Introducing Democratic Republic of Congo
As much a geographical concept as a fully fledged nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaïre) has one of the saddest chapters in modern history: from the brazen political folly of King Leopold of Belgium to the hideously corrupt kleptocracy of maverick leader Mobutu Sese Seko and the blood-stained battlegrounds of Africa's first 'world war'.
But after a decades-long decline in which much of the country descended into anarchy, Africa's second-largest nation is, by and large, headed in the right direction. It still has a long way to go (militias continue to brutalise civilians in many areas), but new roads, enormous untapped mineral wealth and the world's largest UN peacekeeping force have bred optimism among its tormented but resilient population.
Carpeted by huge swathes of rain forest and punctuated by gushing rivers and smoking volcanoes, DRC is the ultimate African adventure. There is absolutely nothing soft nor easy about about it but for an African immersion you'll never forget this is the place to be.
Some like it hot: volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Disclaimer: travel advice from the UK and the USA currently urges against non-essential travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo...