An unsung gem on the African continent, Angola has overcome years of conflict to become an incredible tourist attraction today. It is a land with much cultural diversity with Portuguese influences intertwined with the local flavour and many areas for a 4x4 road trip to grab your interest.
So, if you are looking for something a little out of the way, here is an Angola travel guide for you; start your tour from the capital, Luanda.
The Portuguese influence is palpable in the capital, Luanda; after all, they did colonize the area as far back as 1575. This is a city on the west coast of the country where it flourishes next to the Atlantic Ocean. Interestingly, more people speak Portuguese here than in Lisbon! Spending some time in the city with a Luanda tour guide is certainly worth your while before you hit the roads and trails, for there is much to see and do here, from ancient buildings to museums.
Fortaleza de Sao Pedro da Barra: This 17th Century fortress has served in many guises over the years, including as a pen from where slaves were sent overseas.
National Museum of Slavery: The museum itself is found inside the Capa de Casa Grande, a chapel were slaves were baptized. Another excellent example of Portuguese architecture, the museum includes a number of period pieces including shackles and other equipment.
Igreja da Se: This building, dating back to 1482 is one of the best historical sites in the city with a unique Baroque style.
Fortaleza de Sao Miguel: Another structure now close to 450 years old, this fort was built in 1576 and first held a military garrison. During the slave trade, it also became a place to hold slaves while they waited to sail from Africa to the Americas.
Benfica Market: Here, you can find hundreds of different trade goods, curios, art pieces and wood carvings with over 700 sellers calling the market home each day. Known to the locals as the “Kifica” market, this is one of the best places in the country to pick up some souvenirs to take home. Once you have had your fill of the city, it’s time to let adventure take you into the wilds of Angola.
While the country offers very varied terrain, it’s the coastlines of Angola that provide some of the most beautiful scenery you could ever hope to see. Starting out from Luanda, it is certainly worth considering driving south. Taking an experienced Angola tour guide with you is totally recommended. Benguela is perhaps the best coastal town to spend some time in, with the finest beaches in the country, including Praia da Baia Azul and Praia da Baia Farta. Sample seafood in the city as well, with the most delicious mussels, lobster and fish available at a number of restaurants.
Most buildings Benguela are filled with houses featuring roofs with terracotta tiling, an influence from the Iberian Peninsula. The ocean plays a massive part in the daily lives of the people living here, so dotted throughout the trek, you will find coastal fishing villages. Explore, meet the locals, and try the local dishes like bacalhau (salted cod) or a bean and pork stew known as feijoada.
Kissama National Park
The years of war in Angola decimated much of the larger animal species in the country. However, the Angolan government and other organizations are slowly reintroducing more wildlife to the country. Kissama National Park is filled with lush grasslands, desert areas alive with cacti and baobab trees, a stalwart of the Angolan landscape. Your tour guide will be able to show you the best places to view animals here. You can witness African giraffes, zebras, various monkey species, buffalo, African elephants, and a wide variety of birds. A boat ride on the nearby Kwanzi river is also worth considering, especially to see the fearsome crocodile.
There are a number of other attractions in Angola worth considering on your road-trip.
Namibe market: The southern province of Namibia is home to a town of the same name. This coastal village is all about the sea, and fishing of course, so at the local market, together with beautiful fresh vegetables, you will find some delicious seafood, caught fresh that day. It’s the perfect place to pick up some fish to barbecue over open coals. Nothing could be simpler or more delicious.
Sangano and Cabo Ledo beaches: Just 100km outside Luanda, are the beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo, perfect for a road trip. With the blue Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, you can walk along the sand for miles, often without another person in sight, especially on a weekday.
Kalandula Fall: One of the largest waterfalls in Africa, Kalandula is found on the Lucala River, around 366 kilometres from Luanda. Spanning 105 metres high and 410 metres wide, these falls offer some stunning views as millions of litres of water cascade down a sheer rock face. Surrounded by trees, the waterfalls produce a mist that can be seen from miles around.
“Craig Taylor is a freelance writer and blogger. A lover of wildlife, he loves to travel and have as many new experiences as possible, particularly with food! His other passion is photography.”
Image details and licenses: Luanda: https://flic.kr/p/wfeMCS (David Stanley, CC BY 2.0), Bacalhau: https://flic.kr/p/6ScSEJ (Denys Almeida, CC BY-SA 2.0), Kissama national park: https://flic.kr/p/MHsp3A (Charles Davies, CC BY-NC 2.0), Benguela: https://flic.kr/p/mSmuMd (Jbdodane, CC BY-NC 2.0), Fortaleza de Sao Miguel: https://flic.kr/p/wuG6qB (David Stanley, CC BY 2.0)