words of Tara (river) and Ngiri (warthog).
There are many things to see in the Tarangire National Park. The park is famous for having the hugest elephant population in the whole country, and for the enormous quantity of the iconic baobab trees, you can find there. While visiting the park, of course, we didn’t only see elephants, but loads of other wild animals, including lions, giraffes, lots of different birds, etc. The best moment to visit this park is in the dry season between June and October, when animals gather around the river for water. The park is located at a couple of hours drive from Arusha, where most safari companies in Northern Safari have their headquarters.
Tanzania: Ukerewe Island, Lake Victoria
By Nina of Safari Junkie
Unlike other places in Tanzania, Ukerewe Island doesn’t see many tourists. And this makes it so great! For those who like to explore more on the off the beaten path in Tanzania, this island will be the perfect place to visit. There is not much going on in adventure sense, but the island is amazingly quiet, rural and authentic. There are some great hiking options with amazing views of Vic Lake like Halwego village or Rutare Hill and Rubya Beach forest that is the largest forest on Ukerewe Island and the only place to swim without the fear of bilharzia.. Ukerewe is also known for being a refuge for Tanzanian albinos, and an island with many witch doctors who in the island society still play an important role of doctors, fortune tellers, marriage advisors, all in one. Ukerewe Island is accessible by ferry from Mwanza. To get there will take you about 4 to 4,5 hours of slow cruising on Victoria Lake. The best way to explore the island is to rent a bike and follow the marvel roads.
By Rachel of The World in a Weekend
Just the word Zanzibar sounds so exotic, doesn’t it? This small island off the coast of Tanzania does not disappoint.
Fascinated by history? Step back in time and get lost in the labyrinth-like capital and UNESCO World Heritage site of Stone Town. Prefer to relax and rejuvenate? Zanzibar is famed for its breathtaking beaches and warm waters. Looking to fall off the grid for a while? Spend time in your own piece of paradise in a private romantic villa. Want to explore? Take a trip on a traditional dhow boat. Interested in animal conservation? Visit monkeys, sip champagne with a cheetah or feed giant tortoises.
If you’re already in East Africa, there are many flights to Dar es Salaam where you can catch a ferry across to Stone Town. Or, do as we did and fly direct to Zanzibar airport.
This island is so varied and so utterly beautiful, you have to see it to believe it. But be warned, once you visit you’ll never want to leave.
By Natasha of The World Pursuit
The Seychelles are the epitome of complete relaxation and tranquility in the Indian Ocean. We visited last year and were amazed at just how lush and mountainous the terrain really is! The beaches are all made of the softest white sand I have ever stepped on, which I found out later that the sand is actually the excrement of the overwhelming number of parrotfish in the Indian Ocean. The water in the Seychelles in turquoise and bright blue and it is hard not to want to spend forever in. It’s true that the Seychelles are not cheap, but with a little planning and staying away from the big resorts the Seychelles islands can be completely done on a budget.
Uganda: Queen Elizabeth National Park
By Corinne of Reflections Enroute
Almost 2000 kilometers squared in size, Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to a myriad of wildlife and safari experiences, and we made it a priority to stay here for a number of days on our self-drive trip through Uganda. The park is split up into two main parts, and the southern end is where you can see tree-climbing lions, the only ones in the world. Then moving north, we took a Kazinga Channel boat ride where we marveled at elephants, crocodiles, hippos, and so much more. This park has begun something new, and tourists can sign up to go with researchers for half a day tracking lions or mongoose to learn more about these amazing animals. We did the lion experience, and it was pretty amazing. To get to Queen Elizabeth, you can drive or fly. We rented and drove ourselves, but you can easily hire someone to drive you there as well.
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