A visit to Chad is not for the fainthearted. The country has been described as extreme in a continent that is full of destinations that will leave you out of your comfort zone. The country is certainly one that will leave you with memories, good and bad, that you will never forget.
Currently conflict in the country has made it simply to unsafe to visit but even in times of peace; this is a country for the travel hardened adventurer. Finding a comfortable hotel to spend a night is difficult, finding a road that is safe to travel on is even more so. The heat can often be unbearable with temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. Oh and don’t forget that the police and military here are corrupt and will ask you for “gifts” as negotiation.
You may find yourself asking “well, why would anyone want to visit Chad?”. The answer could be the stunning terrain of the Sahara Desert which is some of the most oddly beautiful in the world, or the answer could be the animals that live in the Zakouma National Park. In all likelyhood however the reason for visiting a country like Chad is simply to experience what life is like in one of the most hostile and poorest parts of the world. A trip to Chad is far from a holiday but more of a life lesson.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Chad:
The capital and largest city in Chad, N’djamena is a blend of modern and historic cultures. The population of N’Djamena is growing at an alarming rate due to many citizens of the country seeking the opportunities that come with life in the city. Despite the modern appearance of some buildings, there are many mud-brick structures that will remind you that you are still in one of the world’s poorest countries. The nightlife here is truly amazing and the lively bars have to be powered by hundreds of generators that reinforce the national grid. The national museum, which explores the history of Chad for the last several thousand years, and the central market are the two main attractions in the daytime.
Sarh was once the site of the French Colonial Fort Archambault. It is located on the Chari River, roughly 350 miles away from the capital city of N’Djamena. The climate here is warm with a wet season which makes it perfect for cotton production; the city’s main export. Visitors will find that the city is served by an international airport and, although there are not many tourist sights as such, the city has a great performing arts scene. Music and concerts will keep you entertained into the early hours in Sarh.
Faya-Largeau is the largest city in the north of Chad and is one the very edge of the Sahara desert. The heat here is immense and temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius and regularly exceed this until October. The annual rainfall in the city is about half an inch. The reason to visit here is the nearby rugged terrain of the Sahara desert. If you can arrange a tour with a local guide then be prepared to be blown away by the harsh but beautiful Sahara desert.
4. Zakouma National Park
Zakouma National Park, in the south-eastern region of Chad, covers an area of roughly 3,000 square kilometers. It is regarded as one of the last places in Central Africa that is truly a refuge for wildlife and it is considered to be one of the most successful conservation efforts in the area. The park is teeming with rare and diverse species of mammals and birds. The Tinga Camp offers accommodation for up to 490 people and is in the heart of the best game viewing area in the park. You can enjoy your dinner whilst enjoying the ambiance of the African bush.
5. Am Timan
Am Timan is the capital city of the Salamat region in Chad. The name translates to “mother of the twins” but the origin for the name remains unknown. The city is very poor and underdeveloped but is known for hosting the biggest and most vibrant markets in the county as well as incredible holiday celebrations. Conflicts in the area have affected cotton plantations and processing plants in the area but if you do find yourself in the city be sure to visit its market for the best shopping experience in the country.
The city of Bol is served by its own airport and can be found in the Lac region of the country. It is mostly visited because of Lake Chad which is very close by. Lake Chad was once the largest freshwater lake in the world however it is slowly drying up and even vanished completely during the droughts of 1984. In the dry season the lake usually occupies 10,000 square km but this can more than double in the wet season. A finger of this lake extends to Bol and is there all year. Try to hire a boat and explore the lake to witness hippos, floating islands and rare birds.
The Ennedi region of Chadis home to the Ennedi Desert. The landscape is harsh, occupied mainly by scorpions and beetles but it is also home to some of the most beautiful and unusual rock formations in the world. The landscape is mostly flat but jutting up regularly are large stone arches and jagged rock formations that are like natural works of arts. The area is hard to reach and difficult to survive in, requiring carefully thought out plans and provisions, but those who venture here are rewarded with some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world.
8. The Lakes of Ouianga
Found in the Sahara Desert, the Lakes of Ouianga consists of 18 lakes in total which are supplied by so-called underground fossil water. The rain fell many thousands of years ago when the climate was much wetter than it is today. In fact the lakes now only receive 2mm of rainfall each year. Some of the lakes are salty whereas others are fresh and support life. The lakes are Chad’s sole Unesco World Heritage Site.
9. Tibesti Mountains
The Tibesti Mountains are difficult to reach and explore but there are many things here that will reward adventurous travellers. The highest peak here is the Emi Koussi which stands at 3,500m above sea level. The peak is actually a huge extinct volcano and only the experienced should consider climbing it. For travellers there are many great things to do in the area such as watching camel racing, view ancient rock art and enjoy the nearby hot thermal springs.
Moundou is the second largest city in Chad and lies on the Mbere River. The city is home to the Gala Brewery which has produced the most popular lager in the country since independence. More than a million barrels of the nectar are produced each year. Tours of the brewery are available for visitors and a cold glass of the lager is a great way to cool down from the intense heat of Chad. The city is also home of the Ngambi people.
Douguia is as close as you will get to a tourist hotspot in the country of Chad. The city owes much of its tourist popularity to the Chari River on which it is situated. A popular activity in the city is to take a tour with Boatman, a local who will take you on a river tour in a traditional canoe. Along the way you will witness what life is like for local people as well as local bird and wild life.
Capital of the Ouaddai Region and served by its own airport, Abeche is the fourth largest city in Chad. The city was the ancient capital of the country and has remnants littered throughout including mosques, sultan’s tombs and palace ruins. The ruins are kept safe behind a protective wall but the city has retained a lot of its ancient charm. Whilst walking the ancient streets, you will encounter many tribespeople from the surrounding desert.
13. Aouk National Park
Aouk National Park is another of Chad’s wildlife sanctuary’s and although the park has not flourished with the same protection as Zakouma National Park it is still home to a vast and impressive mix of mammals and birdlife. The park covers an area of around 7,500 kilometers and can be visited with a guide as part of a 4×4 safari excursion.
14. Goz Beida
Goz Beida is a town in the Sila region of Chad. The town is best visited as a base for exploration of the nearby national park of the same name. The Goz Beida National Park occupies an area of around 3,000 square kilometers and, although it has been affected by conflicts as well as illegal poaching and other atrocities, it is a haven for both rare and endangered species. The town of Goz Beida has its own airport which is about 3 miles away from the town itself.