This post explores the most famous landmarks in Angola, both natural and human-made, from the world-famous Kalandula Falls to the impressive Leba mountain road.
Angola isn’t the most popular travel destination, mainly because of political and safety reasons. The country has beautiful natural scenery, lovely beaches, waterfalls, and mountains. The terrain is very diverse, with deserts, forests, and savannas. Furthermore, it has a long list of amazing landmarks, which elevate the country’s beauty even further. Angola may not be popular yet, but it is fascinating.
Located in South Western Africa, it’s surrounded by Namibia, Congo, Zambia, and the Atlantic to the West. Most of the famous landmarks in Angola are natural wonders, but there are also some human-made and historical landmarks to explore.
We encourage you to read our 50 things you need to know before traveling to Angola if you are planning a trip.
Natural Landmarks in Angola
Although not as famous as other waterfalls and natural wonders in Africa, Kalandula Falls is one of the most famous landmarks in Angola. Considered the second-largest waterfalls in Africa, they have 105 meters (344 feet) high and 400 meters (1,300 feet) wide. They are truly impressive during the rainy season (September to April).
The best way to visit the falls is by car, as the road goes directly to the lookout, where you have terrific views. Going to the lower part of the falls is also possible, but we would suggest going with a guide as it is not straightforward. Or ask one of the local kids there to take you there and serve as a guide. The descent is fun and adventurous, it is incredible to go close to the waterfall and feel its power.
Black stones of Pungo Andongo
The black stones of Pungo Andongo (or Pedra Negras de Pungo Andongo) are a series of rock formations standing high above the African Savanna. They rise from the ground, some reaching more than 100 meters high and creating a beautiful setting.
This Angolan landmark is located in the Malanje region, about 115 km from the provincial capital and more than 300 km from Luanda. It is also about 100 km from Kalandula Falls, which is an excellent destination to add when visiting the falls.
Pungo Andongo is a mystical place with myths, legends, and cultural traditions. It is said that it was the capital of the Ndongo Kingdom and that the footprints on one of the rocks are from the famous Queen Ginga.
Some say the rocks look like various animals, and others don’t. Either way, the rocks are impressive and mysterious. It is possible to climb to the top of one of the rocks, the one called “male stone.” You get a beautiful and soothing view of the other rocks, the savanna, and the Kwanza River on the horizon.
Miradouro da Lua
In Portuguese, Miradouro da Lua translates to the viewpoint of the Moon, not because it’s a great location to look at the moon (well, it probably is) but because of its lunar landscape. Located about 40 km south of Luanda, it is an easy day trip from the capital and a popular stop when visiting the beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo.
The erosion of the rain and the wind created this distinctive Angolan landmark. The set of cliffs is a tricolored karst formation making it look like it came from another planet. The land’s bright colors (red, yellow, orange) make it even more special, and despite the name, it reminds us more of Mars (or Utah) than the moon.
The Ruacana Falls (or Quedas do Ruacaná in Portuguese) are located in the Kunene River at the border between Angola and Namibia, close to the Ruacana village.
After a large bend, the Kunene River plunges about 120 meters into a 700-meter-wide gorge, forming one of the most remarkable waterfalls in Africa. At full flood, the Ruacana Falls are considered one of Africa’s largest waterfalls by volume and width. They are truly impressive. After the falls, the river snake along the Namib desert, separating the countries until reaching the Atlantic Ocean on the skeleton coast.
Visiting the falls from the Namibian and Angolan sides is possible. This famous natural landmark in Angola isn’t as visited as others because of its location. There are roads leading to it, but the site is so far from big cities that it makes the trip incredibly long. Lubango is more than 5 hours away by car, and Luanda is almost on the other side of the country.
Kissama National Park
The Kissama National Park is the best destination in Angola for those looking to do a Safari. Located only 75 km south of Luanda, it is close enough to easily have a day trip from the capital but sufficiently far to be outside the urban setting.
Unfortunately, most of the original animals of Kissama National Park were killed during the wars, particularly the Angolan Civil War; however, it has been repopulated, and we can see some animals during a safari. Yet don’t expect it to be like the Kruger or Chobe.
There are elephants, giraffes, zebras, and other animals, but no leopards, lions, or other big predators. Yet, it’s as good or even better when it comes to the natural setting and flora!
The Tundavala Gap (or Fenda da Tundavala) is one of the most fascinating natural landmarks in Angola. Located only 18 km from Lubango, it is a massive abyss in Serra da Leba on the western limit of the Bié plateau.
It is called gap (fenda) because there’s a gap in the mountain of fewer than 150 meters that drops all the way down, creating a unique setting. It is easily one of the most impressive natural wonders of Angola.
In the Tundavala gap, the mountain plateau reaches 2200 meters of altitude and suddenly drops more than 1000 meters creating a great escarpment. At the end of the rim, there’s a beautiful lookout with fascinating views where one sees the horizon for several dozens of kilometers.
The Namib desert is one of the aridest regions globally and where you will find the unique Welwitschias. It goes from southern Angola to South Namibia and ranges over 1600 km. We had the opportunity to explore the Namibian part of the desert during our escapade to Swakopmund and when we visited Lubango.
The Namib desert not only names one of Angola’s regions (Namibe) but also occupies a vast part of the southern territory. Though, it extends well outside Angolan territory into Namibia, where it is one of its most prominent geographic features. This is primarily a sand desert consisting of a sea of sand dunes, some of which are huge.
While large, it isn’t the biggest desert in the world; however, with estimated ages between 55 and 80 million years, it is considered the oldest in the world. Besides ancient, the Namib desert also contains some of the world’s driest regions, only challenged by the Atacama desert in Chile on both items.
Baia dos Tigres
Baía dos Tigres (Tigers Bay) is a unique place located on the shore of the Namib desert, on the Angolan Skeleton coast, about 150 km south of the city of Moçamedes (Namibe).
Even though we have called it Tiger’s Bay, today, it’s Tiger’s Island and Tiger’s Strait. In the 1960s, the ocean broke through the peninsula isthmus, turning the Peninsula into an Island and its Bay into a strait. After this, the villages were abandoned, and the desert started to claim the area back.
Today, Baia dos Tigres is completely abandoned, and its settlements have become ghost villages without access both by road or boat. The abandoned buildings offer incredible views and a remarkable setting. The area is famous for its abundance of fish and stunning beaches like Miragens, Azul, Amélia, and Flamingos.
Famous Landmarks in Angola – Luanda
Luanda Bay is a natural bay whose waters are protected by the island of Luanda. There, Luanda was founded in 1575/76 by Paulo Dias de Novais and where the city first developed.
Considered by many people one of the most beautiful bays in Africa, after long renovation works, it gave rise to the architectural waterfront of the Angolan Capital, becoming one of the most important public spaces and its social and economic epicenter.
With about 3.5 km, Luanda Bay has a long avenue/boulevard from Luanda’s Port into Luanda’s Island. Along the boulevard, many other important Luanda landmarks and beautiful buildings could be on this list on their own. Out of these, we need to mention the following:
- Angola’s National Bank – An imposing pink building built in the colonial era. In our opinion, it’s the most beautiful building in Luanda.
- S. Miguel Fort – Located at the top of a small hill, you will need to climb a “few” stairs to reach it from the bay. However, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the bay, the island, and the city.
- Currency Museum – There’s a currency museum next to Angola’s National Bank. It’s an excellent museum with a few interactive features and helpful information, and definitely worth a visit. The building itself is modern and different from any other on this list.
The Iron Palace is possibly the most surprising landmark in Angola. Everything in the Iron Palace is surprising or mysterious, from its origin to its author. It is a fabulous building with metallic filigree decoration and a remarkable surrounding porch. It is the best example of iron architecture in Angola.
Located in downtown Luanda, very close to the Bay, the Iron Palace is believed to be a work of art from Gustave Eiffel (yes, the one from the Eiffel Tower in France) or someone associated with him. However, there aren’t official records to confirm it.
But how did it come to Angola? Built in the late 1800s in France, it was believed to be sent to Madagascar, but the ship drifted to Skeleton Coast by the infamous Benguela current in the Namib Desert in Southern Angola. The Portuguese (who ruled Angola at the time) claimed the ship and its contents.
The Iron Palace was rebuilt in Luanda, serving as an art center. After Angolan independence, it was neglected and started to rust away. Fortunately, it was recently repaired and renewed, with many of its iron balustrades and floor tiles individually renovated and returned to its former glory.
Angolan authorities are still deciding what to make with the building, but some options include a diamond museum (Angola is famous for mining diamonds), a restaurant, or a cultural center.
Although not really an island anymore, but a small peninsula, Luanda Island is a spit that consists of a low sandy strip formed by sedimentation. It stretches for 5 km right in front of the Bay of Luanda.
The Ilha, or the island, is home to some good beaches, restaurants, and bars. The Ilha is a must-visit landmark in Luanda and the go-to place if you want nightlife and to party! During the weekends, it’s filled with both locals and expats.
One should note that some of the best beaches are inside the restaurants/bars perimeter and, therefore, more private; others are entirely public. The sand is soft, the water is warm, and it’s summer for at least nine months of the year. However, these aren’t the cleanest beaches in Angola and can get really crowded.
The island is also an excellent place to see Luanda’s skyline and see Luanda’s bay from a distance.
Luanda Island is excellent, and it blesses the city with lovely beaches and a beautiful natural bay with calm waters. However, you would be wrong if you think that’s the only amazing pit in the area. Located on the southern outskirts of Luanda, Mussulo was created from sediments from the Kwanza River.
While many people think it is an island, Mussulo is linked to the mainland at Ponta das Palmeirinhas. It is almost 30km long and is five times longer than the Luanda Island. Mussulo’s width varies enormously, from 100 meters to nearly 3 km wide at times.
Although going to Mussulo with a 4WD is possible, that would mean driving on dirt and sand, so it may not be advisable. The easiest way is to get a boat from the mainland to the northern part of Mussulo. These taxi boats will take you to one of the many bars and restaurants.
Mussulo is one of Angola’s best beaches and is extremely popular among expats and locals. The bay beach-facing land has several bars and restaurants where one can lie and relax. The ocean side is much wilder, with high waves and strong currents.
Angola Landmarks – Other
With 2650 meters of maximum altitude, Serra da Leba is a beautiful mountain range about 50 km from Lubango. However, the most famous Angolan landmark in the mountains is the mountain pass road – the Leba Road, our Serra da Leba Road.
Built during Portuguese rule in the 1960s, it connects two of the most important cities in southern Angola, Lubando and Namibe. The construction of the road was an incredible engineering feat at the time, and the result is stunning. The road received its name because the Portuguese Maria Alice Leba is credited with leading the team of engineers.
The Leba mountain pass has a total of 56 curves along the high slope of the mountain, creating beautiful scenery and one of the best driving roads in the world. We must advise you to take care when driving the corners and high slopes, as trucks and buses need space to maneuver. There’s one viewpoint where you can take see and take pictures of the whole scenery.
Mbanza Congo vestiges
Located on a plateau at an altitude of 570 meters, close to the northern border. Mbanza Congo is the only UNESCO heritage site in Angola. Listed in 2017, it features the Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo – one of the most extensive states of Southern Africa, from the 14th to the 19th century.
Considered the political and spiritual capital of the old Kongo Kingdom (which included today’s Gabon, both Congos and Angola), Mbanza-Congo represents the importance of the Kongo tradition and its conflicts with the Portuguese and catholicism.
This Angolan landmark includes both colonial and pre-colonial heritage. Although many buildings were ruined during the civil war, some are still possible to visit, like:
- Cathedral of the Holy Saviour of Congo – The oldest sub-Saharan church outside Ethiopia.
- Memorial to the mother of King Afonso
- The Jalankuwo
- The Royal Museum