As the birthplace of humanity, it is hard to argue that Africa is a land full of landmarks worth seeing. With thousands of years of humanity’s ingenuity and resourcefulness on display across Africa, there is no lack of adventures to have or places to see.
While the man-made landmarks in Africa are numerous, there are also natural landmarks that the continent offers. Some of these places are some of the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring locations on the planet.
When traveling to Africa, it is helpful to have an idea of some of the places that are the most popular for tourists and are ‘must-see’ locations for every visitor. In this article, I offer you some of the most famous landmarks in Africa. Some are man-made, some are natural. They are all destinations that you cannot leave off your travel bucket list.
The 31 Famous Landmarks in Africa
1. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
I start my list with the most impressive and largest of the natural landmarks that you will find in Africa. Sitting on the border of Tanzania and Kenya is Mount Kilimanjaro. This mountain is a dormant volcano and is one of the famed seven summits, a listing of the world’s tallest mountains. The mountain stands over 19,000 feet above sea level and is a striking difference from the plains that surround it.
Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular mountains in the world for both experienced and novice climbers. The trail to the summit, while long, is not terribly strenuous. However, because of the increase in altitude, this hike is not recommended for anyone that is not in good physical condition.
2. Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
One of the largest waterfalls in the world and the largest waterfall in Africa, Victoria Falls sits on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River.
The falls are more than 350 feet tall and stretch almost a mile wide. The Zambezi River feeds the lush rainforest that surrounds the falls, and it is a popular ecotourism destination. On the Zambian side of the falls, tourists enjoy swimming in the gentle pools at the base of the falls.
3. The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
When many people think of Africa and famous landmarks, the first place that comes to mind is the Great Pyramids of Giza. These massive structures are the tombs of some of the most prolific kings of Egypt. What makes these structures so impressive is their size, and that they were built almost 5,000 years ago without modern tools.
At Giza, there are three large pyramids and numerous smaller pyramid-like structures. The most famous features at Giza are the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Menkaure, and the Pyramid of Khafre. Leading to the pyramids is a large boulevard, where the famous Great Sphinx of Giza sits. These buildings are the only ones remaining of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
4. The Nile River, Egypt
The Nile River is the longest river in the world. Stretching from East Africa and Ethiopia to Egypt, the river runs 4,132 miles and through 11 countries of Africa. The Nile was the source of power for ancient Egyptian culture. It provided the water that allowed crops to be grown in the desert. It was used as a transportation source, moving people and goods through Egypt and to other parts of Africa.
Today, it is popular for visitors to experience Egypt on a Nile River cruise. These multi-day tours allow you to experience all of the landmarks that were constructed by ancient Egyptian kings and the beauty of the landscapes that surround the Nile.
5. The Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Tucked along the banks of the Nile River in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings is the resting place for many of the Pharaohs of Egypt. The tombs of these kings have been excavated and are the source of many of the most famous Egyptian artifacts in the world.
The 63 tombs that are open to the public are filled with beautiful paintings and carvings. The most famous of the Pharaohs laid to rest in the Valley of the Kings was Tutankhamun (King Tut). The UNESCO World Heritage Site does not allow photography or video, but it is a site that you will not likely forget in your lifetime.
6. Abu Simbel, Egypt
One of the most dramatic examples of the ambition of Egyptian Pharaohs is the Temple at Abu Simbel. This massive temple was constructed during the time of Ramses II sometime around 1,200 BC. The site actually consists of two separate temples.
The largest and most well-known is the Temple of Ramses II, which features four massive carvings of Ramses II. The smaller temple dedicated to Ramses wife, Queen Nefertari is also carved into the sandstone cliffs but is less well-known and not often considered when talking about Abu Simbel.
7. The Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar
Madagascar is known by ecotourists as one of the few places in the world that offer plants, animals, and ecosystems seen nowhere else in the world. The Avenue of Baobabs is one of these features found only in Madagascar. The Baobab Tree is a tree species found only on the island of Madagascar. The individuals that grow in the Avenue of Baobabs are more than 2,800 years old
They are some of the oldest trees in the world and one of the most interesting looking as well. The Avenue of Baobabs is a popular destination for landscape photographers since the massive trees make a stunning subject, particularly during sunrise and sunset.
8. Zanzibar, Tanzania
The Archipelago of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania is a beach lover’s dream. This unique chain of islands is known for its crystal blue water, pristine white beaches, and unique animal species only found in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a very popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving and for tourists looking for a bucket-list beach vacation.
In Zanzibar, you can visit Stone City, and enjoy the vibrant local culture, and restaurants with some of the best food in the world. Zanzibar can be very busy at the peak of the tourist season, so many people prefer to visit the islands of Pemba or Mafia instead.
9. Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
If you want to go as far back in human history as you possibly can, then a visit to Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is where you begin. This wide valley is located between Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While the area is filled with the iconic wildlife of Africa and many people come here to experience the safari opportunities, the gorge is much more important for one specific reason – it is the location of the oldest known evidence of human evolution in the world. The area continues to be explored as a paleoanthropological site, and visitors here can learn about the research and discoveries in the Olduvai Gorge Museum.
10. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
While in Tanzania, you cannot miss an opportunity to visit one of the most famous national parks in the world. Serengeti National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. It is home to much of the iconic wildlife of Africa including lions, hyenas, elephants and zebras.
However, many people travel to the Serengeti to experience the annual wildebeest migration. This is the largest migration of mammals known to man, and it happens each year as wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles travel to find water and grazing pastures. A safari with local guides is a must when visiting the Serengeti. For a truly unique experience enjoy an overnight stay in the plains, where you can experience the serenity and sounds of this amazing ecosystem at night.
11. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
As one of the most distinctive geological features on the planet, Ngorongoro Crater is another natural feature that makes Africa such an amazing place to explore. The crater was formed millions of years ago when a massive volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself.
At approximately 10 miles wide and 1,968 feet deep, the Ngorongoro Crater is so large that it has its own climate and unique ecosystems. The crater is a protected conservation area and is home to more than 30,000 animal species including the endangered black rhino and the black-maned male lions. The crater is also home to the Maasai people. These people have inhabited the crater for thousands of years and their cultural traditions and history are incredibly special and unique.
12. Timbuktu, Mali
Timbuktu was once the spiritual and intellectual center of Islam in Africa. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the city was a bustling trade center where travelers could sell their wares, water their livestock, and purchase necessary items.
Today, Timbuktu is a popular tourist destination within the Sahara Desert. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some of the most important historical buildings in the Sahara. When visiting Timbuktu, two locations to not miss are the Mosque of Sankore and the Djinguereber Mosque.
13. Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco is the largest functioning mosque in Africa and the 7th largest mosque in the world. The Mosque is not an ancient landmark as many on this list. The structure was completed in 1993 and was constructed in honor of the former king of Morocco, King Hassan II.
The mosque sits on the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The massive complex includes a prayer room, baths, a library, a Koranic school, and a museum. Visitors to the mosque should be mindful of the site as a place of worship, taking in the structure from the outside.
14. Sahara Desert, Morocco
The Sahara Desert is the largest natural feature in all of Africa. This imposing desert stretches across most of the central part of the continent. Many visitors to Africa look to experience the vastness of the Sahara and set off on their adventures in the country of Morocco.
Popular activities for visitors to the Sahara include desert camping, sledding, sand duning, and driving quad bikes. When visiting the Sahara, look for some of the resilient animals that call the dunes home, like the Dama gazelle, Oryx, and Barbary sheep. These animals have evolved to survive in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
15. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen is one of the most interesting places in Morocco to visit. This mountain town is a combination of Islamic and Spanish influences. It almost seems more like a town you would find in the mountains of Europe than in the hills of Morocco.
What many people find most striking about Chefchaouen is the bright blue and white that many of the buildings are painted. This mountain town is well-known for its vibrant fabrics and handmade leather goods. These unique objects make Chefchaouen a popular spot for shopping.
16. Medina of Marrakech, Morocco
The Medina of Marrakech is the largest and most bustling of the markets located in Marrakech. This day and night market sits outside of the Djemaa El Fna, the largest mosque in the city. When shopping in the Medina of Marrakech you will be enveloped in the sounds, sights and smells of the market. You can find all sorts of amazing products that exemplify the cultures in Marrakech like spices, handmade fabrics and rugs, unique foods, and traditional pottery.
Outside in the Marrakech square, you will encounter snake charmers and fortune tellers for an added amount of adventure. Since 1985 the Medina of Marrakech has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
17. Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches, Ethiopia
Dating back to the 13th century, the Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches are some of the most impressive architectural structures in the world. Located near the small town of Lalibela, 11 churches were carved directly in the surrounding rock of the Ethiopian mountains.
What makes the churches so special is that they were constructed without using wood, stone blocks, or other traditional supports. For Christians, this is a holy site, and many people travel here to worship in the churches. While visiting the Rock-hewn Churches, a visit to the town of Lalibela is a must. It is a great place to experience Ethiopian culture.
18. Skeleton Coast – Namibia
Namibia is most often known for its amazing wildlife, but it has some other interesting locations as well. Skeleton Coast located on the western side of Namibia was once the center of the whaling industry in Africa. The name of the coast was derived from the piles of whale and seal bones that were piled on the beach.
However, the name is also fitting for the hundreds of shipwrecks that dot the coast as well. The oldest of the shipwrecks dates from approximately 1530, with plenty of abandoned ship skeletons from the centuries after. A portion of the coast has been designated as a National Park. Visitors to this park will experience many of the animal species that make Namibia an amazing tourist destination.
A portion of the park is a marine park that preserves some of the more important shipwrecks and the reef ecosystems that have grown on the remnants of the ships.
19. Okavango Delta – Botswana
Home to one of the largest concentrations of wildlife anywhere in the world, the Okavango Delta is a must-visit destination in the country of Botswana. The Delta is one of the largest, seasonal river deltas in the world. When the rainy season comes, the delta spreads across an area that is similar in size to the Great Salt Lake in the United States.
In the rainy season, the Okavango River swells and creates swamps, lakes, canals, and islands throughout the plains. Animals migrate for hundreds of miles to the Okavango Delta to feed and drink while water is plentiful. Visitors to the Okavango Delta will have the best wildlife viewing experience from December to March. The area has plenty of experienced guides that will help you find the best wildlife viewing locations.
20. Aloba Arch – Chad
Aloba Arch is a natural arch located in the northeastern part of Chad on the Ennedi Plateau. The Ennedi Plateau is surrounded by the Sahara Desert and is one of the few places on Earth where natural arches occur. The Aloba Arch is the 8th longest in the world, with a span that is estimated to be approximately 250 feet across. While the Aloba Arch is not particularly wide, it is one of the tallest known natural arches in the world, standing 394 feet tall.
21. Mount Nyiragongo – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the few active volcanoes on the African continent. The volcano is located in the Virunga Mountains and rises to an elevation of 11,385 feet above sea level. Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Since 1882 it has erupted 34 times, with the most recent eruption occurring in 2002.
While the volcano itself is impressive, it is not necessarily the reason many people travel to this area. The lush rainforest that grows in the volcanic soils is home to a population of endangered mountain gorillas. People travel from around the world to experience gorilla tracking in the rainforests surrounding Mount Nyiragongo.
22. El Jem – Tunisia
Also Known as Thysdrus Amphitheater, El Jem is one of the best preserved and largest Roman monuments in the world. This amazing structure is unique in Africa as there were few Roman settlements in Africa. The El Jem Amphitheatre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The size of the structure rivals that of the Colosseum in Rome.
However, when constructed the site was only capable of holding around 35,00 spectators. The Amphitheater sits at the heart of the city of El Djem, Tunisia. However, it was not the first structure to be built at this site. It is believed that it is the third structure built in the location, with the first constructed sometime during the middle ages.
23. Leptis Magna – Libya
In the time of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, Leptis Magna was one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman Empire. This large city was originally constructed in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians and expanded as it became part of the Roman Empire. The ruins of the city sit on the mouth of the Wadi Lebda on the Mediterranean Sea.
The site has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. The entire site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the ruins on their own, but a better experience is to hire a local tour guide who can share some of the history of the area.
24. Pyramids of Meroe – Sudan
Built between the 8th and 4th centuries by the Kushite Kingdom, the Pyramids of Meroe are part of the Nubian pyramids that are found in present-day Sudan. These pyramids are distinct from the Egyptian pyramids, having steeper sides, smaller footprints, and funerary chapels.
These pyramids are located in the ancient city of Meroe. The city and pyramids are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, visiting the site you will notice that many are severely damaged. Much of the damage to the pyramids occurred at the hands of grave robbers in search of the city’s legendary stash of silver. The Pyramids of Meroe are challenging to get to, but you can purchase permits and a tour from the city of Khartoum.
25. Great Zimbabwe Ruins – Zimbabwe
The Ruins of Zimbabwe are some of the most important archaeological sites in Africa. They are a large collection of stone structures constructed during the Iron Age. Great Zimbabwe was a large city and is believed to be the legendary capital city of the Queen of Sheba. The city was an important trading center, and the largest city constructed by the Bantu civilization.
Visitors to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins can access the national park from either Zimbabwe or Mozambique. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the second most significant ancient structures in all of Africa, though they are not as popular with tourists as the Egyptian pyramids.
26. The Omo National Park and River Valley, Ethiopia
While many people travel to Africa to experience the natural landscapes and unique animal communities, some people come to Africa to experience the diverse cultures. The Omo National Park and River Valley is one of the places where many travelers visit when they want to experience the diversity of African culture. The Omo River Valley is home to over 50 different indigenous tribes. Each tribe has its own history, traditions, and food. It is a wonderful place to experience many of the cultures of Ethiopia.
27. Sossusvlei, Namibia
Traveling to Namibia offers you a diversity in ecosystems that you won’t find in many other places in the world. One of the most interesting places in Namibia is Sossusvlei. This area in Namibia is characterized by towering sand dunes, bright blue skies, and salt and clay pans. Sossusvlei is located within the Namibia Naukluft National Park. This conservation area has some of the greatest examples of the variety of ecosystems in Namibia. This area is one of the driest in the world but is not lacking in beauty. Landscape photographers flock to Sossusvlei for some of the most unique and stunning photo opportunities.
28. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Offering another great wildlife experience is Kruger National Park in South Africa. This national park is the largest national park in Africa. It is located just outside of Johannesburg, and the draw to this national park is easy access to see the five major game animals of Africa – the African lion, the African elephant, the African leopard, the black rhino, and the cape buffalo.
Many visitors to Kruger National Park elect to experience the wildlife on safari or a game drive. Overnight Safari experiences are some of the most popular offerings in Kruger National Park. These multi-day outings not only allow you to experience the wildlife of the park but also give you access to some of the archaeological sites that are found in the park. The park is also a popular place for hiking and mountain biking.
29. Table Mountain, South Africa
Table Mountain rises dramatically over Cape Town, and is the defining feature of the city. At 3,556 feet tall, Table Mountain is the tallest point in South Africa. It is also the oldest geological feature in the world with rocks that date to 60 million years ago. Ascending Table Mountain is one of the most popular activities for visitors and locals in Cape Town.
Ambitious visitors can hike to the top of the mountain. Or for a more relaxed option hop on the cable car to the top. From the top of Table Mountain, you will experience stunning views of Cape Town and the surrounding landscapes.
30. Gorilla Tracking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
While many places in Africa offer the opportunity to see large animals like elephants, lions, and wildebeests, there are few places on the continent or the world for that matter, where you can experience tracking large primates. In Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is one of the few places where you can see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
These endangered animals are highly protected within the park, and there are very specific regulations to tracking the 12 families in the park. Tourists will travel through the park with gorilla experts to view these majestic and largest of the primates. These tours are very limited, and it is recommended that you reserve your spot on the single tour each day, as far in advance as possible.
31. Reunification Monument, Cameroon
The country of Cameroon was once two separate countries. One half was ruled by the British, and the other was ruled by the French. In the 1970s the two halves were reunified into a single country, beginning the current political and governmental structure of Cameroon today. In celebration of the reunification of the country, a large statue was constructed in the capital city of Yaounde. The spiraling sculpture is one of the newest monuments in Africa and one of the most culturally significant for the people of Cameroon.