World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance.
There are over a thousand protected properties across 167 countries by UNESCO and Africa
is home to 138 of those magnificent sites. May 5th marks African World Heritage Day, a very
unique occasion to celebrate and appreciate the vast and exceptional cultural and natural
heritage of Africa.
In this post we will share our top 10 UNESCO sites in Africa as complied by Education
Without Walls www.educationwithoutwalls.online
- Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia
The remote mountain village of Lalibela town in northern Ethiopia is home to 11 spectacular
medieval churches and are carved—inside and out—from a single rock. These mystic
creations have turned this mountain town into a place of pride and pilgrimage for
worshipers and visitors alike. These churches represent a building tradition that has been
used in Ethiopia since the 6thcentury, but these particular churches are attributed to King
Lalibela, who ruled in the 13thcentury. The king had a vision of a “New Jerusalem” for
Christians who couldn’t make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of Muslim conquests
across North Africa. The best time Togo is during Timket, a festival in January that marks the
Epiphany, where Ethiopian Christians re-enact the baptism of Christ.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro earns a spot in our top 10 UNESCO sites. As Africa’s highest point, it
proudly with its snowy peak looming above the surrounding plains. The mountain is
surrounded by forests, and some of the most amazing animals found on the continent.
Climbers of Kilimanjaro will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding
savannah and glimpses of permanent glaciers and impressive ice cliffs. Weather permitting,
hikers with average skill and equipment can make the climb in just a few hours.
- Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
As the world’s largest coral atoll, Aldabra consists of four large coral islands and a lagoon,
surrounded by coral reef. And, in its remote location amongst the Seychelles’ outer islands,
the atoll is uninhabited, remaining incredibly untouched to this day. The coral islands have
become known across the globe for having as many as 100,000 giant tortoises, making it the
world’s largest population of these creatures.
Plus, large seabird colonies and the world’s largest arthropod, the coconut crab, add to the
atoll’s natural importance.
- Ruins of Carthage, Tunisia
You’ll find the ancient UNESCO site of Carthage on a hilly outcrop overlooking the
Mediterranean Sea just 9 miles from Tunis. Carthage became a vibrant port city in 814 B.C.
when the maritime Phoenician explorers came to the region to set up trade. Carthage fell to
the Romans in 44 B.C. during the rule of Julius Ceasar and then by Vandals, Byzantines, and
Arabs, before eventually falling into obscurity in the 7th century A.D. The ruins are one of
Tunisia’s most popular tourist sites, and history lovers will fall in love with the museums and
excavation sites of one of the world’s most famous port cities. Don’t miss the Roman
Amphitheater and Antoine Baths—they’re incredible.
- Timbuktu, Mali
Timbuktu is not just a place your Mother threatened to send you when you
really a place! Even though this ancient city in West Africa has seen its glory days, between
the 13th and 16th centuries, Timbuktu was the seat of grand Islamic scholarship. This
mosque is made of mud and timber and was used to house sacred Muslim texts for scholars
to study. Timbuktu was also an oasis for the camel caravans that snaked across the Sahara
plying the salt trade. Back then, salt was traded pound for pound with gold because that
was the only way food could be preserved. Travel to Mali requires some planning, so make
sure to invest in an established tour company before you head out.
- Limestone Forests of Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar
The African island of Madagascar is more than a place to gaze at the unique ring-tailed
There is another unusual site that you must include on your itinerary — the limestone
forests” of Tsingy. You’ll find that Mother Nature has worked her magic, and the effects of
erosion have formed a geological oddity. The weird shapes of these rifts have created their
own ecosystem, and the undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps of Northern
Madagascar are the habitat for rare and endangered lemurs and birds. This epic journey will
take you off-the- beaten-path, and more than likely, you’ll have the place to yourself.
Discover some of the best things to see and do when visiting Madagascar.
- Ancient Thebes, Egypt
If you want to get away from the crowds of Cairo and see some real Egyptian history, then
just head south to the city of Luxor, home to the awesome UNESCO site of Ancient Thebes.
Luxor was once an ancient Egyptian capital, but today is known as the world’s greatest
open-air museum. From the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings to the
magnificent sunset views at the majestic temple complexes of Luxor and Seti, Luxor has it
all. To see the Nile like a Pharaoh, take an exciting Nile cruise. After a day touring the ruins,
take in an evening sight and sound show at the Karnak Temple.
- Medina of Marrakesh – Morocco
If you want to explore the magical “Red City of Morocco, then visit Marrakesh. The Medina
is one of Morocco’s most visited UNESCO sites, and you’ll be captivated by the seemingly
unending markets (souks), gardens, and historic sites of the Medina. There is so much more
to see in this vibrant city besides rugs, brass, and lanterns. The city is home to the lively
Djemaa El Fna, a square, filled with story-tellers, acrobats, dancers, and musicians. A bit
further from the square are the heritage sites themselves, including the grand Ben Youssef
mosque and the El Badi and Bahia palaces that show off one of the most striking features of
the Moroccan architecture “zellij” or mosaics design using hand-cut tiles.
- Okavango Delta – Botswana
With annual flooding between June and August, this astounding delta is formed as the
Okavango River meets with the basin of Botswana‘s Kalahari – the water eventually
evaporating or draining into the surrounding areas. As the delta fills up during what are the
driest months across the rest of Botswana, animals from far and wide congregate in the
area, resulting in one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa.
As well as being made the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango Delta has
justifiably been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Careful conservation of
the habitat means that there are only a select few lodges and camps to stay at, from where
you can explore the delta’s waterways while seeking out creatures both large and small.
- Rock Art of Maloti-Drakensberg – South Africa & Lesotho
The San (Bushman) of Southern Africa are some of the oldest known inhabitants of the
continent. High in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains, along the border of South Africa and
Lesotho, is one of the five world heritage sites in Africa that is recognized for both natural
cultural significance. Its rock art heritage, created over a period of 4,000 years, is a must-see
for visitors to the Drakensberg Mountains. Some of the art was created as recent as 100
years ago when the San were driven from the region. The rock-art is colourful and shows
scenes of the San hunting, dancing, fighting, gathering food and performing rituals. The Sani
Valley Nature Lodge is a wonderful place to call home while you explore all the Drakensberg