Peacekeeping - AMISOM by United Nations Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Despite a devastating and ongoing civil war, Somalia has managed to retain much of its natural environment and thus its natural beauty. Many of the activities on offer are set right in the heart of the country’s stunning national parks and, of course, along Somalia’s seemingly infinite coastline. From authentic African safaris to scuba diving in East African waters, there is something to appease even the most die-hard of adventure-seekers.

There are, however, several activities aimed at those not looking to get their blood pumping. Somalia has an interesting and complex culture, and what better way to experience it than by living with local people? Another important part of the country’s culture is the plethora of local markets. Most of them are of a good standard but there is one in particular which should not be given a miss― Bakara Market.

Somalia boasts many national parks which are perfect for wildlife spotting and, even better, a safari. Kismayu National Park is the prime spot for a safari as it is home to not only traditional African animals like lions, leopards, buffalo, and warthogs, but a few which are specific to the East African region. Travelers should be accompanied by a guide who can make arrangements to stay in the park overnight. There are many companies which organize safari tours but one of the most popular is local operator Dalmar Tours and Safaris.

Somaliland is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with the Daallo Forest Reserve home to the region’s largest and most diverse population of birds. Here, there are several bird watching opportunities, and enthusiasts will get to observe such amazing finds as the Archer’s buzzard, the Somali golden-winged grosbeak, the warsangli linnet, and the Somali thrush. Bird-watching excursions are extremely popular in the region and many companies, including Bird Quest, include a trip to neighboring Djibouti to experience even more birding adventures.

Somalia is lucky enough to have a vast coastline which travelers should really make a point of enjoying. There are many coastal regions which are prime snorkeling and diving spots. Some of the most popular areas for such activities include the Berbera Shoreline and the Isle of Zeila. The deep waters off Somalia’s coast have seen their fair share of conflict, but nowadays these waters see nothing but gorgeous coral reefs and schools of dolphins and turtles. The Oriental Hotel, which is located in Hargeisa, is well-known for arranging great diving trips.

If outdoor activities don’t sound particularly appealing, there are many other activities which aim to immerse travelers in the local Somalian culture. One popular activity is a homestay with local nomads. The reputable Somaliland Travel and Tourism Agency arranges daytrips and overnight stays with Somali people who still live a nomadic lifestyle. Such trips provide great insight into the lesser known, and even the forgotten, cultures of the African continent.

For travelers with an affinity for retail therapy, a shopping trip to Bakara Market is a must. Bakara Market, located in Mogadishu, is the largest, busiest, best-stocked, and most popular market in all of Somalia. The market sells everything from weapons to rice, and there are plenty of handicrafts and souvenirs for travelers who would like to take a few things back home. Visit the market safely by going accompanied by a local guide.

Click here for Attractions in Somalia