HomeOpinionLesser-known tourism attractions

Lesser-known tourism attractions

Sarah Kingdom (Travel Blogger)

Liberal, Ethiopia

Lalibela in northern Ethiopia is known for its distinctive rock-hewn churches that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. These churches are ancient pilgrimage sites for Coptic Christians and are still used for services today.

Carved out of rock, there are eleven medieval churches, many of which are linked by underground tunnels and trenches and with some containing bas-relief and colored frescos.

These unique churches include the majestic Bete Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross, and the cross-shaped Bete Giyorgis, the last of the 11 churches to be built. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Pro Tip: Lalibela is currently embroiled in the fighting between government and rebel forces from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region; the rebels have taken the city, surrendered the city, retaken it, and re-surrendered it. Whilst this incredible place should definitely be on your list of places to visit, perhaps hold off on planning your trip for a little while.

Valley Of Desolation

Situated in South Africa’s Camdeboo National Park, the Valley of Desolation, sometimes referred to as the “cathedral of the mountains,” is a hauntingly beautiful place of gaping chasms flanked by astounding rock formations, precariously balanced giant dolomite rocks, and pillars that drop sharply by 400 feet to the valley floor below.

Looking out from the rocky peaks that formed over 100 million years ago by a violent volcanic shift, all one sees seems to be an immense terrain of nothingness, and where even the quietest of whispers echoes in the still Karoo air.

The Valley of Desolation is a haven for campers and hikers, and home to a variety of plant and animal life, including 220 species of birds, 336 plants, and 43 mammals, highlights include the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, the majestic Black Eagle, and the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Kori Bustard.

All this incredible natural wonder is just a 9-mile drive from South Africa’s fourth oldest town, Graaff-Reinet, in the Eastern Cape. You have a choice of scenic picnic sites, and for those with a little more energy, there are three hiking trails that range from 1 hour in duration to overnight hikes. Be sure to bring your camera!

Pro Tip: Those who want to maximize their experience can try the Crag Lizard Trail, a well-marked walk beginning in the parking lot that takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Gorilla Trekking

The Republic of the Congo, not to be confused with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which shares a similar name and a border, is safe to travel to. It’s definitely not as well-known as other countries in Africa, but its pristine tropical forests make it a one-of-a-kind destination.

The beautiful Odzala-Kokoua National Park sits right in the heart of the Congo Basin and is one of the most remarkable gems in West Africa.

Once home to nearly 20,000 gorillas, poaching has sadly reduced their numbers drastically, but Odzala-Kokoua is still home to the largest population of gorillas anywhere on the continent.

The park has approximately 100 mammal species and is home to one of the continent’s most diverse primate populations. For a 9-day gorilla experience, contact Primate Safari Experiences.

There you have my take on some of the most beautiful, but often overlooked, places to visit in Africa.

Time to start planning your visit.

  • Kingdom was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Africa at the age of 21. She is a mountain climber and guide, traveller, yoga teacher, trail runner and mother of two.

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