The landlocked country of Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations in Africa and, quite possibly, the world. However what it lacks in resources and wealth, it more than makes up for in spirit and natural beauty. The list of “must visit” destinations may be considerably shorter than many other countries in Africa but the people here will welcome visitors with warmth and charm and endeavor to make their stay a memorable one.
The main attraction here is without a doubt the natural landscapes which range from the rugged outcrops of the Sindou Peaks to the abundant wildlife that can be found at Lake Tengrela or the four of Burkina Faso’s national parks.
The cities in Burkina Faso do not offer many sights or tourist attractions as such but the music and other forms of performing arts on offer are truly some of the greatest on offer in Africa.
The tourist industry has not really taken off in the country and, as such, the facilities can be rough and ready and a little more planning is needed for travellers than in more tourist orientated African countries. The lack of tourists is not necessarily a bad thing however and some of the spots you will visit have a really unspoiled feeling about them and the family run guesthouses feel very intimate and welcoming.
Without further ado, here is our list of the 15 best places to visit in Burkina Faso.
Ouagadougou, more commonly know by the abbreviated name Ouaga, is the capital city of Burkina Faso and also the home of the country’s administration and economic centers. The architecture here is far from inspiring and the sights will leave you underwhelmed (except for the impressive Roman Catholic cathedral) but the city is a true hive of performing arts inspiration. Dance, live music, awesome festivals and craft markets make for a memorable and rewarding travel experience and make a trip to Ouaga worthwhile.
The city of Bobo-Dioulasso, which fortunately also has an abbreviated name; Bobo, is the second largest city in Burkina Faso. Despite its size, the city has a laid back and exclusive feel which makes it a favourite resting spot for travellers from all backgrounds and with all budgets. The city is worth exploring in the daytime but the main attraction here is the nightlife. The live music and restaurants in the city are some of the best in Burkina Faso. The local music on offer in various clubs and bars attracts the residents of the city as well as tourists from Europe and The States.
Banfora is situated in one of the most beautiful regions of Burkina Faso, the Comoe Province. The town is not much of a draw for tourists in itself but the location is perfect; the nearby attractions include Tengrela Lake, which is a great place to spot hippos, especially in the dry season, and the Karfiguela Waterfalls which make for a great hiking or picnic spot. The falls have their own parking area with security for self-drive holidaymakers.
4. Gorom Gorom
Gorom Gorom is a town in the north of Burkina Faso, situated at what was once an important location at the crossroads of the Sahel. The main reason to visit the town is without question the market. Each Thursday, traders from all over the country travel to sell their wares at this impressive market. It is a great place for souvenir shopping with items ranging from jewelery to handcrafted leather items.
Tiebele is a small village located right next to Burkina Faso’s border with Ghana. The Kassena people of Africa, one of the oldest ethnic groups of the country, originate from this village and as such there are a great number of traditional mud huts and other architecture all of which are beautifully decorated. The houses here, mainly due to the poverty in the area, are built entirely from straw and mud but they are decorated with character and pride, making them a great spot to visit.
6. Arli National Park
This national park, situated in southeast Burkina Faso, is one of four in Burkina Faso and is home to thousands of animals. The park occupies an area of around 700 square kilometers and species that call the park their home include lions, antelopes, monkeys and hippos. Formerly the park was home to the African wild dog although it is thought that, due to the expanding human population and other factors, the species may have been wiped out in the area. The watering hole in Tounga is one of the park’s most reliable and popular animal watching spots and draws a variety of wildlife year round. A variety of guided tours are available and are usually offered at a fair price.
7. The Ruins of Loropeni
These ruins, thought to be at least 1000 years old, serve as a vivid reminder of just how vast and important the cross-Sahara gold trade once was. The site is a Unesco World Heritage site and was the first to be rewarded with such a status in the country. The stone ruins here make for a fascinating day trip and are still, at present, being excavated with many more secrets expected to be discovered with time. The nearby town of Gaoua is not really worth visiting and has a bad reputation in the country. However, if you do choose to visit the town, lookout for the sacred grove of trees and the museum.
8. W National Park
This National Park is actually shared with both Benin and Niger. The animals situated here enjoy a transition of terrain between savannah and forest and include huge flocks of migratory birds. The park is another of Burkina Faso’s Unseco World Heritage sites. Impressively, the park has also shown evidence of early neolithic settlers. Further proof of the vast diversity in the ecosystem located here. Visitors to the park must pay for 24 hours access and 4×4 or trekking tours of the park are also available.
9. Nazinga Reserve
Not far from the border shared with Ghana, the Nazinga Game Reserve covers an expanse of around 97,000 hectares. If you are visiting the country for its wildlife then this reserve is a must. The elephants here steal the show although the birdlife and crocodiles are also popular. The best time to see the reserve’s elephants is between the months of December to April. There are various accommodation options in the reserve including the impressive Nazinga Ranch which occupies prime real estate by the reserve’s most lively watering hole.
The lively town of Sindou is located in the Loraba Province of Burkina Faso and is mainly know for the nearby rugged rock peaks that appear suddenly from the surrounding shrubbery. The great thing about Sindou is that, although the Sindou Peaks are a genuine tourist draw, the town retains its character and charm and does not feel like a tourist spot at all. Guides are readily available in the area and reasonably priced. Be sure to visit the peaks at sunset for some good photographs and memories.
Ouahigouya has been the center of Mossi culture since it was founded in 1757. It is the fourth largest city in the country and attracts a fair amount of travellers from around the world. The main attractions here are the market, the street food vendors which serve variations of tasty rice and the Yatenga Chef who is the head of his faith and provides information on Mossi culture on a “pay what you wish” basis.
Ziniare is situated in the Oubritenga Province and is notable for being the birthplace of the former president of Burkina Faso; Blaise Compoare. The sites of interest to travellers in the area include the Ziniare Wildlife Park and the unusual granite sculpture which was the work of a collective group of 18 artists from 13 different countries. The animals at the Ziniare Wildlife Park include hyenas, lions, tigers, elephants and a single giraffe. The park seems to have been neglected somewhat in recent years and could do with a revamp to make it more of a tourist attraction.
13. Lake Tengrela
Although mentioned above as a nearby attraction to Banfora, this lake is worthy of its own place on this list. The hippos here are the main draw and it is thought that, due to the animals being of the sacred variety, they will not attack humans. There is a good chance of seeing hippos all year round and tours of the park are safe and usually reasonably priced. If you are lucky, you will also be able to watch local fisherman casting their nets in the lake.
14. Bangr Weogo Park
This fantastic wildlife park is situated in the very heart of Ougadougou city. It has to be one of the most amazing urban parks in the world and has an impressive host of animals and plant life. The park also has a great museum detailing the natural history of the area as well as great restaurants and recreational sports and play areas.
The town of Sabou is most visited for its sacred crocodiles. The crocs are seen as being harmless and remarkably no accidents involving the crocodiles have occurred here for over 70 years. If you are looking for a unique photo opportunity to impress your friends back home, the local residents here will actively encourage you to sit on one of these critters for a snap. It is forbidden to eat the crocodiles and the wellbeing of the creatures is strictly monitored by the local residents of the town.