Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

Destination Discovery: 4 of the Most Alluring Cities in Africa

As the second largest continent in the world, Africa covers a lot of ground. And while many of us think of exotic safaris somewhere in the sprawling desert, Africa is home to a number of large cities that are humming with commotion. From urban penguins (yes, Africa has penguins) to colorful markets, these African cities are worth a visit.

1. Cape Town, South Africa

Located on the southern tip of the African continent, Cape Town possesses show-stopping beauty from sky to sea. Soak in the spectacular scenery with a hike or aerial cableway ride up Table Mountain, a 600-million-year-old rock formation so glorious it was crowned one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, or observe wildlife in action at Boulders Beach where African penguins come out to play. Known as a luxurious destination, Cape Town has no shortage of fabulous beaches, wineries and fine dining. Travelers love relaxing at Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno for some seaside fun, however, those looking to take a dip may want to venture to the False Bay side of the city for warmer waters.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 20-day African safari and Seychelles itinerary embarks in Cape Town and visits wineries in the Cape region.

2. Essaouira, Morocco

Colorful and bright, Morocco’s seaside town Essaouira makes for the perfect backdrop for any African vacay. Shoppers will find the city’s medina, aka main square, bursting with intricate pottery, handmade textiles and an abundance of leather goods. Full of authentic charm, one could spend hours capturing beautiful photos of the brightly colored doors and narrow streets Essaouira has to offer. For great views of the Atlantic Ocean, stop by the City Walls or Skala Du Port near Essaouira Beach, but watch out for bursts of sand as it can get quiet windy, something local wind surfers love about the area.

The Essaouira Short Break tour from Intrepid Travel gives you a quick yet full experience of Morocco’s coastline gem.

3. Aswan, Egypt

Settled along the banks of the Nile, Aswan has that iconic ancient Egypt feel minus the crowds of Cairo. Explore impressive structures and monuments like the picturesque Nubian Mosque, the historic Tombs of the Nobles, the off-the-beaten-path Aga Khan Mausoleum and the Philae Temple. To get a closer look at what it takes to construct such massive structures, be sure to visit the Unfinished Obelisk, a ginormous slab of granite that was to be the world’s tallest obelisk, at Aswan’s Northern Quarry. If it’s nature you seek, be sure to visit El Nabatat Island, also known as Kitchener Island, for the chance to stroll among an abundant selection of exotic plants from across Asia and Africa.

Collette’s Journey Through Egypt and Jordan tour stops in Aswan for tours of the extraordinary temples there.

4. Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya’s capital city Nairobi is an exciting metropolis bursting with culture. Although it may seem counterintuitive to imagine an abundance of wildlife near the city center, Nairobi is best known for attractions where local creatures take the spotlight. Visit Nairobi National Park for the chance to observe the world’s densest concentration of black rhinos, the occasional cheetah or leopard and commonly seen friends like warthogs, gazelles, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, ostriches and of course, in true Lion King fashion, lions and hyenas. After getting wild at the park, head downtown for restaurants offering varied African cuisine and a bit of culture at one of the many museums.

Intrepid Travel’s Kenya to Vic Falls guided tour starts in Nairobi and offers plenty of opportunities to experience Africa’s wildlife, like with a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater for chance to see some of those black rhinos.

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