Angola, officially the Republic of Angola, is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city. The exclave province of Cabinda has borders with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Portuguese were present in some—mostly coastal—points of the territory of what is now Angola, from the 16th to the 19th century, interacting in diverse ways with the peoples that lived there. In the 19th century they slowly and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interior. Angola as a Portuguese colony was not established before the end of the 19th century, and “effective occupation”, as required by the Berlin Conference (1884) was achieved in the 1920s as with most African colonies. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves; however, its life expectancy and infant mortality rates are both among the worst-ranked in the world.
Places To Visit In Angola:
Kissama National Park: Located in northwestern Angola, Kissama National Park was the site of a massive rehabilitation project called Operation Noah’s Ark. In 2000, sixteen elephants were flown from South Africa to the park; they were followed by zebras, ostriches, wildebeests, and giraffes. While the park is still recuperating from years of neglect, it is easily accessible today and is a great place to spend a day exploring. There are accommodations within the park for overnight stays.
Benguela: The Benguela Railway used to connect the city to the Congo and Zambia, but civil wars destroyed the railroad’s infrastructure. While the railroad is slowly being repaired, the only functioning segment is the strip connecting Lobito to Benguela. We recommend taking the train trip and spending a day exploring the streets of Benguela, which boasts colonial Portuguese architecture and sites.
National Slavery Museum: This museum is not large, but it packs a big punch. Located just 11 miles (18 kilometers) south of Luanda, it is housed in a small, 17th-century chapel and tells the story of Angola and its involvement in the slave trade. The most intense experience to be had at the museum is the realization that, in that very chapel, millions of slaves were baptized before being sent across the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships. We highly recommend visiting this small but powerful museum.
Cangandala National Park: It is the smallest national park in the country, but its woodland environment attracts a large number of birds. The park was founded in 1963 to protect the giant sable antelope, but today it is primarily a great place to hike and see some of Angola’s natural beauty.
Calendula Waterfalls: Also called the Duque de Braganca Falls, these amazing waterfalls are located in the province of Malanje. The Calendula falls are some of Africa’s highest and make for a spectacular photo shot.
Mussulo Peninsula: If you are looking for a good place to stroll along the water and see the fishing culture of Angola, visit the Mussulo Peninsula, where local fishermen work every day. Located just outside of Luanda, the peninsula offers a great escape for a few hours. We recommend packing a picnic, relaxing next to the water, and going swimming for an afternoon.
Santiago Beach: Located 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Luanda, Santiago Beach bears the nickname “Shipwreck Beach,” because of the massive old ships beached in the shallow water. (One infamous vessel is the Karl Marx.) The ships provide an extraordinary photo opportunity. You can rent a fishing pole and go fishing farther down the coast, where the beaches are pleasant and free of rusty wrecks.
Lubango: Surrounded by mountains and blessed with a moderate climate year-round, Lubango is a great place to stop over for a few days. There are daily flights between Lubango and Luanda; you can also hire a car for the six-hour drive. Shopping and dining are activities that visitors usually indulge in during their stay in this high-up city.
Benfica Market: This Luanda-based market is full of paintings, animal skins, jewelry, carvings, masks, and more. Unlike at many African markets, the vendors are not known for their aggressiveness; still, feel free to haggle before you make your purchase. Be sure to ask vendors where their goods were created, as much of the art on sale isn’t made in Angola itself.
Fort San Miguel: Built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, this former fortress is now a massive tribute to the country’s past. Within the white, fortified walls are ceramic tiles detailing Angola’s history, as well as cannons and old prisoners’ cells. The Museum of the Armed Forces is also within the fort and is definitely worth a visit.