Luanda, which sits along the Atlantic coastline, is the capital city of the country. It’s also the largest city in Angola, with many areas now undergoing a massive makeover.
The slums and old bullet-marked buildings are being replaced by high-rises, and offices of foreign businesses are making their space in the country. Railroads and roads are also renovated, which can help improve the gridlocked streets of the city.
Little by little, the seaside city is shedding off its war-wrought look to reveal a new and more engaging appearance.
As it is, Luanda holds lots of gems to capture the interest of its visitors. In fact, several structures in Luanda are of historical significance. Chief among these is the Fortaleza de São Miguel, a Portuguese fortress established in 1576 and used to be the center of administration. Inside this fortress, which was once a self-contained town and a holding station for slaves toBrazil, are statues of European figures and ceramic tiles that present the history of the country.
Fortaleza de São Pedro da Barra is another witness to the slave trade that transpired in the bygone centuries. The fortress was built to protect the Portuguese occupation, but it also accommodated slaves to be sent to America.
Other places of significance include the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pópulo, the Augostinho Neto Mausoleum, and the National Museum of Anthropology. Also gracing the scenery are restaurants, bars, and colonial buildings.
A striking contrast to Luandais BenguelaProvince, a relaxed, bucolic region in the western part of Angola. And like most parts of the country, Benguela is heading toward redevelopment, and it’s doing so at a steady pace. In fact, just in 2009, Benguela residents saw the opening of the Ombaka National Stadium, which hosted some events of the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
Improvements in transportation – a new highway in Benguela City, the renovation of the airport, and the reconstruction of the Benguela Railway – also show the rebuilding efforts in the city.
But amidst all the works, Benguela retains its natural treasures. Its beaches, which include Baia Azul, Baia Farta, and Praia Morena, remain as stunning as ever and are the province’s source of charm. And as a whole, Benguela provides guests with a memorable and peaceful visit.
Kissama National Park
Kissama National Park, which covers an area of 9,960 square kilometers (6,189 square miles), was heavily devastated after the 27-year civil war, as evidenced by the nearly wiped-out animal population. Massive poaching also contributed to the dwindled number of wildlife.
But since after the war, conservation measures were put in place to reestablish this national park. In a wildlife project called Operation Noah’s Ark, elephants, elands, and other animals were moved from overpopulated parks in South Africa and Botswana to Kissama.
The wildlife population has somehow improved since the integration of the animals, making the park a little more vibrant than it used to be during the war. And to allow guests to conveniently enjoy the scenery, bungalows near the Kwanza River have been made available.
Although there’s still a lot more work to do, Kissama, which is situated off Luanda, is heading in the right direction and offers guests an Angolan wild experience.
As the source of hydroelectricity in Angola, the Kwanza River plays a significant role in the country. It runs along centralAngolaand empties into theAtlantic Ocean. It’s is also the northern border of Kissama National Park.
The Kwanza River, after which the local currency is named, is vibrant with life. In fact, 50 species of fish were recently found there. The river also continues to be a bountiful spot for fishing activities.
Waterfowl, along with a rich collection of flora, can also be spotted in the Kwanza River.
Iona National Park
With a size of 15,150 square kilometers (5,849 square miles),IonaNational Parkis the largest of its kind inAngola. Declared a national park in 1937, it suffered tremendously during the civil war like other national parks in the country.
But it’s now being restored by replacing the animals that were affected by poaching and by the war-caused devastation. At present, impala, zebra, klipspringer, a diverse population of birds, and the “Big Five” – springbok, cheetah, kudu, oryx, and ostrich – can be sighted in the park.
Iona National Park is home not only to a diverse wildlife; different indigenous groups also take residence in the park. These groups have their culture intact and remain untouched by the modern world.
Located in the province of Namibe, Iona National Park is even more interesting with its topography characterized by sand dunes, rock formations, grass plains, savannah, woodland, and shrub land. It’s bordered by bodies of water – the Curoca River to the northeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Cunene River to the south.
MalanjeProvinceis an Angolan treasure for being home to some of the country’s famous attractions.
In the city of Malanje, the province’s capital, you’ll see the Calandula Waterfalls. These captivating waters drop from a height of 105 meters (344 feet), releasing powerful sprays as they reach their destination.
Also found in the province are the Black Rocks of Pungo Andongo (Pedras Negras de Pungo Andongo), a collection of large rocks, some of which are strangely shaped as animals. This interesting site is located 116 kilometers (72 miles) from the city ofMalanje.
The Cangandala National Park is another must-see destination in the province. With a size of only 600 square kilometers (232 square miles), the park is the smallest in the country; but it makes a verdant home for the giant sable antelope, locally known as the Palanca Negra Gigante. This rare subspecies of the sable antelope is endemic to Angola and is the national symbol of the country.
Capital ofHuílaProvince, Lubango is set against a mountainous landscape. This, along with its cold climate and numerous attractions, makes the thriving city a tourist destination.
Towering over the city is Christ the King, the white marble statue of Jesus Christ. The statue, which is locally known as Cristo Rei, stands on a hill and provides a pleasant view of the city.
There are only four Christ the King statues in the world, so it’s worthwhile to visit the Cristo Rei while in the country. The Angolan statue was built in 1945 to 1950 together with the statues in Lisbon, Portugal, and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The more recent one, built only in 2010, is inSwiebodzin,Poland.
If you want to be even more mesmerized by the natural features of Angola, climb 2,600 meters (8,530 feet) above sea level to reach the Tundavala Fissure. Nestled between Lubango and Namibe, the volcanic fissure offers a striking view of the plain below.
Indulge yourself in more adventure by taking the Leba Mountain Pass, a rail-less road snaking from Lubango to Namibe. Perched at 1,845 meters (6,053 feet) above sea level, the zigzag road offers sights of waterfalls, rock formations, and the surroundings as it brings you to your destination.
Lubango is every bit a tourist-friendly destination, especially with its range of cafés, restaurants, and accommodations.
Huambo, the capital city of HuamboProvince, was one of the most promising cities during the Portuguese occupation. In fact, it almost became the colonial capital, as suggested by its former colonial name, Nova Lisboa (New Lisbon). However, it didn’t fully develop during the long years of civil war, when it became a battlefield.
The city began its rebuilding efforts after the war, turning itself again into a peaceful and interesting tourist destination. And thanks to its green surroundings and pleasant climate, the city sets the stage for a pleasant sightseeing adventure.
Framing the city are mountains, while parks and gardens highlight the lushness of Huambo even more. The most notable of the parks is the Parque Almirante Americo Tomas, which is set in the city center and has a natural reserve and a children’s park.
Completing the beauty of the city are the colonial buildings, which provide a glimpse into Huambo’s history, and the rivers that are perfect for fishing.
Cameia National Park
Cameia National Park, located in Moxico Province, is slowly reestablishing itself after the widespread poaching and the exodus of wildlife resulting from the civil war.
The animals that migrated to neighboring countries have started going back to the national park. These animals, which join the existing birdlife, hopefully will make the place vibrant once again.
And it’s not impossible. Since Cameia National Park has a lush environment – proof of this are the park’s woodlands and the lakes fringing the area – it can very well support the returning animal species.
Improvements in the park are also underway to make the place even more inviting to guests.
Miradouro da Lua
About 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Luanda City is the strange yet engaging Miradouro da Lua, or Moon Valley Viewpoint. This landscape is aptly named because of its moonlike surface.
Miradouro da Lua, characterized by pinnacles and ridges that were formed by erosion, stretches far and wide, displaying a scene that delights and, at the same time, confounds the eyes.
The landscape is especially captivating at dusk. As the sun begins to sink below the horizon, the features of the odd landscape become even more vivid.
Miradouro da Lua is one of the most prominent attractions inAngola, and it beckons to be included in an Angolan itinerary.
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