Luanda Travel Guide
Introduction to Luanda
Although Luanda has become known throughout the world for being one of its most expensive cities (thank its burgeoning oil industry for that), those that make the effort to travel to Angola will inevitably end up flying in and out of its capital city.
While there are many places throughout the country where you will spend most of your time, there are a number of worthy points of interest within the city and just outside of it that are worth exploring as well.
Under a constant state of renovation due to broken infrastructure following the conclusion of the civil war a generation ago, the city is a much nicer place than it has been in the past, though travelers on a budget should watch their billfolds closely.
It is hard to get a decent meal for less than $30 here, thanks to an insane rate of inflation that rapid economic growth has wrought on the city.
Cultural Attractions in Luanda
The most impressive cultural landmark in Luanda by far is Fortaleza de Sao Miguel. A fortress built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century to protect its port against raids and invasions by other colonial powers, it was the final stop for slaves being exported to Brazil.
Surrounding the capital in its early days, Luanda grew quickly within Sao Miguel’s protective walls, and until the Angolan civil war ousted the Portuguese in 1975, it served as the home of the head of the Portuguese armed forces in Angola.
In addition to walking its ramparts and enjoying one of the best vantage points for getting panoramic photos of the city below, there are also a number of statues and ceramic tiles that tell the story of the country of Angola and the Portuguese kings that ruled over it until its independence in the 1970s.
Another point of interest that you will not be able to ignore during your visit to Luanda is the Mausoleum of Agostinho Neto. An intricate concrete obelisk that soars hundreds of feet into the air, it is a memorial and the final resting place for Angola’s first president.
Sitting on a plot of land 12,000 square kilometers in size, it is eventually expected to be the centerpiece attraction for what will be the Agostinho Neto Cultural Park. For now, however, it is an expansive park that you will enjoy walking around in on a beautiful day in Luanda.
As mentioned earlier, Luanda was one of Africa’s most significant ports when it came to the export of slaves to the New World. A number of years ago, the National Museum of Slavery was built to tell the story of one of the most savage times in Africa’s history.
The exhibits here display items that were used to coerce and restrain slaves as they were escorted from the interior of the continent to this port city, where they would be sent to lands far away from their native homes.
They also have photos from the latter years of the trade, as well as books and other audiovisual materials that help bring alive a truly regrettable era in human history.
Other Attractions in Luanda
Those wanting to check out a remarkable natural site within a short drive of Luanda’s downtown core will want to make time to check out the Miradouro da Lua.
Although the rusty red appearance of this gully makes it appear more like the surface of Mars than the moon, this patch of badlands between the Angolan interior and the coast is a stunning place to be at sunset.
Created by continuous rain and wind that eroded this site over millions of years, its jagged appearance will capture your imagination, making it well worth the 80-kilometer round trip drive.
Those needing a break from the realities of traveling in Africa will want to take a weekend trip to Ilha do Mussulo. Despite the name, it is actually not an island but a thin sandy peninsula located just south of the city.
Covered in white to golden sand and home to a number of stunning resorts, this is the perfect place to cure a bad case of travel burnout, which is a common occurrence for travelers in Africa.
If you are looking to walk or run where the locals do, take a jaunt down Avenida 4 de Fevereiro. Following its waterfront for most of its length and including buildings such as the Banco Nacional de Angola, a walk down this street is how many locals choose to end their day, as this one of the best places in the city to watch the sun sink into the horizon.