North Africa and South Africa are two very different regions located on the same continent, but they both have plenty of reasons as to why they're worth visiting. Many North American travelers are only familiar with Africa as a place to go on a safari and get up close and person with some amazing wildlife. While that much is true, there are also plenty of other reasons to visit North and South Africa.
North Africa is made up of several countries featuring different languages and cultures. Egypt stands out if you want to do some sightseeing as there are plenty of interesting and historic places to visit. Taking a trip to cities like Fez and Tunis is certainly worth considering if you have enough time. North Africa has some interesting and fun things to do and you can try new things while you're there.
The country of South Africa is also very diverse. There are plenty of beautiful beaches to visit and you have many chances to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. There are lots of opportunities to see some great national parks and coastlines and you'll be able to stay in a luxurious resort if you so choose. You'll still want to plan a visit to Cape Town but there are plenty of other things to check out in South Africa.
Check out the following 10 things that would surprise travelers about North Africa and 10 more about South Africa. Africa is a beautiful continent with lots to be enjoyed.
20 North Africa: It's Unclear How Many Countries There Are
The United Nations subregion of North Africa is made up of the following seven countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. The continent of Africa includes North and South Africa but it doesn't have clearly defined borders like North America does. Some people only consider Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia to be included in North Africa. It seems that the most commonly accepted grouping includes those three countries as well as Libya and Egypt. Honestly it doesn't make a lot of difference which countries are included in North Africa if you are visiting the region and aren't sure if Sudan or Western Sahara are included.
19 North Africa: You'll Be Able To Communicate If You Can Speak Arabic
The North African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia all recognize Arabic as an official language. While some of these countries have more than one official or commonly spoken language, learning or knowing Arabic will certainly be useful to travelers in the region. The other two languages that you might want to know are Berber and French. Berber is an official language of Algeria and Morocco while French is commonly used in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. French and Arabic are spoken in Western Sahara and Spanish is spoken in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla as well as in Western Sahara.
18 North Africa: Each Country Is Unique
If you travel from country to country in North Africa be prepared for lots of differences including culture, political landscape, and more. Each country has their own form of currency and form of government. Egypt is a very liberal Islamic nation while the countries on either side of it, Saudi Arabia and Libya, are a lot stricter. Some areas of North Africa and very developed while others are not. You'll be able to explore a lot of different places while visiting North Africa. Do your research before visiting so you'll know what to expect and you'll be prepared for what you may experience.
17 North Africa: Egypt Is Packed With Sights To See
There will be plenty to see when visiting Egypt in North Africa. Outside of Cairo you'll be able to see the famous Pyramids of Giza which are one of the Seven Wonders of the World. You can also see the Great Sphinx in front of the pyramids. You'll also want to visit the city of Luxor which has great museums and venture to Karnak. If you visit the Valley of the Kings you can see the tomb of Tutankhamen. While in Egypt you'll also want to see the Siwa Oasis, Abu Simbel, and the Ras Mohammed National Park. You'll want to budget plenty of time in Egypt and you might stay there longer than any other country in North Africa.
16 North Africa: Fez Is An Old City With Modern Charm
The city of Fez (or Fes) in Morocco is a must visit. It's the most complete city from the medieval period in the Arab world and provides for a combination of the old and new. Although it's no longer the capital of Morocco, it's still considered to the cultural and religious center of the country. Visit the medina city of Fes El Bali while you're there and you can also check out the Royal palace, the Merenid Tombs, and the Jewish Quarter or Mellah. No matter how you spell it Fez is a great place to see what life in Morocco is all about.
15 North Africa: Tunis Has Some Beautiful Scenery
The city of Tunis, Tunisia is a must visit when traveling to North Africa. The sunsets in this desert city are breathtaking and you can enjoy some delicious fresh seafood while watching them. There are lots of trees in Tunis and you won't have to the crowds when it comes to tourism. That's because tour groups don't typically visit Tunisia due to not many sandy beaches and a lack of popular attractions. You'll want to visit the medina which is the most popular area of the city. The French quarter is also worth visiting. Even if you only spend one day or night in Tunis it's a nice place to relax and not have too much on your itinerary.
14 North Africa: It's One Of The Best Places To Go Hot Air Ballooning
Most people don't equate North Africa with being a great place to take a ride in a hot air balloon. One of the reasons that the region is a great place to go for a ride is because it has lots of scenery that can be seen from high up above including the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. About 30 hot air balloons get fired up before the sun even comes up each day and even if you're afraid of heights you'll want to witness other people riding in them from your view on the ground.
13 North Africa: You Can Relax On The River
North Africa has lots of rivers and plenty of vehicles that travel on them. A traditional Nubian Felucca is a popular river ride that allows you to float down the famous and historical Nile river. These boats aren't too fancy but they provide for a relaxing ride where you can learn more about the culture, read books about the area, or chat with others. If you prefer a more active river adventure you can try scuba diving. If you have a group who wants to board a Felucca it won't set you back too much and you can have an enjoyable experience for everyone.
12 North Africa: You Can Practice Your Bargaining Skills
There are lots of bazaars in North Africa where you can find everything from a souvenir to remember your trip to some fresh foods, beverages, and spices to enjoy or take back to your hotel to enjoy. The bazaars here are nothing like your traditional grocery store with fixed prices. You'll have the chance to negotiate and test our your bargaining skills with the local vendors and you'll likely have a fascinating experience. Be friendly but firm to get the best prices and don't be afraid to try new things like foods you've never had before. You can even make a game out of it and see if you can get a better deal than your travel companion can.
11 North Africa: The Local Food and Drinks Are Great
When traveling to North Africa you'll want to try out some of the local flavors. You should have no trouble finding some a la menthe, or mint tea. The drink is most popular in Morocco and the locals have a fun way of pouring it that you'll want to see. One of the most popular foods in North Africa is the falafel. Street vendors are said to make the best ones, but you can even get a McFalafel at McDonald's if you so choose. After your meal you can relax and smoke shisha in several areas in North Africa.
10 South Africa: The Adam's Calendar Stone Ruins
For those who like visiting interesting or mysterious sites, the Blaauboschkraal stone ruins are worth taking a trip to. More commonly known as Adam's Calendar, this is a provincial heritage site located in Waterval Boven in the Mpumalanga province. It became a national monument in 1975 and some have compared it to Stonehenge. There are some theories that this site is linked to aliens or that it dates back 300 thousand years. It amazingly lies along the same longitudinal axis as both the Great Zimbabwe ruins and the Great Pyramid. It's certainly interesting to visit and see what it's all about.
9 South Africa: South Africans Are Passionate About Sports
Some of the most popular sports in South Africa are soccer, cricket, and rugby. South Africa became the first Africa country to have hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup when it did so in 2010. It holds the distinction of being the second country in the entire world to host the soccer World Cup, Rugby Union and Cricket World Cups. You will enjoy taking in a soccer or rugby match and South Africa has produced famous athletes including golfer Ernie Els. Several other sports like boxing, basketball, and swimming and becoming more popular so you may be able to catch some future stars while they're still young.
8 South Africa: You'll Want To Brush Up On Your Languages
When visiting South Africa you'll be sure to notice how diverse it is. There are many cultures and languages and the country actually has 11 official languages recognized in its constitution. Those are English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Venda, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, and Zulu. No other country recognizes as many official languages as South Africa does. Zulu is the most common, but only 22% of people speak it. There are also unofficial languages that are commonly used in South Africa. Recognizing so many languages makes it difficult to know which ones you would be best to know, so do your research on the areas you'll be visiting.
7 South Africa: The Food Is Also Diverse
In South Africa, some consider the Mompane worms of Limpop to be a delicious meal. Many people eat it fried and it contains plenty of protein. If you're looking for something a bit different, South Africa is home to two world renowned restaurants that have been listed in the top 50 in the world. The La Colombe restaurant is located in Constantia, Cape Town and ranked #12. Another restaurant called Le Quartier Francais ranked #31 and is located in Franschhoek. Beer is important in South African culture and you'll be able to find some fast foods joints including Kentucky Fried Chicken.
6 South Africa: You Can Visit A Shoe House
The famous Shoe House of Mpumalanga is just what the name describes it as. This house was built into the shape of a shoe. This isn't the only shoe house in the world but it is one of the more popular ones. If you remember the nursery rhyme, the old lady lived in the shoe with her many children. This shoe house actually has its own website to explain a bit more about it. While visiting the shoe house you may want to do some exploring because the area has some beautiful waterfalls in addition to cultural heritage sites nearby.
5 South Africa: The Wildlife Is Amazing
You'll see some incredible wildlife if you look in the right places in South Africa. One great place to do so is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which is located in the Kalahari region which also extends into Botswana. There are miles of red dunes and some amazing animals including cheetahs, leopards, and lions. Some of the more exotic animals also travel in herds including wildebeest, eland, springbok, and gemsbok. A lot of these animals aren't even found in zoos in North America so experiencing them in their natural habit is a once in a lifetime deal that you have to see to believe.
4 South Africa: It Has Picture Perfect Coastlines
One place you should be sure to put on your itinerary when visiting South Africa is the Garden Route. This stretch of shoreline is located on the southeastern coast of the country and goes from Storms River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape of South Africa. The name Garden Bay is because of the diverse types of vegetation that grows along the coast. There are also many lakes and lagoons near the coastline. Some of the places worth visiting include Nature's Valley, Plettenberg Bay, and Knysna. Taking a trip down the coast will certainly be time well spent.
3 South Africa: You Can Stay Near Wild Animals
If seeing wild animals is important to you, you'll want to check out the Kruger National Park. South Africa has some great parks and places to see wildlife, but this is one of the best. Stay in a nearby hotel so you can spend as much time as possible seeing the animals and take advantage of which types may be around at different times of the day. The animal popular is dense and there are lots of plant species. There are roads you can travel to get a closer look and you can take a tour or make your own.
2 South Africa: Spoil Yourself In A Resort
South Africa is known for its safaris and beaches but it also has a number of luxurious safari lodges where you can be pampered and relaxed before you hit the desert in search of big game. Major luxury hotel chains like Four Seasons and Orient-Express have locations in South Africa. If your idea of a great vacation includes spending plenty of time outdoors looking at rhinos and other wildlife and then heading into a luxurious resort to relax and enjoy your evening, South Africa may be your dream destination. You can enjoy some delicious food and amenities and take different safaris each day.
1 South Africa: Cape Town Is Still The Crown Jewel
Cape Town still remains the most popular destination for tourists in South Africa. This big city has an enjoyable Mediterranean climate with plenty of nature as well as places to go and things to see. Cape Town is a great centralized location to visit if you plan on taking advantage of the diverse beaches in the area. You could spend plenty of time in Cape Town with things to do including visiting the popular landmark Table Mountain, touring the vineyards in Constantia Valley, or relaxing at beautiful beaches like Camps Bay or Boulders Beach. There's no reason not to spend a good deal of time in Cape Town but be sure to visit some of the other places mentioned on this list as well.