As December is quickly approaching, many of you have already experienced some winter weather. Knowing that a few areas are supposedly in for a long cold winter, you might want to escape the weather for a place that is warmer and more interesting. A winter holiday in Africa might be just what you need.
This is the last of the five-part series of winter holidays around the world. Some have been winter wonderlands, and some have been hot sandy beaches. If you missed the last ones, go check them out.
We started with Winter Holidays in The Americas. Then it was Winter Vacations In Europe and the UK. That article was followed by Winter Sun Holidays In Asia. Last week was fabulous Winter Vacations in the Oceanian region. Now you check out these incredible destinations in Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Written by Oliver Boyers from Ollie and the Captain. Follow Ollie and the Captain on Instagram here.
The best place to escape the frigid winter in the Northern Hemisphere is pretty much anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. On top of that, the Southern Hemisphere list has got to have Cape Town, South Africa, as one of the best places to visit.
Cape Town’s magnificent summer rages from November to early April and boasts temperatures ranging from 25-35°C. The countless pristine beaches make this city the perfect place to work on that tan (which will be the envy of the town on returning home).
Don’t forget to get your picture taken on the trendy Camps Bay beach with the spectacular 12 Apostles mountain range in the background. Or better yet, head down to Simons Town to get a few shots with the African Penguin on Boulders Beach. Be warned though; these cute critters have sharp beaks. So keep your fingers to yourself, or you may have one removed.
The beaches will no doubt work up a fierce thirst for all in attendance, but never fear! World-class wine farms are in abundance, just a short drive from the city center. The regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are scattered with some of the world’s best restaurants that host some insane vistas of vineyards and mountain ranges.
If you are looking for a luxurious and unforgettable journey to or from Cape Town, you should definitely look at jumping on board the most luxurious train in the world – The Rovos Rail. We were recently on board and can highly recommend this one-of-a-kind journey.
The main reason for visiting this island is probably affordable luxury, as the island has a lot of beaches to offer. These white sand beaches are clean, and some of them are quite remote, which means that it is possible to have the whole beach just for yourself. If you don’t feel like being all alone, there are a lot of very affordable resorts.
This exotic little island is very well known for its spices. You can hop on a tour, where you get to know everything about planting spices and taste them as well.
For a cultural experience, it is recommended to visit a Stone town. Stone town is the birthplace of Freddie Mercury and perhaps one of the oldest places in Tanzania. Tourists have an opportunity to get to know more here about the heartbreaking history of slaves.
Overall, Zanzibar has a lot to offer, whether you are looking for a beach escape or cultural experience. Most of the people here speak English, and it is safe to travel, which makes it a perfect winter escape.
Stretching along the south-eastern coast of Africa, Mozambique’s crystal blue waters are some of the best you can find throughout the Indian Ocean, challenging even the likes of Mauritius and Seychelles as a go-to luxury beach destination.
Bazaruto Archipelago, just off of Vilanculos, is the ultimate destination for a luxury beachside retreat, offering fantastic diving and some of the best beaches in the world. Made up of six islands, with Bazaruto itself and Benguerra being the two largest, the archipelago is a boat or helicopter ride away from Vilanculos, and if you get the chance to see it from the air, it’s certainly a sight you’ll never forget!
Several stunning boutique resorts dot the shoreline, fronting out to the turquoise waters with jaw-dropping sunsets every evening. Stay at Azura Benguerra in deluxe bungalows and soak up the sun by your private pool while being tended to by your private butler.
Spend your days out climbing high up the sand dunes, enjoying a secluded picnic on the beach, or relaxing upon a traditional dhow boat with a cold one whilst the sun goes down. For the more adventurous, you can head out on a boat to dive the majestic 2-mile reef, one of the area’s most beautiful dive sites!
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
Written by Lindsay Nieminen from Step into Jordan. Follow Step into Jordan on Facebook here.
Sharm el Sheikh is one of the Middle East’s popular beach destinations. Popular with European’s escaping winter, it also draws tourists from all over the world who want to explore Egypt and also enjoy some relaxation on their vacation.
Sharm el Sheikh and nearby Dahab are known for their diving spots along the Red Sea Coast. It is also an extremely affordable place to visit compared to other beach escapes, as hotels are quite affordable.
There are dozens of resorts to choose from, most of the big hotel brands have a presence in Sharm, or you can opt for a local hotel. The town of Sharm el Sheikh does not have the same character as the rest of Egypt, and I highly suggest you venture beyond, but if Sharm is your only destination in Egypt, be sure to get into the town to try the local restaurants and browse the shops!
There are plenty of non-stop flights from many European cities to Sharm, as well as multiple flights from Cairo. If you are already in Egypt, Cairo is the only city that flies to this beach destination, so you will need to get there first, which can be annoying if you are in Luxor or Aswan.
Knysna, South Africa
Written by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World. Follow Claudia on Instagram here.
Knysna is one of the most scenic places to visit along the Garden Route in South Africa. While winter is in full power in Europe, spring and summer are in bloom here, with days being long and sunny – if only a bit windy – making it perfect for a winter escape.
Knysna is famous for the Knysna Heads – two massive promontories that are the entrance to a beautiful lagoon, a perfect place to admire the local wildlife. The view from the Heads is stunning. On a good day you may even be able to see whales in the distance, so make sure to bring a good pair of binoculars when you go!
The surroundings of Knysna are packed with gorgeous beaches – picture long, white, sandy beaches with clear waters. They are good places to swim, but the water in this part of the country is still quite cold, and the occasional shark sightings may discourage you from doing so. However, they are pleasant places to go for a walk, sunbathing, or for a picnic.
Not far from Knysna, you will find Jukani. It is a conservation center run responsibly, where you can admire big cats and other species. There even is a separate primate sanctuary. It’s a great place to visit for families with children and also for adults interested in learning more about wildlife and recuperation and rehabilitation.
Knysna is home to the famous Knysna oysters. In other words, it’s a seafood paradise, and there are many places where you can stuff your face with fish, shrimps, and even oysters for a very reasonable price. The Fishing Company is managed by a local community, and portions are huge – it gets crowded, so you may want to make a reservation at weekends.
The best place to stay in town is the Turbine Hotel, in Knysna Lagoon – it’s a refurbished powerhouse with beautiful rooms and even a spa. Check for rates and availability here.
Written by Fiona Berry from Passport and Piano. Follow Fiona on Facebook here.
Botswana makes for a great winter destination as it is, of course, summer in the southern hemisphere. Prices are often cheaper at this time of year as the summer sun can be rather scorching, but the short bouts of rain make for a refreshing way to cool off.
The national parks are greener at this time of year, and although you may read that it’s easier to view the animals in the dry season, November and December are when the migratory birds arrive, and many of the species give birth to their young.
A great way to explore Botswana is on a self-drive safari. The most popular national park is Chobe, which is renowned for its elephants. There are over 120,000 of them, and watching them playing in the Chobe River is a magnificent sight. Chobe is home to the big 5 (Lion, Cheetah, Buffalo, Rhino, and Elephant), and during the winter, you can often see the cats taking a rest from the midday sun under the trees.
On a cruise down the Chobe river, you’re likely to get up close to both hippos and crocodiles. There’s also plenty of water birds, especially during the winter months basking in the sun by the river edge.
Other regions to consider visiting are the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pans. For birding enthusiasts, the plethora of migratory birds that you can see around the Okavango Delta is well worth a visit. The delta is a Unesco world heritage site that covers 22 000 square kilometers, most of which are marshland and flood plains.
Most flights to Botswana depart from Johannesburg, and the two major airports are Kasane and Maun. From Kasane, you can also take a day trip across to Zambia to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. The falls are truly spectacular and definitely worth visiting.
There’s no shortage of luxury accommodation throughout the country, and with the winter months being the low season, you stand a good chance of bagging a bargain.
Africa is one of the most underrated destinations to escape the winter cold in Europe. The continent has opened much later to mass tourism, and it still has many great untouched spots. As a humanitarian, I am lucky to spend a lot of time in Africa, which allows me to travel extensively around my base.
My favorite place to visit during winter is Casamance, the southern region of Senegal. For those with poor geography or google skills, it is that area just below the Gambia on the map.
Casamance has two opposite sides. The first one is Cap Skirring, the most famous spot in the region. Almost untouched for many centuries, this tropical paradise was “discovered” by some French ex-pats some sixty years ago. It was a matter of time that a Club Med opened in the seventies, drawing a large amount of mainly French tourists looking for relaxing at the beach.
My favorite part of Casamance, though, is the rest. Out of Cap Skirring, there is an entirely different country. The most renowned places here are what we could consider as untouched spots. You can choose between the beach at Diembéreng, or the island of Carabane on the Casamance river, or hike or cycle through the forests around Oussouye, which will allow you to meet the local culture.
I suggest that you take two weeks of break from the cold winter weather, and you experience both the beautiful beach at Cap Skirring and the interior of Casamance.
While you are enjoying your winter holidays, check out these Festivals in South Africa.
If you’re an animal lover, then visiting the mountain gorillas in the wild should be on the very top of your bucket list. While you can visit these shy and beautiful giants in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), seeing them in Rwanda is a totally different experience.
After a dark history of genocide, the country has lifted itself back up and focused on luxury and high-end tourism. So, while it may cost more to visit the gorillas in Rwanda, it is the most convenient and catered option.
The area that the gorillas are situated on is split between the three countries mentioned above called the Virungas Mountain Range. The Rwandan part is called the Volcanoes National Park. There are currently 12 habituated gorilla families in Rwanda, and they can be visited by 96 people per day. When I visited, I met the Agashya family named after the alpha male of the pack. At the time of visiting, he had 25 members including the most adorable little babies.
Even though this is probably the most memorable experience you will ever have, and Rwanda is most definitely a luxurious experience, you will need to be relatively fit. Your guide will be extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and you even have porters to carry your belongings, but the gorillas move around. So, you could be trekking for several hours through dense jungle to find them. Yet there is no feeling like seeing your first gorilla in the wild. Nothing can compare.
Written by Eva Westerling from Not Scared of the Jetlag. Follow Eva on Instagram here.
Essaouira is the perfect winter-get-away destination in Northern Africa. Temperatures average around 20°C/68°F with only four days of rain per month. It is easy to reach via Marrakech or Casablanca, from where it is only a 2.5-hour car or 3-hour bus ride away.
The city became known for being a Game of Thrones filming location, but I love Essaouira for its endless beaches, the fresh seafood, and the fact that you can stroll the medina without being hassled. Whether you are looking for carpets or some beautiful handmade woodwork, you will find what you are looking for here. But even if you are not coming to shop, you will enjoy a walk through the beautiful medina with its white-washed walls.
If you are into more active holidays, then this is the place for surfing and kite-surfing lessons. With half the bay sheltered by a small island, there are perfect conditions for beginners as well as advanced surfers close by.
You can also take a day trip to the small town of Sidi Kaouki to the south of the city or drive towards the mountains to have a look at the famous Argan trees that are unique to this area. Make sure to buy some Argan oil or Amlou (the Moroccan version of Nutella) while you’re there.
Insider tip: for the freshest seafood, buy fish at the fish market in the harbor area (they clean it too) and take it to one of the small restaurants around the central part of the medina to have it grilled or fried. Make sure to bargain a little, fish for two should not be more than 100 MAD (10€) plus around 40 MAD for bread and tea in the restaurant.
If you are looking to extend your trip to Morocco, check out Eva’s post for a one-week road trip around the south of Morocco.
Lamu Island, Kenya
Lamu – The Island That Fuses Dhows With Donkeys.
The historical town of Lamu is unique as it has no roads with only three vehicles. The first car belongs to the local administration, an ambulance that belongs to the donkey sanctuary, and a tractor that collects garbage. The best way to explore Lamu Island town is either by dhow or donkey.
There is so much to explore from taking dhow, boat rides, and walking tours along the narrow streets. These tours will take you through hidden passageways and faded medieval mosques. The streets are designed according to the prevailing winds. As you walk along the streets you will discover that the homes are designed in the same historic design.
Discover Lamu’s history of civilization, which was born of the trade winds that brought business to the shores of the island at the beginning of the century. Lamu town is a designated World Heritage site celebrating the oldest and most preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa.
Experience rich culture from mat-making, palm weaving, and wood carving, ironmongery, including board games. While here, you will savor some of the carefully prepared Swahili food.
There are scheduled flights from Nairobi to Lamu every day through local airlines: Safari Link, Air Kenya, Fly 540, and Kenya Airways.
I recommend the following places to stay while in Lamu:
- Lamu House located in Lamu Stone Town ****
- Banana House & Wellness Center located at Shela Beach ***
- Jannat House located at Lamu Stone Town **
Marrakech is one of North Africa’s most exciting places to visit in the world and one of the best cities you can choose to escape from winter. If you’re the active type of traveler, you will find a plethora of things to do all year round.
Instead, if you are looking for a relaxing getaway, nothing can beat the quiet atmosphere of the idyllic gardens of a riad, or a three-day trip from Marrakech to experience the loneliness of the stunning Merzouga desert, just a few hours away from the city.
Marrakech is one of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities. It is home to an exciting ancient Medina which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its unique architecture.
When planning your Marrakech escape, make sure your list of things to do includes a visit to Morocco’s main square, Place Jemaa el Fna, as well as the souk, the city’s open public market, where you can find unique souvenirs of your trip, including amazing Moroccan carpets and finely crafted leather purses. If you are a fan of cooking, not only you should try Morocco’s cuisine, but also make sure to stock up on the high-quality spices you can buy in the market.
When planning your Marrakech itinerary make sure to include a stay in a riad to fully submerge in the local atmosphere. A riad is a traditional North African house build around a central garden with lush vegetation and many times a small pool. There are plenty of riads both inside the ancient Medina and the modern city of Marrakech, ranging from budget to more luxurious accommodation.
Finally, any stay in Marrakech should also entail a two or three-day trip to the Merzouga desert. A journey that will take you through the fantastic landscape of the country, visiting the impressive High Atlas mountains, deep gorges, unexpected green valleys, and, finally, the unique experience of riding a dromedary, and spending a night in a nomad tent, under a thousand stars.
Ghana is a wonderful country. It’s one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa, and the people have a welcoming spirit that will win you over in a heartbeat.
Besides those charms, there is a wide variety of activities that will satisfy almost any type of traveler. Adventures range from light to moderate and are always fun. And for the hardcore, more rugged endeavors can be arranged.
If you’re looking for contemporary art and music, look no further than Accra. The bustling capital has plenty to keep you busy without insulating you from experiencing the local lifestyle.
Are you a history buff, love castles, or interested in traditional culture? Head for Cape Coast to tour the slave forts, search out posuban, or attend a city-wide festival. Or go to Kumasi in central Ghana to learn about Ashante tribal culture and history at the museums and cultural center.
Want to paddle a dugout canoe to a traditional village built on stilts over a lake? Nzulezu on the far west coast is right for you. Oh, and they have motorboats if you don’t want to paddle. Give yourself an extra night or two, and you can hang out at some wonderful beach resorts and maybe even get a little surfing in.
How about walking high above a rainforest on a canopy walkway at Kakum National Park? Or a hearty walk through Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary? Nature lovers have plenty to do in Ghana.
Mole National Park in the north is the only place in Africa where you can do a walking safari with the possibility of close encounters with baboons, warthogs, and elephants. Don’t get too close, though – and never leave your door unlocked. Those baboons are smart.
And if you’re a little ambitious while you’re up north, you can head out to the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary for a canoe ride and up-close viewing.
There’s also a thriving music and cultural center in Tamale where dancers and drummers perform almost every afternoon. Their mix of tradition with a little modern interpretation thrown in is highly energetic and fun to watch.
Don’t worry; there are plenty of places to relax, too. Whether you prefer the calm environment of Akosombo on Lake Volta or the beach vibes at any of the numerous beach towns along the coast, there are great places for downtime if you need it.
That’s the thing. There are so many choices that you can make a vacation to Ghana anything you want it to be. And all along, the Ghanaian people, with their amazing spirit, will make you smile.
Written by Stephanie Craig from The Africa Cookbook. Follow Valentine and Stephanie on Facebook here.
One of my favorite winter escapes is to head south from our home in Europe to Tunisia in northern Africa. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll find moderate temperatures here throughout the winter. So, while I wouldn’t plan a beach vacation to Tunisia in December, it’s a great place to get out and explore through until February!
Because Tunisia is filled with important World Heritage Sites, there are lots of great archaeological sites to visit, making it both a fun and educational travel destination. Make sure to explore the Medinas of Tunis and Sousse, the preserved ancient Roman city of Dougga, and the absolutely spectacular El Jem, the second-largest preserved Roman amphitheater after the Colosseum. Of course, Tunisia is not only famous for Roman history, as it’s been controlled by many important historic empires throughout the years.
A personal highlight for me was visiting what’s left of Carthage and the Carthaginian city of Kerkouane. If you’re fascinated by the Punic Wars, then a trip to Tunisia is a must! The best part of planning a trip to Tunisia in winter, besides being able to enjoy all these sites without blazing heat and crowds, is enjoying its marvelous food scene. Tunisian food, from couscous to mint tea, is some of my favorite food anywhere in the world!
Written by Rebecca Rice from KwaFare. Follow Rebecca on Instagram here.
This may be one of the least traveled and least populated locations on the list. But that only adds to its appeal as the perfect African winter escape. You will not need to worry about clamoring over other tourists in Libreville. In fact, you may have certain tourist attractions like the Village des Artisans and the beaches at Pointe Denis pretty much all to yourself.
Happily, December and January often boast blue skies as they are among the dryer months to visit this balmy African nation. Also, a whopping 13 national parks and around 85% of the country is covered in rainforests. Gabon is a natural wonderland. Gorillas, hippos, chimpanzees, elephants, sea turtles, humpback whales, and even lions are found here, and many of these parks are very close to Libreville.
Interestingly, in December through February with the tropical fruits in full bloom. The gorillas and elephants are also much easier to find along the beaches of Gabon’s long stretch of Atlantic coastline. Right across the estuary from Libreville are Pointe Denis and Pongara National Park, where you can take safari rides and stay at the lodges or hotels to get up close and personal with the wildlife.
If you’ve never traveled to sub-Saharan Africa, Libreville is the perfect place to get your feet wet.