Ravaged by outbreaks of Ebola and spell after spell of political upheaval alike in the last 100 years, little Guinea (the nation is about the same size as the UK) has certainly had its fair share of troubles.
But somehow that’s failed to diminish the tenacity and smiles of the locals here, who still look proudly upon their wild and untrodden country as one of the real jewels of West Africa.
And while FCO warnings lift, travelers who do opt to make their way to this frontier of the continent should still be as careful as can be as they weave between the primeval rainforests and endless undulations of the great Fouta Djallon; as they delve into the sprawling markets of buzzing Conakry (the capital), or case out the lonely beaches of the northern shores.
Promising both adventure and isolation, this large slab on the edge of the Atlantic remains a world apart, unknown and truly, truly beautiful!
Lets explore the best places to visit in Guinea:
Pulsating to very African rhythms with its patchwork of markets (just check out the colourful veg in Madina bazaar), beer bars and Malinke music dives, Conakry is everything you’d expect of a capital representing one of West Africa’s most haphazard nations.
Coups and counter coups have unfolded (often bloodily) between its streets over the decades, and in the heart of the town still stands the haunting remnants of Camp Boiro, where political prisoners were tortured during the upheavals under President Sékou Touré.
However, pretty and important sights like St. Mary’s Cathedral and the National Museum of Guinea do well to balance all that out these days.
2. Iles de Los
A spattering of islands that sits just off the coast from the beating streets of Conakry city, the Iles de Los offer a glimpse of what Guinea could be, or would be, were it not for its unstable political life.
Sprawled out over the islands of Tamara, Roume and Kassa (along with a few smaller add-on isles), the archipelago is a place of sloping golden sands and mangroves, lanky palm trees and the salty froth the Atlantic Ocean.
Some of the top beaches line the coastal stretches of Ile de Roume and Kassa, with a smattering of resort hotels on offer, and easy access from the jetties of the capital by boat.
3. National Park of Upper Niger
Dominating a whopping 6,000 square kilometers in the midst of eastern Guinea, the National Park of Upper Niger (or the National Park Haut Niger, as it’s known locally) is now on the very forefront of West African conservation.
A vast expanse of riparian woodlands and savannah, winding rivers and montane thickets is home to some of the only remaining dry forest in the country.
Between the tree boughs and canopies, the reserve hides chimpanzees and Gambian mongooses, uber-rare West African manatees and curious giant pangolins.
For outdoorsy types and wildlife lovers, it’s surely the biggest attraction in the country!
This fast-growing city has been a regular receptacle for refugees fleeing conflicts in other West African countries to the south.
Consequently, there’s a truly diverse population of locals inhabiting the sprawling barrios and shanty towns that emerge from the sweeping forest lands that run along the length of the Liberian border, not to mention a thriving series of markets in the heart of the city.
Moreover, Nzérékoré is known for its silver smiths and great location just a stone’s throw from both the Forêt Classée de Diécké to the south, and the wildlife-rich hills of Mount Nimba to the east.
5. Fouta Djallon Highlands
A carpet of green interspersed only by the occasional hoodoo and craggy protrusion of ancient sandstone rock, weathered and eroded away by century after century of attrition, covers the vast expanse known as the Fouta Djallon.
Occupying the heart of Guinea, this verdant landscape of jungle-dressed valleys and lichen-spotted stones has garnered a reputation as one of the most beautiful in the country.
Hikers come to scale the lookouts of Petteh Djiga, to spy out the headwaters of the Gambia and Senegal rivers, to encounter the rustic farming communities of the Mande peoples, and plenty, plenty more.
6. Mount Nimba
Straddling the tristate join of Guinea, Ivory Coast and Liberia in the extreme south-east of the nation, Mount Nimba marks the highest point in the wild and rugged Nimba Range.
It arches like a great, grass-clad backbone from the rolling fields of swaying savannah that surround it, with verdant highland meadows and lawns of green that are often far above the clouds.
Today, the whole area is an ecotourist’s dream-come-true, and comes complete with a UNESCO tag that’s intended to protect all the otherworldly and endangered creatures within: the viviparous toad; zebra duikers; pygmy hippos – the list goes on!
7. Cape Verga
Bamboo beach huts and swaying coconut palms, shimmering yellow sands and the endless crash of the Atlantic rollers make Cape Verga – poking its way out of the Guinea coastline some hours’ drive north out of Conakry – seem more akin to the fabled beach paradises of Madagascar or the Caribbean.
You might just have to pinch yourself to remember you’re in West Africa, but that’s okay, because you’re almost bound to have the beaches of Sobane and Bel Air (the home of President Conte’s all-new resort hotel – a dubious construction) almost entirely empty; save for the seagulls, the occasional sunbather and old, salt-sprayed granite boulders.
Situated almost smack bang in the heart of Guinea, just a stone’s throw from the rising peaks and forests of the aforementioned Fouta Djallon, Labé represents the second-largest city in the entire country.
Benefitting from a historic location on the crossroads of some of West Africa’s most important trading routes, this one’s market (known suitably as the Grand Marche) booms daily with sellers from a far afield as Senegal, Mali and Morocco.
There’s also a fine local museum that chronicles the fascinating cultural history of the Fouta Djallon region.
The roaring cataracts of the Chutes de Sala are also day-trip territory from Labé.
The birthplace of Guinea’s onetime leader, Sékou Touré, Faranah is has transformed from tiny little agriculture town in the heart of the nation to a built-up provincial center in just the last century.
One of the favoured gateways to the popular Haut Niger National Park (which lies just a stone’s throw to the east), it’s also got a large mosque and oodles local marketplaces to explore.
Add to that a surprisingly lively nightlife, and it’s easy to see why Faranah is slowly becoming more of a staple on the intrepid traveler’s route through West Africa.
Just a short ride through the West African savannah from the throbbing capital city of Conakry, the little bucolic getaway of Kindia offers a respite from the urban fray of Guinea’s coast.
Head into the small provincial town of low-rise cottages and the occasional thatched hamlet to experience the day-to-day vibes of country life.
You’ll get to sample fou fou breads in tasty okra sauce, wander the marketplace and even break out into the fringes of the Fouta Djallon Region, where the dramatic plug-hole waterfalls of Voile de la Mariee carve the rocks in two.
Sprawled out over the eastern plains of Guinea and occupying more land even than the capital, Kankan is hardly the most compact city in West Africa.
However, neatness has never been this historical spot’s strong point, and today visitors will need to navigate the dusty streets and the meanders of the Niger River to uncover tales of its past importance as the heart of the erstwhile Baté Empire.
And in the present day, Kankan has made a name for itself as one of Guinea’s great learning centers, not to mention an important stopover on the way through to Mali.
Little Boké was a boomtown in the dark, dark years of European slave trading in West Africa.
Along its harbours and jetties, all lining the meanders of the Rio Nunez, thousands of convoys of human cargo once departed for the Atlantic coast just a little to the west.
Today, the visceral reality of this past can still be seen in the fort-prison come museum of Fortin de Boké, which does well to chronicle the lives and plight of captured slaves during the era.
The town’s location also makes it a prime place to stopover on the way from Conakry to the Guinea-Bissau border in the north.
Straddling the inlets of Sangareya Bay and the winding water channels, bayous and vast expanses of mangrove swamps that edge out towards the Atlantic in this part of the country, little Dubreka offers an interesting little picture of rural Guinea life.
However, with the great table-top mountains looming above, it’s easy to see that the natural side of things are the town’s biggest draw.
And none can rival the roaring waterfalls of the beautiful Les Cascades De La Soumba, which drizzle and crash over a series of rocky escarpments close to the center.
Don’t forget the camera!
14. Massif du Ziama
A seemingly endless dash of greenery that occupies the deep southern reaches of eastern Guinea, the Massif du Ziama is considered one of the most important reserves in the nation.
It’s dressed in dense, misty swathes of dabema and bako trees, trodden by snapping crocs and the carapaces of tortoises, not to mention some of Guinea’s most remote human tribespeople.
Tagged as a biosphere by UNESCO, the 1,000 square kilometer area of the Ziama Forest that sits atop the plateaus is of special importance to conservationists.
Kissidougou is one of the rapidly-expanding cities of southern Guinea.
Imbued with the cultural diversity of Liberians and Ivorians, all mingled and mixed with the traditions of the ethnic Kissi peoples native to the prefecture, its ramshackle markets and mud-caked streets ooze a certain charm.
However, it’s the hills that surround 100,000-strong Kissidougou that are really of interest.
It’s here that great fields of coffee beans herald in some of Guinea’s top plantations, and where the West African forests begin to sprawl over the hills.
There’s also a great museum, for that fix of local history and heritage.