Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, doesn’t necessarily top many destination lists, but it should. This small west African nation’s proximity to transportation hubs, its urban attitude, and its incredible natural and man-made attractions are just a few things that it has to offer visitors. Here is the full list of reasons you really should consider visiting Ivory Coast.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro
Located in the administrative capital of Côte d’Ivoire, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is a Roman Catholic basilica completed in 1989 to the tune of $300 million. Though it is not a working cathedral (worshippers gather at the nearby Cathedral of Saint Augustine for prayer), it is considered the largest church in the world, confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records. It was constructed by the country’s former president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, and is a stunning replica of the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Most impressively, it is rumored that the basilica contains more stained glass than can be found in all of France, a jab at Ivory Coast’s former colonial master — and one that surely pleased Houphouet-Boigny.
Tai National Park
One of the last untouched rain forests in West Africa, Tai National Park boasts massive trees, sparkling streams, and a wide array of wildlife. It is especially well known for its large chimpanzee population, and is a prime spot for researchers to study the species. Also located in the park is the 396-meter-high Mount Nienokoue, a beautiful but easily conquered peak in the southern area of Tai.
The unique music of Côte d’Ivoire reflects the variety of languages spoken there, as well as the wide range of traditional instruments. Songs often incorporate features such as talking drums and polyrhythms. Many Ivorian artists have found success on the world stage.
One of Côte d’Ivoire’s most popular specialties is aloko, or ripe bananas fried in palm oil and spiced with steamed onions and chili. Yes, it could be viewed as just fried plantains, but the Ivorian version is just so good! It can often be bought from street vendors as a snack by itself, or served with meats and fish as a side dish.
Comoë National Park
The largest and oldest national park in the country is Comoë National Park in the northeast, which encompasses the Abokouamekro Game Reserve. Known for its fairly sizable lion and hippo populations, it is ideal for those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path African safari experience.
Le Plateau, Abidjan
Le Plateau is the main commercial district in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s social and cultural capital, as well as its largest city. It boasts modern skyscrapers that rival those found in the world’s other capitals. Shopping, architecture, and a wide variety of restaurants draw thousands of tourists and locals to Le Plateau each day.
A smaller town located in the west of Côte d’Ivoire, Man is nestled between lushly forested mountains and plateaux. It is also home to gorgeous waterfalls and hiking trails through the peaks, such as Mount Tonkoui, and is a must-visit for those looking to spend some time out of the cities.
The beaches…ALL of the beaches
It’s not called the Ivory Coast for no reason — gorgeous beaches can be found in nearly all of the coastal towns, many of which have developed lush resorts to cater to tourists. Grand Bassam and Aasouinde are two of the most popular, with sandy beaches and warm water to lure swimmers and sunbathers alike. Beware, however, as the currents are notoriously strong and unpredictable, so swimmers should proceed with caution.
If you like to head on holiday to party, look no further than Treichville, the district of Abidjan best known for its vibrant and popular nightlife. With clubs pumping the Afro-Cuban and uniquely Ivorian beats the county is known for, you’ll have a memorable night out for sure.
Fishing in the lagoons
With so much water present, it’s no wonder that Côte d’Ivoire offers stellar fishing off the coasts and in the country’s many rivers. Fishermen have been known to come up with red carp, barracuda, mullet, sole and more (sometimes even shark or swordfish if you head to the right areas) for a great day out on the water and a fantastic meal at the end.
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