Angola Travel Guide
Introduction to Angola
Only 15 years removed from the end of its civil war, Angola remains an unknown quantity on the tourist trail in Africa. There are a variety of reasons for the lack of buzz around this nation: its visa process is hard to negotiate, infrastructure is in a decrepit state, and the cost of living is extremely high due to severe price inflation brought on by an oil boom.
The difficulties in traveling Angola are many, leading many to avoid this beautiful country. However, seasoned explorers will find many rewards here, making the above-mentioned difficulties worth enduring.
Currency: Angolan Kwanzas
Languages: Portuguese, Bantu
What To Do in Angola
As one of the world’s most expensive cities, you may not want to spend a lot of time in Luanda. However, before you leave for Angola’s hinterland, you will want to spend some time wandering around the Fortress of São Miguel.
Built in the late 16th century, this fort served as an administrative center for colonial authorities, as well as a holding facility for captured slaves for being shipped overseas. It retained this function until 1975, which is when Portugal handed over control to the Angolans after they won their War of Independence against their former masters.
Within its whitewashed walls, you will find the statues of the first king of Portugal, as well as monuments commemorating the first Portuguese explorers to set foot in Angola, among other sights.
After leaving Luanda, make Miradouro da Lua your first stop. A series of rusty red cliffs and gullies that have formed at the edge of an escarpment close due to torrential downpours over the eons, a landscape that resembles the surface of the Moon has been created (hence the name).
It would be apt if it were named after Mars given its color, but that’s how it was named by the locals. In any event, do not miss this spectacular viewpoint.
Further south in Angola, do not miss the opportunity to hike up Tundavala. Created millions of years ago, this volcanic escarpment looms a thousand metres above the coastal plain, creating unparalleled views of the landscape below.
The sharpness of this rise cannot be understated, as there are parts that drop off at a 90-degree angle. Remember that you are in a developing country: there are no guard rails to prevent you from falling to your death here, so be sure to watch your every step during this trek.
A trip inland east of Luanda will lead you to the base of Kalandula Falls, one of Africa’s largest by the volume of water. With a complete lack of tourists, this place is the polar opposite of Victoria Falls. Despite this, the power of this set of waterfalls is just as impactful as its busier cousin.
Accessing the site itself can be a challenge, but considering that Angola is one of the poorer countries in Africa, this is to be expected. Embrace the adventure, but come prepared with extra food, water, and patience.
With a lengthy and deserted coastline, Angola is a beach bum’s dream come true. While those looking for the stereotypical resort experience will come away disappointed, gems like Sangano Beach will leave you with a smile on your face after a long day spent soaking up the sun, playing in the waves, and interacting with locals.
Situated a hundred kilometers south of Luanda, it is far enough away from Angola’s largest city to avoid the problems that closer beaches have with garbage, yet it is close enough to the capital to allow for a relaxing day trip.
With a healthy expat scene here as well, you will be able to get their perspective of life in Angola over a beer or fruit smoothie.
What to Eat in Angola
Unsurprisingly, much of the cuisine in Angola has a strong Portuguese influence thanks to a colonial occupation that lasted almost five hundred years.
A breakfast in this country may have you eating some Funje. Made from water and cassava flour, it has been a basic but proven source of energy for generations. This porridge can also be found as a side for a variety of savory dishes in this country, so keep your eye out for it at traditional restaurants.
At dinner, make an attempt to find Muamba De Galinha on the menu. Lauded as Angola’s national dish, this chicken stew is made by marinating a chicken with lemon juice, chili powder, salt and garlic cloves overnight, and then cooking it in a dutch oven with onions, tomatoes, squash, okra, and chicken stock the next day.
For dessert, try to track down some Cocada Amarela. A pudding made primarily from coconut and egg yolk, it is a soulful way to end a meal, as its thickness will stamp out any hunger pang in your stomach that your dinner failed to quell.