Angola is probably one of the last countries you will think as a tourist destination. Yet it’s one of the most beautiful countries we have been to, full of attractions. We had the privilege of working in Angola for 3 years and there’s the thing we really can’t complain is the natural beauty of the country. In other circumstances Angola would be a top travel destination in Africa and visit Angola would be a must to any travel lover!
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Angola any time soon, these top travel destinations should in on top of your list!
Luanda is the capital of Angola and its financial and political center. It’s not a tourist destination by any means but there are many people traveling to Luanda for business. It’s a very lively city, but it’s chaotic, quite dangerous and with insane traffic. However, it does have many landmarks, beaches and beautiful views worth your visit.
Ilha de Luanda (Island of Luanda)
Not really an island but a small peninsula, it stretches for 5 km right in front of Luanda it’s home to some good beaches, restaurants and bars. It’s a much visit place in Luanda and the go-to place if you want nightlife and party! Some of the beaches are inside the restaurants/bars are therefore more private, others are completely public. The sand is soft, the water is warm and it’s summer at least 9 months of the year, however, these aren’t the cleanest beaches and can get really crowded.
Ilha do Mussulo (Island of Mussulo)
If you think Luanda was blessed by the Island of Luanda wait until you hear about Mussulo! In the southern outskirts of Luanda, Mussulo is a 30 km long tongue of land/sand. The water is even warmer than in rest of Angola and without waves, so it creates a huge lagoon-like environment in the sea. To go there you should get a boat from “mainland”. It’s so close to Luanda’s chaos, but you have a completely different and chilled vibe there. If you are visiting Luanda you must come here. Just perfect to relax under the sun and forget about the day to day problems for a few hours or a weekend. It is, of course, beautiful with a long beach, warm seawater, palm trees…
Marginal de Luanda
It’s a long avenue/boulevard that goes from Luanda’s Port into Luanda’s Island. It’s has been renovated a few years ago and it’s now the favorite spot for Angolans and Expats to walk or run in Luanda. From here you have a nice view of the island but also to the city skyline.
Right in front of it, there are a few landmarks and very close side trips:
- Angola’s National Bank – An imposing pink building built in the colonial era! In our opinion, it’s the most beautiful building in Luanda.
- Currency Museum – Right next to Angola’s National Bank there’s a currency museum. There was quite a big noise about it and how much money it was spent. However, it’s good museum with quite a few interactive features and some information. Definitely worth a visit.
- S. Miguel Fort – The fort is in the top of the small hill so will need to climb a “few” stairs. Although you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Marginal, the island and city.
Outskirts of Luanda
These are a few awesome places that are very close to the city of Luanda, but not really in the city. You are better off visiting these in a day trip from Luanda, or even a small weekend escapade.
Miradouro da Lua
Miradouro da Lua translates to Moon’s Lookout. Not because it’s a great place to look at the moon (which probably is) but because of it’s lunar landscape. This unique landscape was created by the erosion of the rain and the wind. The bright colors of the land just make it even more special. This is right on the main road to southern Angola, so it’s a great stop to stretch and enjoy the view.
Kissama National Park
Kissama National Park is the place to go if you want to do a Safari in Angola. It’s about 75 km south to Luanda thus close enough to easily do a day trip and far enough to be completely outside the city influence. Most of its animals were killed during the colonial and 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. 🙂 Though, in terms of natural setting and flora, it’s on par or even better! Read this to full safari in Kissama experience.
Beaches of Cabo Ledo and Sangano
Almost 100km south to Luanda and without any other city close, you find the beaches of Sangano and Cabo Ledo. Both beaches are in a bay, have perfect yellow sand and beautiful blue seawater. These beaches are usually full of expats on Saturdays and Sundays because it’s popular as a weekend retreat.
Malanje is the center north of Angola, roughly 400 km from Luanda and it will take about 6 or 7 hours to get there. The city itself is interesting but nothing really unique, however, the province has some of the most spectacular tourist attractions in Angola.
Rapids of Kwanza
Kwanza is a big river, with a huge flow, thus the final drop of 5 or 6 meters of the rapids make a powerful waterfall. It’s an impressive image that will stay with you for a long time. You can swim in the flat water above and below the fall. You have to drive through a big village to get to the rapids, thus you will be loudly received by the children when arriving.
Black stones of Pungo Andongo
The black stones of Pungo Andongo are a series of rock formations standing high above the African Savanna. Some say the rocks look like different animals, some don’t, but 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”. From up there you get a beautiful and soothing view of the other rocks, the savanna and Kwanza river on the horizon.
Kalandula falls are the biggest attraction in Malanje and probably in Angola. These falls are sometimes dubbed as the 2nd most impressive of Africa (after Victoria Falls). Located in the Lucala River, the falls are more than 100 meters high and 400 meters wide. These are particularly impressive during the rainy season when the Lucala is at full flow. One can hire a guide (usually a kid) to descend to the bottom where the view and the proximity to the waterfall make the experience much more intense. We definitely recommend it.
Benguela province is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Angola. We had the privilege of visiting Benguela and really liked the slower lifestyle and more relaxed feeling. Benguela is very different from Luanda.
Restinga in Lobito
Remember what we wrote about the Island of Luanda? Well, there’s a version of it in Lobito and its called Restinga! Restinga is a slightly smaller 5 km long and has little traffic (which is sometimes a problem in the Island), the sand and water are cleaner than in the Capital city and, as always in Angola, warm. As expected you get the usual restaurants and bars but less massive than Luanda… Angola is blessed with these kinds of beaches!
Beaches of Benguela
In general, Angolan beaches are amazing, but the ones around Benguela are the best in Angola. Our two favorites are Baia Azul and Baía Farta.
Baía Azul (blue bay) is a 3 km long bay with soft, clean sand and strong blue seawater. It’s considered the main beach of Benguela and great to relax and play in the sand. The warm waters make it perfect to swim and even for water sports.
Baía Farta in a fishing village/town and loosely translates to a bay of plenty. With very few people it’s very different from Baía Azul, however, the scenery is even better. As you approach the water you realize how beautiful is the scenery and the privilege of having to yourself (or barely so) a world class beach. After 300 meters of walking in the sand under the strong African sun, a dive in that blue/turquoise and crystal clear is heavenly.
Not really in Benguela province, but in South Kwanza province. It’s only in this category because it’s a mandatory stop when you are a doing a road trip from Luanda to Benguela. The Binga waterfall is in the Keve River on the way of Gabela. They are very impressive and in rainy season have a huge flow. The old colonial bridge gives it a unique charm.
Lubango and Namibe
You probably noticed that we really liked the beaches in Benguela, but those aren’t our favorite attraction in Angola! That title is reserved to the region on Lubango. We had the pleasure of spending a long weekend there. The scenic mountains, the great food and the perfect getaway resort called Pululukwa really got into our hearts!
Fenda da Tundavala
Fenda da Tundavala is an enormous abyss in the mountain of Serra da Leba located only 18 km from Lubango. The mountain plateau has 2200 mt of altitude and suddenly falls 1000 mt creating an abyss. It looks like somebody cut a slice of the mountain. This natural abyss promotes stunning views. It is one of the great natural wonders of Angola.
Serra da Leba
Serra da Leba is only 50 km from the city of Lubando, though it’s already in the province of Namibe. The most stunning part of the mountain is the mountain pass road with 56 curves, built during the colonial era to connect the cities of Lubango and Namibe. Don’t forget to go to the viewing point of Serra da Leba, where you can see the whole picture of the mountain, the pass and take awesome photos.
The Namib desert goes from the South of Angola to South Namibia and ranges 1600 km. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a 4WD so we could venture into the desert, but we had the opportunity to explore the Namibian part of the desert during our escapade to Swakopmund. This is one of the aridest regions in the world and where you will find the unique Welwitschias.
The Pululukwa resort is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the scenery and nature. Throughout the park, you will find wild animals, zebras, antelopes, Angolan Chicken and even Ostriches and crocodiles. With 100 acres and remarkable treks, you have a lot to explore: wooden paths, several lakes, different resting points and even fruit farms. We need to mention the restaurant in Pululukwa because it is fabulous! There are great (and expensive) restaurants in Angola (particularly in Luanda) but the one in Pululukwa is our favorite.
Although we lived in Angola we didn’t visit the whole country! Angola is huge, so there are many other places that we couldn’t travel to or just weren’t even aware it exists. We understand that not many people will be able to travel to Angola, it is after all one of the least touristy destinations in the world. However, it’s also an amazing country with a lot to offer to the few that can actually visit Angola and get to know the country. If you have the opportunity seize it!