Cameroon – affectionately known to tourism aficionados as ‘Africa in Miniature’ - is home to deserts and mountains, Muslims and Christians and French and English speaking districts. It’s all squashed into a surprisingly small geographical area, making Cameroon the textbook destination for tourists looking for a true taste of Africa in a short space of time.
Start with Mt. Cameroon, a 4095m mist-coated active volcano, and the highest (and arguably most spectacular) summit in West Africa. Trek from the shores of the Atlantic to the snow capped crescendo, taking in thick tropical jungle on the way, or – for the fitness fanatics – run a marathon to the top and back as part of the annual Mount Cameroon Race of Hope. The Mandara Mountains, along the border with Nigeria, are remote and jagged, and are best seen by trekking between the petite villages and soaking up the local ethos.
After all that exercise, you’ll probably want to lie on the beach and soak up some rays. French-speaking, seafood-heavy Kribi is the most picturesque spot to do it, via a dip in spectacular coastal waterfalls at Chutes de la Lobé. The hunting reserve turned national park of Parc National de Waza is a great place for resting tired legs too, with wild sightseeing including elephants, giraffes and thousands of antelopes to be seen from the back of a rusting bush taxi.
Capital Yaounde sprawls across the side of a huge hill, and is overlooked by the Pantheon-esque presidential palace. Banana-fuelled communities, spice-ridden markets and the pointy modern cathedral entertain travelers on their way into the wilderness. Unkempt Bamenda, a hotspot of political resistance, is a stepping off point for the well-known road trip around the tumbling countryside of the North West, as well as home to a new national museum and the old arching architecture of Fon’s Palace.
From mud huts to mosques, via mountains, national parks and enviable beaches, Cameroon lives up to its ‘mini Africa’ reputation, and tops it all of with some astonishing cultural charms. Which, all in all, makes it a multi-discipline kind of destination, and an extremely tough place to pack a case for!