Africa’s largest country lies just a short hop from Europe and, with tourists still a novelty, offers attractions as unpeopled as they are varied. The capital, Algiers, is one of the Maghreb's most urbane and charismatic cities, with a heady, nostalgic mix of colonial and modernist architecture, and a traditional medina at its vertiginous heart.
Southern Morocco & Western Sahara
The Souss Valley, where goats climb argan trees beneath the sun-baked Anti Atlas, draws a line across Morocco. South of this fertile valley, the pace of life in mountain villages and Saharan gateways is seductively slow, free from the hassles of mass tourism and modern existence.
Blessed with some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, Botswana is one of the great safari destinations in Africa. There are more elephants in Botswana than any other country, the big cats roam free and there’s everything from endangered African wild dogs to aquatic antelopes, from rhinos making a comeback to abundant birdlife at every turn.
Often dismissed as 'Africa for beginners', Malawi has historically been overlooked as an interloper at the table of great safari destinations. That is until a lion reintroduction program commenced in 2012 and travel editors suddenly started salivating. Aside from its animals, what immediately captures you about this vivid country is its geographical diversity.
One of West Africa's most stable countries is definitely not dull: The capital, Dakar, is a dizzying, street-hustler rich introduction to the country. Perched on the tip of a peninsula, elegance meets chaos, noise, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife while nearby Île de Gorée and the beaches of Yoff and N'Gor tap to slow, lazy beats.
Get out into the bush where animals, both predators and prey, wander through unfenced camps, where night-time means swapping stories around the fire and where the human footprint is nowhere to be seen. The rewards of travelling in Zambia are those of exploring remote, mesmerising wilderness as full of an astonishing diversity of wildlife as any part of Southern Africa.
Step off the boat or plane onto the Zanzibar Archipelago, and you’ll be transported through the miles and the centuries – to ancient Persia, to Oman’s caliphs and sultans, to India, with its heavily laden scents. On Zanzibar, Stone Town’s alleyways wind past Arabic-style houses with brass-studded wooden doors.
Rugged and starkly beautiful, the Sinai Peninsula’s vast and empty desert heart has managed to capture imaginations throughout the centuries. It’s coveted for both its deep religious significance and strategic position as a crossroads of empires. Prophets and pilgrims, conquerors and exiles have all left their footprints on the sands here.
Johannesburg, more commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, is a rapidly changing city and the vibrant heart of South Africa. The city is flourishing. Its centre is smartening up and new loft apartments and office developments are being constructed at a rapid pace. The cultural district of Newtown, with its theatres, restaurants, museums and jazz clubs, is livelier than ever.
Some ten years ago, Fez boomed as a tourist destination. Money poured into the city, from foreigners buying up riads in the medina to new parks and fountains in the ville nouvelle. If you believed the travel and style pages of the Western media, Fez had become the new Marrakesh. Then the Arab Spring and similar events in other Muslim countries took their toll on tourism.
Alexandria & the Mediterranean Coast
Egypt’s northern coastline runs for 500km along dazzling Mediterranean shores. Think of it as an Egyptian Riviera, drawing swarms of summertime revellers who come to cool off in the sea air and splash in the water. Along its western stretches, the translucent shades of turquoise and lapis are so pure, so vibrant, you’ll hardly believe your eyes.