Africa has a wealth of mesmerizing historic sites for you to enjoy and these ten recommendations prove that Egypt really is just the tip of the pyramid for what the continent has to offer!
Over the millennia Africa’s great civilizations have left behind fascinating historic sites. From ancient pyramids and centuries-old rock-hewn churches to castles, mosques, and palaces, Africa is home to some spectacular historic sites that are unfortunately all too often overlooked.
To give you some inspiration for your next trip, we’ve come up with ten of the continent’s must-see sights. Let’s take a look!
1. Luxor, Egypt
No list of incredible historic sites in Africa could ever be complete without Egypt. As the country is studded with awe-inspiring monuments, statues, and pyramids that date back millennia.
One of the most renowned archaeological sites on Earth, Luxor has incredible temples and stone tombs for you to explore as well as some beautiful views of the Nile.
The undoubted highlight is the Valley of the Kings which is home to a staggering number of rock tombs that once hosted the remains of Pharaohs and their dazzling treasures.
2. Lalibela, Ethiopia
Gazing for the first time upon Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches is a moment that will live forever in your memory!
Built between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, the ‘New Jerusalem’ is full of twisting tunnels, elaborate architecture and majestic courtyards, and, as the churches are still used to this day, you’ll come across lots of white-robe-clad pilgrims. One of the most spectacular historic sites not just in Africa but the world.
3. Elmina Castle, Ghana
Located on what was once known as ‘the Gold Coast’, Elmina Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482 so that they could control the region and dominate trade.
The oldest European building in Sub-Saharan Africa, the castle is an important historic site that makes for a moving experience as it was later used to imprison Africans before they were sent overseas as slaves.
4. The Great Mosque of Djenne, Mali
An astounding building to behold, the Great Mosque is one of the continent’s most remarkable landmarks–it is made entirely out of earth!
Originally built in the 13th century, the current mosque dates to 1907 and each year the entire town gathers to carry out repairs at a lively local festival.
5. Ile de Goree, Senegal
Lying just a short distance off Dakar, the colorful Ile de Goree has a dark past: for almost three hundred years, the French housed Africans here before shipping them overseas into a life of slavery.
Now full of brightly colored colonial buildings, there is a laidback vibe about the island and it is only when you see the bleak dungeons and iron shackles that you begin to understand its dark history.
6. Robben Island, South Africa
Located just off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years and consequently, it is one of the continent’s most important historic sites.
Visiting the prison’s small cells that held political prisoners during apartheid is an emotional and eye-opening yet necessary experience.
7. Meroe, Sudan
While Sudan doesn’t feature on many people’s list of ‘must visit destinations’, the country is home to some of the most welcoming people in the world and actually boasts more pyramids than its famous northern neighbor.
Once part of a thriving civilization, the ancient pyramids of Meroe are one of Sudan’s most impressive attractions and they still barely receive any visitors due to their remote location in the Sahara.
A fascinating place, the UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts more than two hundred pyramids!
8. Kilwa, Tanzania
Once one of the most powerful cities along the coast of East Africa, much of Kilwa was sadly destroyed when the Portuguese bombarded the island in 1503.
Nowadays the ruins of palaces, royal buildings, and a beautiful yet dilapidated mosque can be found on the island while Kilwa’s well-preserved fort hints at its illustrious past.
Travelers don’t flock here, so you’ll feel like you have the entire island to yourself.
9. Amphitheater of El Jem, Tunisia
Built by the Romans around 238 AD, the Amphitheater of El Jem is remarkably well-preserved and bears a strong resemblance to Rome’s Colosseum.
While the amphitheater used to host gladiator fights and public spectacles, in more modern times it has featured in films such as “Gladiator” and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”.
Head to El Jem at either dusk or dawn to snap some mesmerizing photos!
10. Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Built between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the sprawling ruins of Great Zimbabwe are Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest and as such the complex definitely warrants a visit.
The city’s gigantic walls, towers, and edifices showcase some delightful architecture and during its heyday, it was the economic, political and religious heart of a vast empire.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Great Zimbabwe is yet another of the continent’s hidden gems.
Lovely places! Just looking at the photos gives me chills. I would love to see these historical places in real life. I bet that would be surreal. Of course, the pyramids are a staple of an epic historical tour but I’m looking Lalibela, Ethiopia in this list. Ethiopia is such a wonderful country with tons of historical sites and heritage sites. So I think choosing this country offers tons of places to see and experience. I enjoyed reading this blog, and I love the pictures! Thank you!
Oh wow! I didn’t know these much of historic places can be found in Africa. And not only are they rich in history but also beautiful and scenic too! Growing up and until recently, I’ve only been familiar with the pyramids and such. It’s nice to know about other places that I could visit on the continent. I’m specially interested about the Lalibela churches. It’s fascinating to me how these churches were carved out of rocks. How cool is that? Thanks for sharing this post!