We shouldn’t beat about the bush: Nigeria has an image problem. It dominates West Africa economically and politically, and has produced music and literature whose influence spreads far beyond the continent. But for all this clout, mention the country’s name to the person on the street and they’re more likely to come up with a litany of woe: corruption, ethnic violence and email scams. As a travel destination, Nigeria seems more a place to avoid than to book a flight to.
And yet, Nigeria is a country we’re coming to love. Getting around can sometimes be a little tough, and it’s certainly a challenging destination for first-timers to Africa, but you shouldn’t believe all the scare stories. Lagos is one of the most exuberant cities in Africa, while port city Calabar makes for an enjoyable stopover for travellers on their way to Cameroon. Across Southern Nigeria, old kingdoms carry on their customs, from creating elaborate brass sculptures to venerating the ancient gods. More modern traditions include one of the world’s pioneering primate conservation organisations. In the north, where the land dries out as it stretches towards the desert, Muslim Nigeria thrives in dusty trade cities where memories of the Saharan trade routes still linger. Don't miss West Africa's oldest city Kano, and Yankari National Park, the best in the country.
Nigeria is a country of extremes. Great wealth and great poverty sit cheek by jowl, and tensions between different communities can boil over into civil strife. While a few parts of the country remain problematic, the vast majority is as warm and welcoming to visitors as anywhere in Africa. Challenging yet exuberant, this is Africa in the raw – there’s nowhere quite like it on the continent.
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Best places to stay in Nigeria
West Africa travel guide
West Africa has cachet and soul. Home to African landscapes of our imaginations and inhabited by an astonishing diversity of traditional peoples, this is Africa as it once was.
Argungu Fishing Festival: a guide to Nigeria's fishing frenzy
This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals. Location: Argungu, Nigeria Dates: around mid-February Level of participation: 1 – get a fish-eye view from the river banks...
Africa - Nigeria (Chapter)
Nigeria is a pulsating powerhouse, and Lagos, its main city, is the face of modern Africa. Immerse yourself in the layered cultures, histories and surroundings, from the ancient Muslim cities, Yoruba kingdoms and spiritual shrines to the river...
Durbar: a guide to Nigeria’s cavalry festival
Gate to Emir's palace in Kano by Shiraz Chakera. Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0) Location: Emir Palace Rd, Kano, Nigeria Dates: end of Ramadan Level of participation: 2 – watch the colourful cavalry Throughout the Islamic world, the Eid al-Fitr festival is celebrated in a variety of ways...
West Africa - Nigeria (Chapter)
With its burgeoning technology industries and an exploding music and arts scene, Lagos is the face of modern Africa. But in the villages and towns you may still feel as if you're a lone explorer getting a glimpse of the raw edges of the world.
Travel literature review: My Nigeria
My Nigeria by Peter Cunliffe-Jones Rating: 4 out of 5 Reviewed by Cate Jaques In My Nigeria, Peter Cunliffe-Jones follows in the footsteps of his forefathers, combining family memoir and history to examine Nigeria after five decades of independence. Cunliffe-Jones is the third of his family to travel to Nigeria...