The Best Places to Visit in Southern Africa [Underrated & Unique]

best places to visit in Africa

Are you dreaming of going to Africa?

Did you hear already about Cape Town, the best Safari, Victoria Falls but want to experience something unique? If yes, this post is something for you!

I travelled through Africa for 6 months and I discovered many off-the-beaten-path destinations. These are the best places to visit in southern Africa.

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Mdumbi, South Africa 

best places to visit in Africa

Mdumbi is a remote coastal destination on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast of South Africa, 21km north of Coffee Bay. The ethnic group of this area is called Xhosa and it is the second-largest cultural group in the country.

An interesting fact is, that Mandela came from this region and his original name was not Nelson, but Rolihlahla, which is a Xhosa name. 

Although Mdumbi Beach was once voted the best beach in the country, it remains secluded, rustic, and relaxed. This beach is also one of the best surf spots in South Africa and it is completely uncrowded. Mdumbi is surrounded by local villages with the traditional Xhosa round huts. The cows and goats chill freely around.

During the day you can explore the coast: There are different hikes available, for example, you can walk (3h hike) to Coffee Bay, which is a little more popular, and where you can visit ‘Hole in the Wall’, or you can challenge yourself with a 3 days hike along the Wild Coast.

It is a safe region and the locals are very open and friendly. After you have done some activities you can chill at the beach with a book in your hand: Long Way to Freedom from Nelson Mandela.

I recommend you to stay in Mdumbi Backpackers. They are next to the beach, with amazing views, lots of space and they have private rooms as well as dorms. This accommodation is community-driven and focuses on eco-sustainable travel. 

Ezulwini Valley, Eswatini 

best places to visit in Africa

Many of you probably never heard about Eswatini before. This little country, previously known as Swaziland, is a landlocked country with borders to South Africa and Mozambique. 

Eswatini is run by an absolute monarch King Mswati III, who decided to change the name of the country from Swaziland to the Kingdom of Eswatini in 2018, which means ‘land of the Swazis’.

I imagine him sitting at the breakfast table, drinking his morning coffee and in one moment shouting at lout to one of his (official) 15 wives: ‘Darling, I have an idea – I will change the name of the country! Today!’. 

best places to visit in Africa

The country is one of the poorest in Africa and has to struggle with many issues like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and it also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Despite those circumstances, I highly recommend spending a few days in this country because of its authenticity and its beautiful landscape. And besides that, it will support the nation’s tourist economy 🙂 

To be more specific, the place to be in Eswatini is the Ezulwini Valley. This area is a green paradise with hills, woodland, exotic animals, and local culture. There is some tourist infrastructure, so you can treat yourself to a nice lodge or an organized tour.

I stayed at Lidwala Lodge, which is a pretty hostel with free and paid activities like birdwatching, volunteering, hiking, safari, cultural dances, craft markets, craft tours, and some nightlife. 

Tofo, Mozambique 

best places to visit in Africa

Tofo (no, not tofu), is a small town (I would rather say a village!) in south-east Mozambique. It is a backpacker destination and its bars can get crowded during the season, but otherwise, it is a laid back destination. To get to the nearest ATM you will need to take a bus that takes you out of town and if this one gets broken, you will have an issue.

By the way, next to the ATM there is an amazing small seamstress (for men and women), where you can buy or make clothes which are made of the traditional fabric called ‘capulana’! 

The town’s main attraction is its daily market with fresh veggies and fruits and also freshly cooked street food. You can get there a good homemade meal for 1$. The party scene in Tofo is huge (if you take into account how tiny this village is). There are several bars and live music almost every day. 

Tofo is also well known for diving. In the waters, you can spot turtles, humpbacks, whales, whale sharks, eagle sharks, reef sharks, and so on. The town has also a pretty good waves to surf. The beach is stunning and most of the time empty, the water is crystal clear. The local people are amazing and the vibe is just great.

Stay in one of the backpackers close to the market or treat yourself with more privacy in a guesthouse somewhere outside of the center. I stayed at Pariango, which was very basic but with a positive vibe and direct access to the beach. 

Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve, Malawi 

best places to visit in Africa

Not many people know that Malawi has more to offer than its beautiful Lake, which is the country’s main attraction. But if you are into off-the-beaten path travelling, then once you are in Malawi you definitely should visit Mulanje Forest Reserve. 

Mulanje is located in southern Malawi, close to the border with Mozambique and its Forest Reserve covers about 60.000 hectares. The absolute highlight of this area is the hike up to the summit of Mount Mulanje (3002m).

If you decide to go hiking, you will have a few options which vary between day hikes to five days hikes. I did a three-day hike and it was an unforgettable experience. 

best places to visit in Africa

For the excursions to the peak, you will need to hire a guide and prepare yourself for challenging tracking. You walk about 8h per day and in some places, the path is very steep and tough.

There are basic huts on the way for overnight stays and you will share them with other hikers (if some other people will be hiking the same route on the same day).

You have to carry your food and water during the whole trip (you can also hire someone who would carry your stuff). But I promise you, the views are incredible and worth every muscle pain! If you want to plan your hiking trip in detail, have a look at the guide provided by Mountain Club of Mulanje.

Lushoto, Tanzania

best places to visit in Africa

If you are thinking about visiting Tanzania, then do not miss Lushoto. It is a paradise for nature and culture lovers. Lushoto is located in the Usambara Mountain region and it is a day’s journey away from Dar El Salam and almost a day from Arusha (using public transport).

This little town is surrounded by ancient forests with ecological importance. There are amazing lush green views, historic sites, and idyllic villages.

You can explore the area on your own: grab a map, your camera, and water, and keep walking in one direction for one or two hours and I am sure you will meet many friendly locals who will welcome you! You can also arrange guided activities like hiking, various cultural trips or coffee tours. 

best places to visit in Africa

If you are tired of moving, go to a cafe called Tupande Usambara Coffee Corner, which is located next to the bus station, get yourself the best coffee of your life, and chat with the owner for the whole day. 

There are a few decent guesthouses in the town or outside of the town. I stayed in a place called Tumaini Hostel (although there are no dorms) which is a basic guesthouse with a garden and a great location. 

best places to visit in Africa

About the author


Karolina, is a solo traveller, photographer, and blogger. In her previous life, she used to work as a digital marketing manager but she quit her office job for good in 2018 and since then she has been constantly on the road. Karolina loves off the beaten path destinations, is crazy about road trips and she lives currently in a campervan in Australia. Check her posts and photographs on her blog and follow her on Instagram.

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