We sought a true Angolan Adventure, so we went from Luanda to Benguela by car during an Easter break. It’s only 591 km – not that far, a piece of cake, we thought. Well, not quite so, but it’s worth it.
We went with some work colleagues, and the plan was simple: wake up early at 5 a.m. and drive. The almost 600 km took us about 8 hours to arrive at Benguela.
From Luanda to Benguela
The journey started on a Friday. The route isn’t tricky, basically, it’s always going forward, but in Angola, there are always some unexpected situations and having a local is a bonus. We had a colleague from Benguela that wanted to go there for the weekend.
Miradouro da Lua
Before the Kwanza river is the “Miradouro da Lua”, where we were supposed to stop but were distracted and missed the spot, and on the way back home, we couldn’t stop because it was dark! Ups…
However, we have been there several times, and if you have the opportunity, you should stop. It’s beautiful and one of the famous landmarks in Angola.
Crossing the bridge over river Kwanza is funny. At the beginning of the bridge are 2 huge street bumps. The aim of street bumps is to prevent cars from driving too fast, but they are huge. If the vehicle has a low suspension or is going too fast, the bump can seriously damage the car.
The Kwanza river is the largest, exclusively Angolan river. In the riversides, you can spot crocodiles. We never saw one but saw monkeys several times.
The river and the bay give us a stunning view in the early hours of the day. A few years ago, there was a war tank at the end of the bridge, remaining of the civil war; they must have removed it because it wasn´t there anymore.
From the Kwanza to the Binga detour
Roughly 50 km after Kwanza River, we passed the beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo, which are great beaches for day trips or weekends out of Luanda.
The sights on this road trip from Luanda to Benguela are usually very dry, but at this time of the year, during the rainy season, it is surprisingly green. You can find a lot of “imbondeiros” or Baobab Trees, typical African tree that has impressively large trunks.
Along the way we also came across many car accidents, the road is in very bad shape, full of potholes and you have to be very careful. If you don’t notice them, they can seriously damage the car…
So be very careful with the road, and don’t go too fast. I recommend you make the journey in an SUV.
Binga falls detour
We made a detour to see the Binga waterfall on the Keve River – on the way to Gabela. These waterfalls are, in fact, significant and impressive. Again, we were also lucky, they were full, and it was the rainy season. Definitely worth the detour as it is one of the best tourist attractions in the country.
On the way to the waterfall, we saw many people selling fish and shrimp that looked tasty and fresh.
Continuing our way, we passed Sumbe, Which is the administrative capital of Kwanza Sul. It is a very dry city, overpopulated, and honestly very depressing. We didn’t like anything in Sumbe, very confusing, full of dust, and very poor.
As we get closer to Benguela, the landscape starts changing. From Canjala onwards, it’s more mountainous and even greener. There are some small villages on the way, with some traditional huts. In Canjala, on the side of the road, there was a big market with many local products and food.
After 8 hours of driving, we arrived at Lobito and then Benguela 32 km after. Lobito is a city with a natural harbor protected by a 5 km long sandpit peninsula called Restinga.
Apart from Restinga, it’s a big ugly, and overpopulated city.
And finally, Benguela is a pleasant city, calmer than Luanda, although being one of the biggest cities in Angola. It is also one of the most crucial cities in Angola. Benguela was extremely important in the 16th century, a center of an important trade, especially slaves to Brazil and Cuba.
The city center is small. in 15 min you can have a good tour of the city, and there aren’t any tall buildings like in Luanda. There are still some colonial buildings remains that are quite beautiful. All the buildings with a pink color are government buildings.
We were lucky during our stay in Benguela. We already had a place to sleep in our friends’ house. But there is a variety of hotels where you can sleep. The prices are not cheap, but that’s not surprising because this is traveling in Angola.
There are also lots of good restaurants where you can eat, especially seafood. We recommend the restaurants: apart-hotel “Mil cidades”, which has delicious lobsters; “Tudo Na Brasa”, good fish and piglet; we don’t recommend “Zulu,” it’s a famous restaurant in Lobito, but the service was too long, and we ended up not enjoying it at all.
An excellent place to go out in Benguela is the bar “Zona +,” an excellent place to chill and drink “caipirinhas” or Gin” and maybe play pool.
Beaches in Benguela
The next day, we visited the beautiful beaches of Benguela and Restinga.
Praia da Baia Azul
A long blue bay with fine sand and warm water, everything you want on a beach. It has some people, but nothing extraordinary, especially if you think that it’s considered one of the best in the province.
Praia da Baia Farta
A difficult beach to find but totally worth it; our favorite beach. Very peaceful place, a desert beach with a lot of sand and excellent water, and very clean.
Praia da Restinga (Lobito)
Peasant beach with less sand with many bars by the beach, so you can always order drinks. It has more people, but it’s relaxing too. It’s better for people watching – this is where everything happens in Lobito.
This beach is located really in Benguela, we didn’t like it, it didn’t seem clean, and we could smell the sewer.
And like that, with a lot of beach and relaxing, we had a great weekend, so on Sunday, we headed home with another 7/8 hours journey.
Benguela to Luanda, with a stop in Porto Amboim
On our way back, we stooped in Porto Amboim to eat some seafood, giant delicious prawns. Porto Amboim also has a wonderful beach, and it’s an excellent option to spend a weekend out of the craziness of Luanda.
And like that, off to work… Benguela is a must… you can also go by plane, and it takes just one hour, but I think that doing a road trip from Luanda to Benguela is worth the adventure, at least once.
Have you done the Luanda to Benguela road trip?