- Blyde River Canyon, South Africa – when I arrived in Africa as an 18 year old this spectacular canyon was so at odds with my preconception of Africa’s flat, brown dusty plains. It was a huge moment in the chipping away of my naivety.
- Coffee Bay, South Africa – I love all of the Transkei and the Eastern Cape’s coastline, but Coffee Bay seemed like a good choice. Emerald hills roll down into crashing turquoise waves.
- Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana – A giant salt pan in the middle of endless flat savannah. At its heart is Kubu Island, a dry granite island with mighty baobab trees to lean against as you watch the sun set.
- Dongola, Sudan – proof that the best travel experiences are about the people you meet, or the mood you are in at the time. Dongola is a dusty, too-hot little town in the Nubian Desert. But when I was there I was so in love with the desert and the wonderful people of northern Sudan that I could not help but be enchanted.
- Sani Pass, Lesotho – all of Lesotho is wild and beautiful, but for someone with a cyclist’s eye the prospect of Africa’s highest pub and the enormous snaking descent that follows is too good to miss.
- Freetown, Sierra Leone – hot, noisy, chaotic, smelly, poor, potentially dangerous: Freetown might sound an odd choice. But so much of Africa is like this, blended too with a cocktail of music, laughter, friendliness, dignity and colour. And that is what makes the continent so compelling for travellers. Freetown was one of the most intense cities I have ever had the good fortune to amble around.
- Sahara desert, Morocco – when the noise and craziness of Africa threatens to overwhelm you, head for the desert. Silent, timeless nothingness and the Chegaga dunes roll on for ever and for ever.
- Lalibela, Ethiopia – I wanted an entry that highlighted the cultural history of Africa. Egypt’s pyramids are a little unoriginal. Besides, I was more astonished when I arrived at Lalibela’s underground rock churches as I had so little prior knowledge of the place. Being surprised is one of the best aspects of travel, and a great reason to get away from the Lonely Planet.
- The Elgeyo Escarpment, Kenya – The Rift Valley that runs from the Middle East all the way to Southern Africa is geologically fascinating. The beautiful view up on the Elgoyo feels part Lion King, part Out of Africa cliche, and mostly an incredible privilege.
- Lake Malawi, Malawi – After months and months of hard slog and sweating I ignored (foolishly) all warnings of Bilharzia and crocodiles and leaped into the lake for a delicious, cool, freshwater swim. Heaven! I relaxed at the Mayoka Village Lodge and hid from Africa for a while.
Apologies, among others, to Aswan, Cape Town, Carthage and Victoria Falls for being axed from my final list! I am sure you will also have many other favourite places. Voice your opinion in the comments below!
This piece originally appeared in Wanderlust.