The geography of Angola can be divided into 3 areas; the coastal lowlands, the hills and mountains, and the high plateaus. A history of civil war and colonialism has left Angola with a fair amount of catching up to do. Many of the main draws to the country highlight and remember the country’s tempestuous past.
1. Square of Independence: Probably the most famous boulevard in Luanda. Remembered as the site where the first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto, gave the proclamation of independence from Portugal in 1975. There is a statue in the square in his honour.
2. Palacio de Ferro: The Iron Palace in Luanda is said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. History has it that after its construction for the Universal Exhibition in Paris in the 1890s, the palace was dismantled and shipped off, destined for Madagascar. However, with the boat getting into difficulties off the Skeleton Coast, the Portuguese authorities in Angola took it for their own. It now stands as a symbol for the city’s rebirth and the Ministry of Culture is currently deciding on its future purpose as either a diamond museum or a restaurant.
3. Kalandula Falls: Second only to Victoria Falls in terms of scale, the awesome Kalandula Falls tower at 104m high and 400m wide. Formerly known as Duque de Braganca falls during the civil war, they are located in the Malanje province in the northwest of the country. They are an important tourist attraction for Angola, bringing in visitors from across the globe.
4. Quiçama National Park: Approximately 70km from Luanda city, the only functioning national park in the country, the others having been left in a state of disrepair after years of civil war. The park boasts 110km of coastline, as well as grassland and savannah. The diversity of the landscape is reflected in the variety of wildlife that can be found; from exotic birds to elephants to manatees. Founded as a national park in 1957, it is continually being developed to encourage more tourism.
5. Baia dos Tigres: Tiger Bay is an isolated and now unpopulated island off the southwest coast of Angola. Home to a fishing industry until 1974, it was abandoned due to environmental challenges and a lack of drinking water. It remains an excellent fishing destination with the opportunity to catch fish weighing up to 200kg. It is also home to the mating grounds of some endangered seabirds and marine turtles, and thus looks to become part of Iona national park on the mainland in the near future.
6. Fortaleza de São Miguel: The Fortress of San Miguel was constructed by Portuguese colonialists in 1576. It was a major post in the transportation of slaves to Brazil. It has been home to the Museum of the Armed Forces since independence in 1975.
7. Fenda da Tundavala: The Tundavala volcanic fissure provides views of the Angolan landscape reaching some tens of kilometres. Found in the Huila province in the south of Angola, the Tundavala rises 2,600m above sea level making it one of the most impressive sights in the country. As a result of its touristic value, it became the namesake of one of the football stadiums that hosted games during the 2010 African cup of Nations in the city of Lubango.
8. Museu Nacional da Escravatura: The National Slavery Museum is housed in the property of former slave trader Álvaro de Carvalho Matoso, who was one of the most prominent in Africa in the 18th century. The building is adjacent to Capela da Casa Grande where the slaves were baptised before being transported to the Americas. It is located on the infamous Slave Route, 25 km outside of Luanda.
9. Museum of Anthropology: The first museum opened by the Angolan government after the country gained independence from Portugal, it aims to educate visitors about the people and history of Angola. Located in the capital Luanda, the museum houses some 6,000 artefacts. Documenting the customs, art and music of Angola’s past and present; there is even a designated ‘Mask’ room along with exhibitions of traditional jewellery and clothing.
10. Agostinho Neto Mausoleum: A striking memorial to the country’s first president of independent Angola, whose ashes are housed within. Frequently compared to a space shuttle due its futuristic design, it is starkly juxtaposed to rest of the architecture in Luanda and the surrounding landscape.