If you’ve landed on this page you’ve either seen the Big Five already in South Africa, or you’re after a trip to Africa that’s more “off the beaten path.” But Africa is a vast continent, and finding the right trip here can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve narrowed down 11 tours to less-traveled African destinations that are worthy of your bucket-list.
The Best Africa Tours to Lesser-Known Destinations
Tourism to Africa is rapidly increasing, with over 2,800 hotel rooms added since late 2019 and another 6,600 new rooms coming in the next few years. Plus, new air routes from Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Kenya Airways, and Turkish Airlines are opening up the continent to more overseas travelers. These 11 tours and destinations are now more accessible for travelers and will be sure to gain popularity over the next few years.
Get a Taste of Food, Culture, and Coffee in Nairobi
Sure, a trip to Kenya and the Masai Mara are already known to most well-versed travelers, but many skip out on the country’s lively capital, Nairobi. It’s one of the most modern cities in Africa, and its stories can be told through food and culture. One of the most underrated things to do here is to take an urban city tour. Airbnb offers a walking tour called Nai Nami, or Our Streets – Our Stories. Travelers have the chance to explore the city via a walking tour led by underprivileged youths. Other off-the-beaten-path tours in Nairobi include food tours, like this authentic Kenyan food tour (from Viator, SmarterTravel’s sister site) or a coffee farm and tasting tour (also on Viator).
Check Prices for Hemingways Nairobi in Karen
Explore Lesser-Known Senegal and the Gambia
Most travelers don’t think to visit Western Africa, but the countries of Senegal and the Gambia are building up their infrastructure to be more tourist-friendly. Traveling with a group tour operator to these countries is a reliable way to experience their deep-rooted history, coastal landscapes, and local village life. We recommend G Adventures’ 10-day Classic Senegal & the Gambia tour, as it covers a lot of the region’s highlights with a good balance of guided tours and free time.
Safari in Tanzania with the Family
The gorgeous landscapes of Tanzania offer just as much, if not more, as the surroundings in South Africa. Plan your next epic family vacation to Tanzania with REI Adventures’ Tanzania Family Adventure & Safari. The nine-day trip takes you through multiple wildlife reserves, cycling on a forest canopy walkway, hiking with Maasai in a local village, and more.
Find Out Why Everyone Is Going to Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Africa, and for good reason. The country offers unparalleled landscapes, delicious food, and unique history. Intrepid Travel’s 13-day Incredible Ethiopia tour covers all this and more. Spend a day in the capital city before heading out to the lakeshore towns of Bahir Dar and Gondar, continuing on to the Simien Mountains, and ending in the town of Lalibela, home to some of the region’s most significant religious sites.
Go Gorilla Trekking in the Congo
Travel to the heart of Africa on this all-inclusive safari and gorilla trekking trip with Deeper Africa. You’ll spend most of your time in Odzala-Kokoua National Park across three different safari camps. Activities include a kayak safari, a boat cruise, forest walks, gorilla trekking, and night walks with the chance to see western lowland gorillas, the guereza colobus mustached monkey, forest buffaloes, and forest elephants.
See Three National Parks on a Luxury Safari in Rwanda
African Travel’s Discover Rwanda tour explores three national parks over the course of 11 days: Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, and Volcanoes National Park with stays at luxurious accommodations like a One&Only resort. No stone is left unturned with this itinerary, which includes game drives, canopy walks, chimpanzee trekking, hiking, gorilla trekking, and more. Rwanda is home to dozens of animals such as lions, black rhinos, shoebills, buffalo, leopards, elephants, giraffes, spotted hyenas, zebras, elands, chimpanzees, and gorillas.
Check Prices for One&Only Nyungwe House in Gisakura
Relax with a Beach Escape to Zanzibar
Looking to chill out on one of the most pristine coastlines in the world? Head to the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar for a few days of pure relaxation. Contiki’s six-day Zanzibar Beach Escape includes five nights on the main island, Ungujain, in a beachfront hotel with plenty of free time to explore. Snorkel, dive, and enjoy watersports for a few days, and then explore the capital, Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also attend full moon parties, eat at the Rock Restaurant, and take a day trip to Prison Island.
Check Prices for Kendwa Rocks Beach Hotel in Zanzibar Island
Discover Africa by Train on the Rovos Rail
While there aren’t too many ways to explore Africa by rail—yet—Vacations By Rail’s Rovos Rail journey is truly an off-the-beaten-path way to experience multiple countries on the continent. Spend six nights aboard a luxury train, as well as a night in a game lodge in Etosha National Park in Namibia and a night at Soussusvlei Lodge. Along the way you’ll see dramatic landscapes like Big Hole, Fish River Canyon, the Kalahari Desert, the Namib Desert, Walvis Bay, and Etosha National Park. Other stops include the Diamond Mine Museum, Windhoek (Namibia’s capital), and Upington in South Africa.
Check Prices for Sossusvlei Lodge in Sesriem
Take a Safari-Cruise in Southern Africa
CroisiEurope’s Southern Africa Safari-Cruise tour is truly a bucket-list experience in a relatively less crowded region of Africa. The highlights of this tour include the comfortable boat, the African Dream, built by the river cruise company, as well as game drives in Chobe National Park (home to a quarter of the continent’s elephant population). Plus, unadvertised experiences, like seeing the Milky Way every night while sleeping on the largest manmade lake in the world, can’t be beat.
Experience Madagascar a la Jane Goodall
The 14-day Highlights of Madagascar tour by G Adventures is endorsed by primatologist Jane Goodall, which means the trip not only has a low impact on the environment but also contributes to the protection of wildlife and supports local communities. You’re guaranteed to see amazing animals and landscapes on this itinerary, including lemurs, baobab trees, natural swimming pools, beaches, and rice paddies.
This tour also includes a stay at a local community guesthouse as well as visits to an artisan workshop and a traditional healer.
Spend a Week Sleeping on the Nile River
Most travelers visit Egypt for the epic Pyramids and don’t spend much time exploring the rest of the country’s offerings. (Did you know, for instance, that the Aswan High Dam’s reservoir capacity is five times the size of the Hoover Dam?) The 12-day Splendors of Egypt & the Nile tour by Uniworld gives you ample time both in the rising capital city of Cairo and on the famed river. Sailings are set to start in the fall of 2020 and include a full week aboard a brand-new ship, the S.S. Sphinx. Included excursions span from lesser-visited temple visits to bird-watching boat rides, and, yes, visits to the Ancient Memphis sites.
Check Prices for Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza in Cairo
What to Pack
Women’s African Safari Outfit
More from SmarterTravel:
- How to Pack for an African Safari
- 10 Best Places to Go in Africa (and What to Do There)
- 7 Once-in-a-Lifetime Safaris That Aren’t in Africa
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.