For too long, South Africa and Zimbabwe have been the go-to destinations for southern Africa. However, thanks to recent visa changes, Angola is finally opening up as an exciting travel destination. From the vibrant capital city of Luanda in the north to the breathtaking mountainous regions in the south, Angola has a stunning array of landscapes waiting to be explored. And the best part: you'll probably have it all to yourself.
A vibrant capital
The modernised Marginal waterfront is an ideal setting for an evening stroll © Jose Pinto
The capital Luanda is likely to be your first stop upon arrival to Angola. Along the bay, the newly regenerated area of the Marginal acts as a glittering centrepoint of the city. Surround yourself in colonial architecture in the historic centre of Baixa, and make sure to look out for hidden shops and bars down the narrow side streets. Along the Ilha sand spit, bring your towel for an afternoon on the city's beach, and if looking for a taste of the high life, sip a cocktail in one of the upmarket bars in the exclusive area of Mussulo.
Remarkable geological wonders
The Kalandula Falls are roughly 105m high and 400m wide © Fabian Plock, Shutterstock
The natural wonders of Angola should be right at the top of your itinerary. In the north, swim in the plunge pool of the Kalandula Waterfalls – the third tallest falls in Africa – and hunt for mythical Queen Ginga's footprints fossilised in the rocks at Pungo Andongo. Down south, hike up the Tunda-Vala gorge for spectacular views of the Chela Escarpment, and drive the superb Serra da Leba Pass, finishing at the viewpoint that overlooks the winding road and verdant landscape.
Take a day trip from Luanda to Cabo Ledo for a spot of surfing © Antonio Rodriguez Peyneau, Shuttlestock
As a country with 1,600km of coastline, it comes as no surprise that Angola holds an impressive variety of beaches. For surfing, bring your long board to Cabo Ledo to experience one of the longest left-hand waves in the world at 500m. If looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, drive down to Sangano for a clean white sandy beach with views onto local fishing boats. Within the vicinity of the capital is Shipwreck Beach, where you can take in the folkloric tales of the rusting remains of tankers, cargo ships and fishing vessels.
Immerse yourself in indigenous tribal culture © Mike Stead
Angola is home to a diverse indigenous and musical culture. In Namibe province, spend some time with the topiary-haired Nhaneca-Humbe tribe as they lead you to the prehistoric rock paintings at Tchitundo-Hulo. If you are feeling more intrepid, mingle with the Tchokwe tribe in the Lunda provinces, whose ritual masks are so important they have become collectors' items. Otherwise, Luanda's yearly jazz festival is arguably the city's cultural highlight, whilst the Luanda Blue Fest is fast becoming an important fixture on the social calendar, attracting both national and international hip-hop and kuduru stars.
Fascinating historical sites
Explorer Paulo Dias de Novais took control of the Portuguese colony from the Forteleza de São Miguel in 1576 © rosn123, Shutterstock
Angola's turbulent history under colonialism and armed strife can also be explored via its historical monuments. The pyramidal moment in Cuito Cuanavale commemorates those who died during the Battle between the UNITA and South African Defence Force and FAPLA in 1997. In the centre of the country, Angola's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in M’banza Congo is where Central Africa's first church was established by the Portuguese in the 1600s. And back in Luanda, the Forteleza de São Miguel offers panoramic views of the city, where you can also walk among the rusty cannons still scattered around the fort.
Want to find out more about the highlights of this beautiful country? Check out our comprehensive guide: