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9 extraordinary tours to Africa’s unlikeliest destinations

From stunning beaches in Sierra Leone to ancient pyramids in Sudan, these incredible tours venture off the well-trodden path to reveal the best wildlife, nature and cultural experiences on the continent...

Little-visited Africa (Shutterstock)

1. Discover voodoo and beaches in Benin, Togo and Ghana

Voodoo dolls at the Akodessewa Voodoo Fetish Market in Togo (Shutterstock)

Voodoo dolls at the Akodessewa Voodoo Fetish Market in Togo (Shutterstock)

Uncover three of West Africa’s most intriguing nations on this action-packed tour of Benin, Togo and Ghana with Intrepid.

From Ouidah, Lome and Togoville, where voodoo still forms an important part of everyday life, to the museums of Accra and pristine shores of Anomabo Beach, this is a snapshot of African life, but not as you know it.

You’ll rub shoulders with the King of Ashanti at the Akwasidae Festival, watch voodoo ceremonies in Ouidah, cross Lake Togo and discovery the history and incredible beaches of Ghana. Your journey concludes with a visit to St George’s Castle and a sobering reflection on the history of slavery.

Trip: Benin, Togo & Ghana Expedition

Who: Intrepid

Type: Small group

When: Jan, Feb, Aug, Oct & Nov

How long: 11 days

How much: From £1,625 (exc. flights)

2. Conquer the Sahara’s final frontier in Chad

Camels belonging to the Tubu nomads in northern Chad (Shutterstock)

Camels belonging to the Tubu nomads in northern Chad (Shutterstock)

Travel to the remote Tibesti Mountains and meet the extraordinary Tuba people on this adventurous small group tour of northern Chad with Undiscovered Destinations.

Long out of bounds, and still home to traditions unchanged since the days of  trans-Saharan trade, this is a unique opportunity go where few have gone before. You’ll travel deep into breathtaking landscapes of the Tibesti, home to volcanic peaks and some of the most isolated settlements on earth.

You’ll meet the Tubu, a fiercely independent people adept at living in harsh conditions, who will introduce you to their lives and show you ancient rock carvings as old as time. With virtually no facilities outside of the capital, you’ll spend your nights camping, immersing yourself completely in the desert experience.

This is a groundbreaking trip for true Sahara enthusiasts.

Trip: Chad: Peaks Of The Tibesti

Who: Undiscovered Destinations

Type: Small group

When: Nov

How long: 22 days

How much: From £6,395 (exc. flights)

3. Experience volcanos and gorillas in the heart of Africa

A baby gorilla in Virunga National Park (Shutterstock)

A baby gorilla in Virunga National Park (Shutterstock)

Head deep into the heart of central Africa and discover a world of primal landscapes and epic wildlife on this small group tour through Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Wild Frontiers.

This remarkable trip will take you through some of the most beautiful and emotive landscapes on the African continent, as you go in search of  gorillas, bubbling lava lakes and a people whose lives and traditions have withstood imperialism.

Along the way you’ll cross beautiful Lake Kivu, visit the lowland gorillas of DR Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park and climb to the summit of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. A truly unique adventure in this incredible part of the continent.

Trip: Gorillas In Africa's Midst

Who: Wild Frontiers

Type: Small group

When: Nov

How long: 13 days

How much: From £5,895 (exc. flights)

4. Uncover an incredible lost world in northern Sudan

Meroe pyramids at sunrise (Shutterstock)

Meroe pyramids at sunrise (Shutterstock)

Discover one of the world’s greatest – and least known – archaeological sites on this journey through the ancient Nubian pyramids of north Sudan with Peregrine.

It’s a journey that will introduce you to the remnants of one of the world’s greatest empires, from the Nubian pyramids and tombs etched with Meroitic symbols to the 3,300-year-old temple at the foot of Jebel Barkal.

You’ll also encounter modern Sudan in souks, chai houses and a night in a Bisharin nomad camp. You'll bear witness to an incredible display of faith and celebration as whirling dervishes from the Sufi community twirl, dance and worship outside the tomb of Hamed el-Nil at sunset.

Trip: Ancient Sudan Experience

Who: Peregrine

Type: Small group

When: Nov to Feb

How long: Eight days

How much: From £2,555 (exc. flights)

5. Enjoy the Art Deco charm and untouched beaches of Eritrea

Italian colonial Art Deco Cinema in Asmara (Dreamstime)

Italian colonial Art Deco Cinema in Asmara (Dreamstime)

Discover the charms of a little-visited part of the Horn of Africa on this small group tour of Eritrea with Undiscovered Destinations.

Your journey begins in charming capital of Asmara, famed for the incredible Art Deco buildings and pleasant high-altitude climate. You will have plenty of time to kick back in the city’s Italian-style cafes and bars before heading north to Keren, for the Monday camel market.

Next, Eritrea’s untouched Red Sea coast awaits, along with the exotic city of Massawa. Add in excursions to Decamhere and historic Qohaito, and you have a truly unique trip through a truly exciting part of Africa.

Trip: Eritrea Discovery

Who: Undiscovered Destinations

Type: Small group

When: Feb, Apr, Oct, Nov & Dec

How long: 10 days

How much: From £2,745 (exc. flights)

6. Take it easy in chilled-out West Africa

A Bearded Barbet in Gambia (Shutterstock)

A Bearded Barbet in Gambia (Shutterstock)

Walk through slow-paced colonial towns, see prolific birdlife and explore some of the region’s finest national parks on this relaxed adventure through Senegal and The Gambia with Explore.

Travelling through tropical Anglo-influenced Gambia and exotic Francophile Senegal, you’ll compare the colonial imprints in this beautiful region of West African, visiting the UNESCO-listed Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary and exploring the Gambia River by boat, including excursions by traditional pirogues into the mangroves in search of birds, wildlife and traditional villages.

Trip: Senegal & The Gambia

Who: Explore

Type: Small group

When: Oct to Apr 

How long: 13 days

How much: From £1,575 (exc. flights)

7. Explore the best bits of Sierra Leone

A chimpanzee in Sierra Leone (Shutterstock)

A chimpanzee in Sierra Leone (Shutterstock)

Discover a country long off the radar on this tailor made tour of Sierra Leone with Rainbow Tours.

Your itinerary is designed to showcase the very best of Sierra Leone, from the bustling capital of Freetown to the sweeping white beaches of Tokeh. An excursion to Bunce Island offers a poignant insight into the country's history and a visit to Tacugama Chimpanzee Society reveals the good work going on there.

On Tiwai Island, you’ll encounter a dazzling array of birds and other wildlife, including a night walk in search of Hammerhead bats. Finally, you’ll head to the Banana Islands for glamping at the Bafa Resort and the chance to indulge in some snorkelling, swimming and a boat trip around one of the islands.

Trip: Sierra Leone Made Simple

Who: Rainbow Tours

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: 10 days

How much: From £2,795 (inc. flights)

8. Discover undiscovered São Tomé

Colonial waterfront in Sao Tome (Shutterstock)

Colonial waterfront in Sao Tome (Shutterstock)

Join Kathleen Becker, the author of the Bradt Travel Guide for São Tomé and Príncipe, for a unique insider’s tour of this charming, largely undiscovered island with Explore.

Described as an enchanting blend of African, Portuguese and Caribbean cultures, you will visit secluded beaches, swim in crystal clear waters and hike in pristine rainforests, all the while on the lookout for an abundant array of wildlife, birds and plants.

A boat trip along the wild west coast of the island will lead to hidden waterfalls and incredible rock formations, while there are opportunities to visit colonial plantation houses and sample some of the best coffee and chocolate in the world. Combine this with gaining an insight into its turbulent history and the only thing left to do will be to get into the laid-back Santomean way of life and enjoy this paradise island

Trip: São Tomé With Kathleen Becker

Who: Explore

Type: Small group

When: Nov

How long: 10 days

How much: From £1,775 (exc. flights)

9. Travel through a country that doesn’t officially exist

Laas Geel cave paintings in Somaliland (Shutterstock)

Laas Geel cave paintings in Somaliland (Shutterstock)

Here’s one for your travel bucket list: a seven-day adventure through Somaliland, a self-declared African country that doesn’t officially exist with Undiscovered Destinations. (Currently, its internationally recognised as an autonomous state of Somalia.)

Perched on the Horn of Africa and bordered by the Red Sea, Somaliland is a land of proud traditions born out of its largely nomadic heritage. It avoided the madness that engulfed its notorious neighbour and welcomes visitors with incredible hospitality. 

After discovering the charms of the capital Hargeisa, you’ll head to Baligubadle where you’ll meet local nomadic communities and learn about the challenges they face in this parched corner of the continent. After visiting the eastern towns of Arabsiyo and Gabiley (or Gebiley), you’ll travel to the spectacular rock art site of Laas Geel before heading to the coastal city of Berbera, with its colonial architecture and stunning scenery.

Trip: Somaliland Uncovered

Who: Undiscovered Destinations

Type: Small group

When: Mar & Nov

How long: Seven days

How much: From £1,695 (exc. flights)

This article was first published in November 2019. Consult and follow the UK Foreign Office's travel advice (or your country's equivalent) before booking your trip.

More on undiscovered Africa:

Is Zakouma National Park in Chad one of Africa’s best?

Dark Secrets: Voodoo in Benin

Rwanda: Back on the radar

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