The tiny nation of Guinea-Bissau is sandwiched by Senegal and Guinea, like a refuge between these also less-traveled countries. Off its Atlantic coast is the Bijagos Archipelago, a popular spot for sun-worshippers. Its mainland, meanwhile, is home to coastal plains, mangroves, swamps, and savannas where wildlife thrives and tourism slowly booms.

Many of this West African nation’s attractions are accessible from the capital Bissau, making it a kaleidoscope of man-made and natural wonders. Whether tourists stay in rural or urban areas or explore Mother Nature’s best offers, they will have a worthwhile vacation in this country. That’s Guinea-Bissau: a place of awe and wow.

10 Bissau

The capital, Bissau, will welcome tourists with its Atlantic breeze, bustling roads, charming neighborhoods, and stunning sightseeing spots. Travelers should imagine this: after a hefty breakfast, the tropical breeze will encourage them to stroll along the city. Their feet will take them to the historical fortress, the grand Presidential Palace, the humble mosque, the impressive Pidjiguiti Monument, the alluring cathedral, and the Greco-Roman building of the justice ministry. The sightseeing spots are picture-perfect, more so when tourists reach the coast and the suburbs where other surprises await.

9 Bijagós Islands

The Bijagós Archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau is composed of 88 islands. Twenty-three of the islands are inhabited, while some are nature reserves. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a tourism hotspot, thanks to its pristine shores and diverse sandbanks, mangroves, and mudflats. Tourists can join boat charters, taking them to the archipelago’s most alluring islands. There, they will know why this destination is Guinea-Bissau’s richest area. From migratory birds to quiet beaches, the islands of Bijagós aim to please.

8 Orango National Park

A visit to Africa is never complete without a national park escapade. In Guinea-Bissau, there’s the Orango National Park, a fairly young reserve packed with surprises. Part of it is in Bijagós Archipelago, and one of its most famous attractions is Anôr Lagoon, where tourists can spot hippopotamuses that can live in both salt- and freshwater. Its mainland, meanwhile, is proud of its sandy shore and savanna shrubs. Birds and other wildlife abound in this park, something to excite nature lovers.

Related: Why Arusha Is Considered The Safari Capital Of The World

7 Lagoas Cufada Natural Park

Paddlers and birdwatchers will enjoy spending their day in the WaterWorld that is Lagoas Cufada Natural Park. Tucked between the rivers of Corubal and Buba, this 890-square-kilometer reserve has a thriving avifauna population. Over 250 bird species call this place home alongside hyenas, buffalos, hippopotamuses, gazelles, and crocodiles. As tourists paddle to reach the viewpoint, they’ll be gently caressed by the breeze. They should keep their eyes peeled for some critters, especially since nature's sound is like a lullaby that might deliver them to sleep.

6 Cantanhez Forests National Park

Tourists who want to observe chimpanzees should head to Cantanhez Forests National Park. Biologists often visit this reserve to study the way of life of these primates. From Bissau, tourists who want to explore the park will have a ride along forest tracks where they will feel like Indiana Jones on an adventure. They will also have the chance to meet locals who coexist with the critters of the reserve. In the park, tourists can have guided tours and visit a waterfall, all the while being alert for some friendly animals.

5 João Vieira and Poilão Marine National Park

If chimpanzees are the stars of Cantanhez Forests, João Vieira and Poilão Marine National Park is proud of its turtles. This reserve is located in some of the uninhabited islands of Bijagós Archipelago, thus the presence of sea turtles. Seven islands form this park, each one not just offering refuge for shelled critters but an escape for tourists. Since it's a nesting site for turtles, tourists can visit in time for the release of hatchlings. It’s cuteness overload in this Guinea-Bissau wonder.

4 Beaches

Thanks to the Atlantic Ocean, Guinea-Bissau has a lot to offer lovers of the sun and the sand. Beachgoers will enjoy island-hopping the Bijagós Archipelago because its shores are seemingly omnipresent. The beaches of Bolama are unique, thanks to the mangroves, while the coast of Suru is popular because of its white sand and wide shore. On Melo Island, the beach view is made better by the greenery. There’s also a beach in Varela National Park where strollers can have a peaceful day. The soft sand of Praia de Bruce is perfect for sunset viewing, while Praia de Ofir is for those who want to be away from the crowd.

Related: Top 10 Most Flawless Beaches To Visit In Africa

3 Museums

Those who want to dive deep into Bissau-Guinean history should visit some of its museums. Its major museum is the National Ethnographic Museum, so it goes without saying that it’s a must-see. The town of Cacheu also has a museum that highlights its rich past and culture. Sculptures, masks, ritual objects, and other crafts are featured in Bubaque Museum. Probably one of the most popular in the country is the House Museum of Amilcar Cabral, considered Guinea-Bissau’s Che Guevara. His former home is now a place to retrace the roots of this charismatic leader.

2 Cacheu River Mangroves Natural Park

Guinea-Bissau is home to West Africa’s largest compact mangrove system, the Cacheu River Mangroves Natural Park, so it should not be missed by nature explorers. This area is so lush that it is now considered a Ramsar site or a wetland of international importance. Aside from being an aquaculture spot, the park is flocked by migratory birds and is home to hippopotamuses, manatees, dolphins, crocodiles, green monkeys, and bushbucks. As tourists explore this water paradise, they’ll realize that making a splash has never been this good.

1 Historical Landmarks

Aside from Bissau’s colonial-style structures, its towns and other cities also have historical spots that will interest history buffs. Bafatá hosts Portuguese-style houses, while Bolama, the country's old capital, has some gothic cemeteries. Cacheu is one of the oldest settlements, so it has important landmarks like a fortress and a slavery memorial. The country also memorializes its fight for independence through an inspiring museum and grand monuments. Stepping back in time in Guinea-Bissau is an enriching journey. A repeat visit is a must.