Africa, a continent of startling diversity, has some of the most beautiful and romantic landscapes on the planet, from savannas teeming with wildlife and vast deserts to dramatic mountain ranges and lush forests.
Love is in the air this month, with Valentine’s Day coming up, so here are Africa’s 10 most romantic places, picked from highlights on our Africa overland tours, including our Botswana overland adventure, our overland camping trip around South Africa, and our two-month Nairobi to Cape Town overland trip.
1. Makgadigadi Pans, Botswana
To visit Botswana’s Makgadigadi salt pans in the northern Kalahari Desert is to be transported to a different planet. In the dry season (June to September), the pans (which are bigger than Switzerland) are dry and blindingly white – a giant lunar landscape – dotted with the occasional baobab – that you can totally lose yourself in. The most special time of day is sunset, when the sky above the endless horizon turns from golden to pink to purple and a huge blanket of stars starts twinkling.
2. Lake Malawi, Malawi
With clear water full of tropical fish and surrounded by laidback villages and beautiful sandy beaches, Lake Malawi is a highlight of any overland tour of southern Africa. Lake Malawi is blessed with romantic places to stay, from simple campsites on its shores and quirky backpackers dotted with hammocks to Robinson Crusoe-style rustic island retreats. At night the lake lights up with fishing boat lamps, mirroring the canopy of stars above.
3. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia
When the Zambezi River is at its fullest, five million cubic metres of water tumble down a gorge a hundred metres deep, sending up columns of mist that can be seen from many kilometres away. Standing, awe-struck, under the golden-tinged spray of Africa’s mightiest waterfalls at dawn is an experience you’ll never forget, and is undoubtedly one of the continent’s most romantic spots.
4. Table Mountain, South Africa
Cape Town’s iconic landmark looms over the Mother City, offering spectacular vistas over the scenic peninsula and the busy city, as well as amazing sunset views. Head up to the top of the mountain (by hiking or by cable car) an hour before sunset to choose your spot to crack open the sparkling wine and watch the sun set over the ocean with your loved one.
5. Sossusvlei, Namibia
Taking in the sunrise from the top of some of the world’s highest sand dunes at Sossusvlei in central Namibia is just epic, and could probably be a strong contender for best proposal place on the planet.
6. Cape Winelands, South Africa
The winelands of the Western Cape charm legions of travellers every year, with gorgeous valleys of rolling fields of vines surrounded by mountain ranges and picturesque villages with country-chic guesthouses and award-winning restaurants, and centuries-old wine farms, complete with traditional Cape Dutch buildings. The fact that this area is one of South Africa’s most popular for weddings attests to its romantic allure. You don’t have to hire out a wine farm though – the budget-friendly alternative is to simply buy a bottle of wine, some bread and cheese and have a picnic for two in a vineyard.
7. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Nothing says romance like a hot air balloon ride, and one of Africa’s most spectacular settings in which to take to the skies is Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, one of the continent’s most popular wildlife areas. At any time of year the hot air balloon trip will be incredible, but try to go in June and July to catch the wildebeest migration – picture flying over thousands of animals as the early morning light turns the savanna golden.
8. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Whether you’re paddling down a waterway in a mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe), going wildlife-spotting on foot or camping in the wild, falling asleep to a soundtrack of croaking frogs, barking hyenas and roaring lions, the Okavango Delta, will utterly entrance you. If you’re an adventure and nature lover, being in the wildest place in Africa will no doubt spark your romantic spirit.
It’s easy to see why Zanzibar is popular with honeymooners: the east African island offers perfect soft golden sand beaches lined with palm trees, warm turquoise sea and an exotically alluring culture, along with an atmospheric historical town of winding alleyways and beautiful wooden doors. Go scuba diving, swimming with dolphins or sailing on a dhow (a traditional boat), or just soak up the romance by having a candlelit beachside seafood dinner.
10. Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa
There’s something romantically magical about being in dense forests, surrounded by trees and abundant life. The Tsitsikamma forest, on South Africa’s Garden Route, is a must-visit for any tree lover. Hike through paths past giant trees centuries old, cascading waterfalls and deep river gorges. Like a bit of adrenaline mixed in with romance? Whizz through the canopy on zip lines for a rush – and a bird’s eye view of the treetops.