Travel West Africa? Why not? There are 16 countries in this region and after spending several months here; we have a little recap for you from our travels across this part of Africa.
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)
We started off with an island nation that many haven’t heard about. It was great and at the time, it reminded us of Cuba. Nice architecture, food full of flavour and easy days to explore the main island. Most travellers that travel West Africa don’t get out here, but it is worth it.
We said goodbye to our comforts and entered the dusty streets of this huge country. This felt like the real start of our travel West Africa adventure. Our highlight was Couchsurfing in the capital and drinking plenty of tea with our Couchsurfing host and her local friends. The fish market was amazing too!
Timbuktu and Djenne are still high on our bucket list, but due to security we only got as far as Bamako. That’s thing whenever you travel West Africa, there will always be places you can’t visit. Mali was great. Colourful markets, an old train station and some very good times with our new friend.
What a nice surprise. The capital Ouagadougou seemed more relaxed after Bamako and we got to see the Sindou Peaks, which reminded us of the Bungle Bungles in West Australia. Who knew we will travel West Africa thoroughly before we travel West Australia. We had some great food and saw a baobab tree.
There is no secret here, we loved Niger! Again our adventures were limited to Niamey and surrounding areas but we had a fantastic time. We ate some world-class brochettes here (marinated fillet beef on skewers), visited markets and a cool bar at the river for sunset. But the highlight was seeing the West African giraffes in the wild. It could be advertising on why to travel to West Africa for all wildlife lovers.
Applying for many visas in Dakar wasn’t all that fun, but we had a lovely Airbnb host here. We ventured to the colonial town of St Louis and down to the beaches of Cap Skirring. We had some tiring travel days, but some yummy food too. If you need to get some visas to travel West Africa overland, this is a good place to get them.
We didn’t really know what to expect but when we arrived, but we found the colonial streets of Bissau quite charming. Sure, everything needed more than just a bit of TLC, but the food was tasty, beer was cold and the people were laid back and friendly. The place has character and we seem to enjoy destinations that were former Portuguese colonies. We suggest you spend more time here when you travel West Africa.
The entry to this tiny country was far from ideal with corrupt officers asking for bribes. But getting to the beach gave us the break we needed. With some live music, great fish dinners and sunsets on the beach we were ready to head further south. Finding English speaking countries when you travel West Africa always feels like a bonus.
We flew into Liberia and just like that we entered tropical Africa. Our highlight was a visit to an old Ducor Hotel – once a true star of Africa now sits forgotten on top of the hill overlooking the capital. Beers and sunset from the rooftop were epic. We got to experience some great Liberian food in the local eateries. So much flavour!
The journey into Sierra Leone was a tough one – it took us 2 days to reach the capital with multiple breakdowns on tough unpaved roads. But it was worth it. The best beaches when you travel West Africa are right here and we finally managed a visit to a national park.
Guinea is the wild beast of West Africa. Everything is harder, tougher and takes even more time than elsewhere else. Our bush camping at a local school became the night to remember. The entire village came to welcome us and since we didn’t have a common language we decided to dance and sing. From Macarena to Hokey Pokey – it was the perfect way to communicate.
Mountains in the north, the biggest church in Africa in its capital Yamoussoukro and some relaxing days spent on the beach. We could see some real development here, especially in the coastal city of Abidjan. Naturally, when you travel West Africa overland, there will be a time you just want a cup of coffee in a nice cafe and a day to relax. We were able to do this in Ivory Coast.
Everyone told us you are going to love Ghana and we did. Known as the “West Africa for beginners” it certainly offers everything you need as a traveller. Slave forts to learn more about history, national parks, the chilled Volta region and Accra sure knows how to do nightlife well. If you’re not sure that you’re ready to travel West Africa, come to Ghana for the first taste of it and then decide.
We rolled into the capital city of Lome and found an industrial city which we weren’t expecting. Instead, we headed north into the mountains for some hiking and waterfalls. We also spent a few days on the beach, but the currents are too strong here to swim.
The country known for voodoo seems to pack a lot in. We learned more about the Dahomey kingdoms in the north saw a voodoo ceremony and rediscovered slavery routes in Ouidah. After our beach days, we hung out in Cotonou where a friend hosted us while we waited for our Nigeria visa to be approved.
Our final country in West Africa. It wasn’t easy getting here due to delays with our visa, but once we rolled into Lagos we found the people to be the main thing to remember. Great food and coffee were easy to find although not cheap and we visited a very cool gallery here as well.
To travel West Africa isn’t easy. In fact, we think this is the harders region in the world to see, but it’s rewarding for those who dare. It’s best to be well prepared and do as much research as you can before you go.
Travel West Africa overland and it will be an epic adventure. Sand dunes in Niger
Are you planning to travel West Africa? Did you find this blog useful? Let us know in the comments.
A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".