Africa’s UNESCO World Heritage sites are a thing of astounding beauty and rich natural diversity. The majestic continent is home to an impressive 144 World Heritage sites spread across 35 countries. And while you may have heard of them or read about them, there’s nothing quite like actually visiting these iconic destinations in person. So without further ado here’s our top five picks to include in your bucket list this 2020:
The Serengeti Plains – Tanzania
The Serengeti, a name synonymous with safari is often rated amongst the top destinations in Africa. It comprises a rich savannah so vast it stretches far beyond what your eyes can see. While basking over its beautiful sunsets, this seemingly unending vastness across 15,000 sq km will give you space to unwind and take a refreshing break. The Serengeti National Park is home to the annual great migration also dubbed the greatest show on earth. Over two million herbivores follow the rains across the Serengeti into Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of green pastures.
As East Africa’s premier safari paradise, you can catch a glimpse of its majestic expansive plains with a birds-eye view floating across the savannah in a hot air balloon. The Serengeti is home to an assortment of wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, elephants, gazelles, zebra, buffalo, and hundreds of bird species. It was awarded a UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981.
Lalibela’s Rock Churches – Ethiopia
Located north of Ethiopia, Lalibela offers as a breath of fresh air for travelers coming from the ever busy capital city of Addis Ababa. Also dubbed as the New Jerusalem and home to the famous Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela is an important place in terms of religion, rich in culture, and for us travelers, an unforgettable experience.
The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia dates back to the 13th century when King Lalibela decided to create something similar to the Holy City of Jerusalem in Ethiopia so his people would not have to travel that far for their pilgrimage. These eleven churches are unique and are fully carved in rock from top to bottom. Its beauty replicates a huge monolith that is beautifully decorated inside with paintings and frescoes, which resulted in its World Heritage status in 1978. Lalibela is one of the most touristy destinations in Ethiopia, providing you with a mixture of breathtaking scenery, historical sights, as well as an insight into the life of the locals.
Okavango Delta – Botswana
The seasonal floodplains of the Okavango Delta in Botswana serves as an ideal setting for an African safari adventure. Its richness in culture and history, the sheer selection of luxurious camps which allow you to explore the surroundings on land, air, foot or horseback, and through a dugout canoe, makes it one of the world’s most astounding wildlife experiences.
This World Heritage site is also home to some of the world’s most remarkable and endangered mammals as they move between the fertile plains and the fringes of the marshlands. Here you can spot various wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs, endangered black and white rhinoceros, giraffes, and elephants. The delta fills up during the driest months across Botswana and animals from far and wide all congregate in the area, making it one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. In June 2014, it became the 1,000th World Heritage site.
The Lake System of the Kenyan Great Rift Valley
Also known as the Eastern Rift Valley, Kenya’s Great Rift Valley boasts an astounding view as you approach from Nairobi. You’ll witness an unbelievable topographic diversity with scarps and volcanoes, lakes, ancient gigantic hills, flat desert landscapes, and coral reefs. Heading further south, the three lakes; Nakuru, Bogoria, and Elementaita make up Kenya’s Lake system covering a vast area of over 32,000 hectares.
The Kenyan lake system of the Great Rift Valley is an area of outstanding beauty and an important habitat for birdlife, with many endangered species amongst the abundance of birdlife that is well renowned as one of the world’s most diverse populations. The Lakes are best known for their flocks of pink flamingos and the number one site worldwide for foraging lesser flamingos. The Great Rift Valley Lakes is also a nesting and breeding site for great white pelicans and mammals like black rhino, giraffes, and lions. It was awarded World Heritage status in 2011.
Namib Sand Sea – Namibia
The Namib Sand Sea is located at the heart of the Namib, a coastal fog desert on Africa’s south Atlantic coast in Namibia. A vast area of spectacular dunes featuring two superimposed systems, this immense coastal fog desert encompasses large shifting dunes covering over three million hectares of the Namib-Naukluft Park.
This world heritage site’s harsh environments, endemic plants, and animal species are proof of the natural world’s ability to evolve and adapt to extreme conditions. Several species have uncovered ways of trapping the atmospheric water that comes ashore as fog so they can survive without rain. Flying safaris enable you to travel across the vast expanse of land so you can catch a birds-eye-view of the spectacular golden dunes from above. It was inducted into the World Heritage sites in 2013.
There you have it. Any of these amazing destinations is definitely worth more than a trip to the museum any day. Which ones will you be visiting this year?