Top 25 Things to Do in Africa & the Middle East: 2014 Viator Travel Awards

January 13, 2014 by

Middle East & Africa, Press & Publicity, Things to Do, Top Travel Destinations, Viator Travel Awards

Plan your next vacation with these top activities in Africa & the Middle East!

Plan your next vacation with these top activities in Africa & the Middle East!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

* * * * * *

Welcome to the 2014 Viator Travel Awards: Africa and Middle East Edition! Below, we’ve compiled a list of 25 of the most fun and interesting things to do and best places to visit in Africa and the Middle East.  The tours and activities listed have been chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out Viator.com during the year, and information on which tours travelers book most often. Reading through this list, you’ll get a sense of the top things to do in each place – it’s a great virtual vacation from work, or the perfect way to start planning a trip anywhere.

You’ll find all kinds of activities listed below, including exploring the desert city of Dubai, seeing iconic sights like the Pyramids, the Dead Sea, and the Nile River, or going on an unforgettable South Africa safari. Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Things to Do in Africa and the Middle East!

1. See the Great Pyramids

See the Great Pyramids

See the Great Pyramids

However much you think you learned about the Egyptian pyramids in your high school geography lessons, prepare to be blown away when you stand before the legendary Pyramid of Khufu at Giza – a structure worthy of its status as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Choose from a Private Tour of the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, Sakkara; a Private Tour of the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis, Dahshur, or a Private Tour of the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Egyptian Museum, Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, where you’ll get to explore the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the former capital, Memphis, under the guidance of an expert Egyptologist. Alternatively, take a history class with a difference, by witnessing the Pyramids Sound and Light Show with Private Transport, a dramatic lightshow that brings the mystical history of Egypt to life.

2. Visit the townships and villages of South Africa

South Africa’s notorious townships have earned themselves a tough reputation over the years, but despite their hardships, the villages still offer a fascinating insight into tribal culture and traditions. The rocky hills around Johannesburg are dotted with traditional Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, Pedi and Xhosa villages, but you can also explore the city’s most metropolitan township and learn about its harrowing history on a Soweto Half-Day Sightseeing Tour. Alternatively, head to South Africa’s oldest city and unveil the rich cultural heritage of Cape Town with a Township Tour of Cape Town; a Cape Malay Cultural Tour of Cape Town; or a tour of Cultural Cape Town – Langa and Khayelitsha.

3. Go on safari in South Africa

See elephants on a safari tour!

See elephants on a safari tour!

No bucket list can be complete without an African safari and where better to spot the Big 5  – buffaloes, leopards, elephants, lions and rhinos – in their natural habitats than in South Africa? Take a trip to one of Africa’s most popular game reserves, Kruger National Park, on a 3-Day Kruger Park Wildlife Safari or 4-Day Kruger National Park Safari Tour from Johannesburg: Game Drives and Wilderness Walks; or interact with elephants and explore the unique Sun City resort on a Pilanesberg Nature Reserve Safari and Sun City Day Trip. Alternatively, an Aquila Game Reserve Wildlife Safari from Cape Town offers the chance to spot endangered species like the rare ‘Aquila’ Black Eagle and the elusive snow leopard, or enjoy extraordinary sightings of Bengal tigers and white lions on a 2-Day Western Cape Safari from Cape Town: Big Five Game Drive and Cango Wildlife Ranch.

4. Learn about the lives of the Zulu people in Durban

As South Africa’s largest port and a popular beach retreat from Johannesburg, Durban makes a lively destination year-round, as renowned for its seaside resorts as it is for its cosmopolitan population. Explore the city’s picturesque Golden Mile and colorful Indian Markets, a throwback to the city’s colonial past, on a Durban City Sightseeing Tour; get up close to the magnificent White Rhino on a Hluhluwe Game Reserve Safari; or pay a visit to Shakaland – Zulu Cultural Center, an authentic Zulu kraal where you’ll experience first-hand the unique traditions of the local Zulu people.

5. Explore the Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Visit the Atlas Mountains

Visit the Atlas Mountains

Forming a dramatic natural barrier between the coastal lowlands and the Saharan plains, the rugged landscape of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains range is ripe for exploring and it’s easy to escape to the hills on a day trip from Marrakech. Follow ancient Berber Trails into the mountains on a Berber Trails 4WD Day Trip from Marrakech, where you’ll get the chance to mingle with the locals in remote mountain villages and learn the art of preparing Morocco’s famous sweet mint tea; take in the breathtaking views on an Ourika Valley Day Trip from Marrakech; or combine it with a tour of the nearby Asni Valley and Oukaimeden Valley on a Three Valleys Day Trip from Marrakech with Optional Visit to Takerkoust Lake and Kik Plateau.

6. Sample wine in South Africa

Stellenbosch vineyard in Cape Town

Stellenbosch vineyard in Cape Town

Take a break from wildlife spotting and explore South Africa’s tamer countryside with a trip through the country’s winemaking region, where the famous red Pinotage wine is produced. A Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl Valley Wine Day Trip, a Stellenbosch Wine Tour from Cape Town or a Private Tour: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl Wine-Tasting Tour from Cape Town, offers the chance to visit the region’s historic wineries, such as the Merelust Estate, learn about the grape growing and harvesting process and, of course, sip some fine wines. Alternatively, put a spin on the proceedings with an adrenaline fueled Viator VIP: Cape Winelands Dinner and Wine Helicopter Tour from Cape Town.

7. Explore the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town

Cape Town

Cape Town

From its hard-partying and nature-loving façade, to its harrowing history and hardships, Cape Town’s unique spirit shines throughout, making it one of the most creative, cosmopolitan and culturally rich cities in South Africa. Uncover the city’s enthralling history, taking in the main attractions and iconic monuments on a Table Mountain and Cape Town Half-Day Trip or a Cape Town City Hop-on Hop-off Tour. Alternatively, experience the city from another angle, soaring overhead on a Cape Town Helicopter Tour: Indian and Atlantic Oceans or get active with a Table Mountain Bike Tour from Cape Town.

8. Explore the Medinas and Monuments of Marrakech

Often mistakenly thought of as the capital of Morocco, Marrakech is still the unofficial cultural capital, oozing with character and centered around a lively Medina (Old Town). Discover the city’s exquisite array of palaces and mosques on a Marrakech Palaces and Monuments Tour, then dive into the pungent dyer’s workshops, browse the spice stalls, and tuck into an aromatic tagine in the bustling souks (traditional markets) on a Experience Marrakech: Food and Market Tour of Djemaa El Fna Including Traditional Dinner. Another way to sample the unique traditions of Marrakech is with a Fantasia Moroccan Dinner and Cultural Show, where you’ll not only get to dig into a traditional Moroccan feast, but also enjoy an evening of impressive horseback displays, belly dancing and folk music.

9. Dive with Great White Sharks

Forget trailing tigers in the savannah – for the ultimate in daredevil activities, why not get up close with the menace of the ocean instead? Get your heart pounding by trying Cage Diving with Great White Sharks from Cape Town - you’ll be safe inside a cage, but so close you’ll feel the swish of shark fins.

10. Take an unforgettable drive along the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town

Cape Point

Cape Point

Stretching out from Cape Town between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the spectacular Cape Peninsula is home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Table Mountain National Park, but there are plenty of other scenic gems to be found in South Africa’s most idyllic coastal stretch. Stroll the sandy beaches of Hout Bay and spot African penguins on a Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town; explore the Cape Peninsula’s many wildlife-filled National Parks and travel out to the peninsula’s furthest point on a Cape Point Sightseeing Tour; or swoop over both oceans on a Cape Town Helicopter Tour: Indian and Atlantic Oceans, where you’ll get to circle the iconic Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles mountains. Finally, top off the experience with a spot of wine tasting by booking a Cape Town Super Saver: Cape Point Highlights Tour plus Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch or get around in style on a Cape Winelands Tour by Chauffered Sidecar. 

11. See the archeological wonders of Ancient Egypt

Few countries have such a wealth of archeological treasures as Egypt so why not immerse yourself in Ancient Egypt with a private tour of the capital’s top sights? Visit the Kom ash-Shuqqafa Roman burial site, Pompey’s Pillar and Roman amphitheater and the fascinating Alexandria Library, home to the world’s greatest collection of ancient books on a Private Tour: Alexandria Day Trip from Cairo or explore the city highlights on a Private Tour: Coptic Cairo, The Hanging Church, Abu Serga, Ben Ezra.

12. Drive the Garden Route across South Africa

Hang out with lions in Wilderness National Park

Hang out with lions in Wilderness National Park

For the ultimate in road trips, make your own unique African safari by traversing the scenic southeastern coastline on the famous Garden Route. Take a 4-Day Garden Route Tour from Cape Town, where you can discover some of the country’s most celebrated National Parks en route; try Ostrich riding; visit bays teeming with dolphins, seal colonies and endangered Southern Right Whales; and even brave the Bloukrans Bridge Bungy – the world’s highest bungee jump. Short on time? You can still take in the highlights from Cape Town and enjoy a Hermanus Day Trip with Seasonal Whale Watching.

13. Cruise along the Nile River

Cruise along the Nile River

Cruise along the Nile River

The longest river in the world measuring an incredible 6,650 km (4,130 miles) long and flowing through 10 countries, there’s no better way to explore Egypt than taking a cruise down the famous Nile. Check off all the sights onboard a luxury cruiser with a 5-Day Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan with Optional Private Guide, where you can hop off along the way to explore the Valley of the Kings, Kom Ombo and Philae Temple in Aswan, and other celebrated temples at Edfu, Karnak and Luxor. Or combine elegant dining with an entertaining evening of folklore music and belly dancing on a Nile River Dinner Cruise in Cairo.         

14. See the religious sites of Israel

The ultimate in sacred destinations, a visit to the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem is a popular pilgrimage for believers of any religion. Take a tour of the site of the Crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before soaking up the atmosphere at the famous Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on a Little Town of Bethlehem Half Day Trip from Tel Aviv or a Jerusalem Half-Day Tour from Tel Aviv: Dome of the Rock and Western Wall. To further explore the Holy Land, take a Nazareth, Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee Day Trip from Tel Aviv, where you can retrace the steps of Jesus and visit a range of key biblical locations; discover Israel’s ancient Roman cities on a Caeserea and Rosh Hanikra Day Trip from Jerusalem; or visit the Tomb of King David and the Hall of the Last Supper on a City of David and Underground Jerusalem Day Trip from Tel Aviv.

15. Visit Oman, the rising star of the Middle East

Grand Mosque in Muscat

Grand Mosque in Muscat

With recently improved road networks and a new push for tourism, Oman’s diverse landscapes – including historic forts, desert dunes and traditional mountain villages – are now wide open for exploration. Unveil the secrets of Oman’s capital on a Muscat City Sightseeing Tour – A Fascinating Capital, where you’ll get chance to marvel at the grand Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, stroll the historic old town and try your hand at haggling in the local souks.

16. Explore the diverse landscapes and ancient sites of Lebanon

With its vast and varied historic sites, the riotous party scene of Beirut and a range of celebrated traditional cuisine, Lebanon’s mind-blowing diversity, along with its many off-the-beaten-track finds, makes it one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. Explore the celebrated limestone caves of Jeita Grotto, pay a visit to one of the oldest cities in the world and journey through the country’s most archeologically rich region with a Byblos and Jeita Grotto Day Trip from Beirut or take a Private Tour: Anjar, Baalbek and Ksara Day Trip from Beirut, where you’ll discover the ancient sites of Heliopolis and Umayyad, then visit the famed Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest winery.

17. Soak in the Dead Sea

Relax in the Dead Sea

Relax in the Dead Sea

A stretch of ocean so salty that no fish can survive, the Dead Sea belies its morbid name by acting as a natural therapeutic spa, said to boast a number of health benefits and cure a plethora of ailments. Tourists from around the world flock to the area, where they can float in the salty waters, take a mud bath in the world’s richest source of natural salts, and purchase spa products made from the waters. Take a 2-Day Best of Israel Tour from Tel Aviv: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Masada & the Dead Sea, where you’ll get to visit two of the region’s holiest destinations; or pay a visit to the ruins of Masada and King Herod’s palaces, before soaking in the sacred waters on a Masada and the Dead Sea Day Trip from Tel Aviv or a Masada and the Dead Sea Day Trip from Jerusalem; or opt for a Private Half Day Tour to Madaba, Mount Nebo and The Dead Sea and marvel at the famous ancient mosaics at Madaba en route.

18. See Dubai from above and below

Dubai from above

Dubai from above

An urban oasis perched on the tip of the Persian Gulf, Dubai’s fashion-forward shopping districts, futuristic architecture and unabashedly luxurious resorts seem incongruous to their idyllic surroundings. Contemplate how one of the world’s most modern cities found itself sandwiched between towering sand dunes and ocean beaches, with a Dubai Hot Air Balloon Flight or a Dubai Seaplane Flight from Abu Dhabi Including Dubai Mall and Return Transfer, where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city’s mesmerizing surroundings. Alternatively, explore the souks, landmarks and museums on a Dubai Culture Tour: Deira Gold Souk and Bur Dubai Village or a Private Tour: Dubai City Half-Day Sightseeing Tour, where you’ll also get the chance to take a traditional Abra boat ride across the busy Dubai Creek and learn how the desert town has been transformed into the Middle East’s hottest destination. Finally, witness the city at its most dazzling on a Dubai by Night City Tour.

19. Dive and snorkel in the Red Sea

The Middle East might be better renowned for its all-encompassing desert and dynamic cities than its beach resorts, but where there’s sun and sand, there’s always a good excuse to get in the water. Head to Sinai’s famous Ras Mohamed National Park on a Ras Mohamed Red Sea Cruise and Snorkeling, where you’ll uncover a colorful underwater world teeming with striking corals, tropical fish and even sharks; or swap desert sands for white sand beaches and clear blue lagoons on a Red Sea Snorkeling tour.

20. Explore the ancient ruins at Petra

Petra

Petra

A World Wonder, a UNESCO World Heritage City and even a Hollywood star (Petra was featured in the 1989 hit Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), the spectacular ruins of the ancient city of Petra are Jordan’s principal attraction. Explore the theatre, colonnaded streets and vast mausoleums famously carved into the red rock, with a Petra Day Trip from Tel Aviv – UNESCO World Heritage Site or a Private Tour: Petra Day Trip from Amman, where you’ll also get to look out over the ancient city from the vantage point of the nearby Hasan Prince Palace. Or combine it with a tour of the region’s key sights on a Private 4-Day Jordan Special Tour: Petra, Wadi Rum and The Dead Sea, where you’ll have ample time to delve into Petra’s rich history, including a visit to the magnificent Treasury (El-Khazneh) and a dip in the Dead Sea.                                        

21. Have a desert adventure in Dubai

Exploring Dubai wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the desert, so get a taste of the wilderness on a 4×4 Hatta Day Trip to Heritage Village and Desert Rocks, or choose between a Private Tour: 4×4 Desert Adventure Safari from Dubai and a 4×4 Dubai Desert Safari from Abu Dhabi with Camel Ride, Dinner and Belly Dancing Performance, where you’ll get to live out your own Arabian Nights fantasy, crossing the desert plains on a camel, careening downhill on a sand board and getting your own traditional henna tattoo. Alternatively, complete the adventure by sleeping beneath the stars on a Private Overnight Safari: Sandboarding, Camel Ride, BBQ Dinner and Belly Dancing, where you can even opt to smoke a shisha (a traditional water pipe) and learn some belly dancing moves.

22. Taste the flavors of the Middle East

Middle Eastern cuisine is a melting pot of unique flavors and exotic spices, so be sure to expand your palette and indulge in local delicacies during your trip. Experience Morocco: Visit a Souq and Cook a Tagine in Marrakech is a great way to explore the vibrant markets of Marrakech and learn the art of making delicious tagine, or you could take a Private Evening Tour of Central Amman with Arabic Meza Dinner and tuck into a vast spread of traditional Arabic meza dishes.

23. Discover Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates

Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Immortalized in Chick Flick history as the location for 2010’s Sex and the City 2 movie, Abu Dhabi – the capital of the Emirates – has finally earned itself a place on the luxury hot list. Explore the country’s unique blend of Arabian traditions and affluent modern living with an Abu Dhabi Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Including Yas Island and Sky Tower. As well as marveling over one of the world’s largest and most stunning mosques, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and the world’s biggest man-made port, Jebel Ali, you’ll get to peek into local handicrafts workshops and learn about the city’s rich oil history. Of course, you don’t just have to stay in the city – take a 4×4 Dubai Desert Safari from Abu Dhabi with Camel Ride, Dinner and Belly Dancing Performance and experience the wonder of life in the vast Arabian desert too.

24. Visit the blue city of Essaouira

Famous for the royal blue dye drawn from the area’s seashells, the bohemian port town of Essaouira is literally painted with its trademark color; a picturesque sight with its blue and white houses and harbor teeming with bright blue painted boats. The creative hub has played host to legendary artists like Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens over the years, as well as recently becoming a burgeoning hotspot for windsurfers and kite surfers. Explore the laid back seaside town on an Essaouira Day Trip from Marrakech, where you’ll stroll around the historic port and UNESCO World Heritage listed Medina, then shop for handmade goods in the jeweler’s and handicrafts quarters.

25. See the power of Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls are one of Africa’s most impressive natural landmarks, thundering across the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Take a 3-Day Victoria Falls Tour with Round-Trip Flight from Johannesburg and you’ll have plenty of time to explore the dramatic gorges and rainforest trails that surround the falls, as well as enjoying a river cruise along the Zambezi River, or opt for a 5-Day Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park Tour with Round-Trip Flight from Johannesburg and hike in both the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

- Viator Travel Team

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Top 25 Things to Do in Africa & the Middle East: 2014 Viator Travel Awards”

  1. Kylle McFisher Says:

    I promise to myself to visit one of these wonderful places this year. Maybe this summer with my friends.

Leave a Reply

48?