Niger — Attractions
Places to see in Niger are diverse, from cultural attractions reflecting the traditions of desert empires, to wild and wonderful natural beauty that many potential visitors would expect from an African country. A couple of the nature sights are relatively close to Niamey, meaning a day trip is always possible. For some of the rich culture of the Sahel region, you will need to head east and north of the capital to reach the great Sahara Desert.
Agadez is an ancient city founded in the 11th century. It then became an important seat of the famous sultanates of the Sahel, and an established center of Islamic learning. It was an important stop on the trans-Saharan trade route for merchants crossing the desert by camel, and today it also remains an important point on the trans-Sahara highway, an important trunk road for transporting goods north to south through Africa. It is still a populated and busy city, important for trade in the region, and today visitors can enjoy a mix of the old and new. The key sites from the Islamic tradition are the Sultanate Palace and the Agadez Mosque, built in the 16th century. It is also an important center for the Tuareg people, who are famous for producing metal and leather handicrafts, which you can purchase at the local markets. Around the city you can enjoy views of the spectacular rugged desert terrain of the Air Mountains.
Address: Agadez, central northern Niger
This is a picturesque town on the banks of Niger River, almost at the point where the country borders Mali to the north. One of the most popular activities to do in Ayorou is to go on a hippopotamus tour on the river. The tour will also take you to a couple of the inhabited islands on the river so you can experience the village life there. Ayorou is about three hours north of Niamey and is easily reached from the capital.
Address: Ayorou, southwest Niger
Zinder is often referred to as the cultural capital of Niger, and indeed it was for a long time the true, administrative capital city of the country until 1927, when the capital was moved to its current location of Niamey. Today, the city offers plenty of attraction for tourists, including the Sultan’s Palace, which is made from mud brick so uniquely stylized to the traditions of the Sahel region. There is also a large market here offering a glimpse into the mercantile past, and these traditions that continue in this part of the world. Bartering is the norm here, so expect to haggle to grab the best bargain.
Address: Zinder, central south Niger
W National Park
This protected park land is actually shared across a tri-border area between the nations of Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. A big area of the park lies within Niger, and here it was decreed a national park in 1954. As you may imagine, a park in sub-Saharan Africa is notably home to large mammals, including some of the last African elephants left in West Africa. Also there are baboons, water buffalo, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, and lions, and there have been 350 species identified in the park. The park is named so because it occupies an area where the river Niger meanders, forming the letter ‘W’ from an aerial view.
Address: W National Park, far southwest Niger
This town in southwestern Niger is close to the last known home of a herd of giraffes in West Africa. It is easily accessed from Niamey, less than two hours’ drive, and once there you can head out in a car to the surrounding park to spot these lofty mammals feeding off the treetops. During the rainy season, the giraffes feed closer to the road, so you can walk from Koure to see them, but still expect at least an hour’s hike.
Address: Koure, southwestern Niger
Dabous Giraffe Rock Art
There are two carvings of giraffes at this site, first discovered in 1997. Estimated to have been completed between 9,000 and 5,000 BC, they are prime examples of early human existence in the area, and reflect their nomadic activities. Each carving is around 20ft in height.
Address: Dabous Giraffes, Dabous, northern Niger
Situated on the banks of the Niger River, the waterway for which the country is named, is the nation’s capital, Niamey. It is situated at a place where the river flows by gently. Aside from the best hospitality and entertainment options in Niger, there is plenty to do in Niamey, such as visiting the colossal Grande Mosque. The edifice is testament to Niger’s huge Muslim population, which makes up over 90 percent of the total. After visiting the mosque you could always attempt to somewhat balance this out by taking a look at the Cathedral de Maorey, which is interestingly architecturally because it mixes European and African styles.
Address: Niamey, southwest Niger