Ivory Coast

Rarely will you encounter other foreign travellers or the kinds of overdevelopment that have ruined other tropical places of outstanding natural beauty and cultural appeal. 

Having once been a synonym for instability, Ivory Coast has well and truly reopened to the world. The country is a stunner, from the cream-hued beaches of Assinie in the southeast to the crimson savannahs of the north, the awe-inspiring mountains of the west and a wealth of wildlife-rich national parks (500 bird species, chimps, crocs, hippos and even lions and elephants can be glimpsed).

And the culture is as thrilling as the nature. At weekends the nightspots of the largest city, Abidjan, boom with the sounds of home-grown musical genres like coupé-décalé and zouglou, alongside US hip-hop, French freeform jazz and Latin American soca. Meanwhile, if Ivory Coast’s music is the envy of Africa, its traditional art and craft scene is the envy of the world. In the north, jewellers, blacksmiths, weavers, potters and wood-carvers use ancient techniques to create artefacts that are regularly exhibited in the metropolitan galleries of the West.

Food is another strong suit, as even the lowliest maquis (informal, open-air eateries) serve a scrumptious fusion of French cuisine and uniquely African herbs, spices and vegetables. The country also has its fair share of quirky attractions that you simply won’t find anywhere else, among them displays of fetishistic magic, ceremonial dances specific to rural ethnic groups and the singular crocodile-feeding ritual outside the late President Houphouet-Boigny’s gigantic tomb in Yamoussoukro.