UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit on Your Next Trip to Africa

A place can be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations if it meets certain cultural or natural criteria.  UNESCO sites are granted special protection to preserve assets for local economic development and long-term sustainability.

Africa is home to 129 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which can be found in 37 of the continents’ 53 countries.  You won’t be able to visit them all – in fact several are virtually inaccessible – but here are a few ideas if you’re looking for inspiration on your next Africa trip. 

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1.)  Historic Cairo, Egypt
One of the oldest Heritage sites in Africa, this portion of the city was designated a UNESCO site in 1979. The Islamic center on the bank of the Nile dates back to the 10th century. Historic Cairo contains over 600 mosques, fountains, and other classified monuments dating from the 7th to 20th centuries.

2.)  Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, Seychelles
Vallée de Mai, or “May Valley”, is located on the Island of Praslin, Seychelles.  The reserve is home to the Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) tree, a member of the palm family with the largest seed in the world.  Also found in the valley are the elusive Seychelles Black Parrot and Tiger Chameleon.

3.)  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
This park in the southwestern corner of Uganda encompasses one of the country’s oldest and most diverse rainforests. Covering over 300 square kilometers of jungle, the land protects numerous endangered plants and animals. Most notably, it is home to roughly half the world’s population of the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla.

4.)  Great Zimbabwe National Monument, Zimbabwe
This ruined city was the capital of the Kingdom of Zinbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. The monument covers an area of 1,780 acres and was constructed between 1100 and 1450 AD. Eventually the city was abandoned but some of the five-meter mortarless walls remain.  

5.)  Robben Island and Nelson Mandela Gateway, South Africa
Used as a maximum-security prison until 1996, it was here that Nelson Mandela was sent to live for 18 years.  Just 6 miles from Cape Town, former inmates guide visitors through the island prison. Today the island prison is a symbol of freedom and democracy.