The 10 most spectacular landscapes in Africa

MANDARA MOUNTAINS, CAMEROON

Basalt outcrops, mountains and sheer volcanic plugs combine in northern Cameroon to create an otherworldly landscape seemingly straight from a Star Wars franchise. Sunset, when rocks and grassland turn orange, is especially spectacular. A dense rural population adds a pleasing human element. Round stone houses topped with thatch, terraced fields and wandering cattle provide a diminutive contrast to the landscape around Rhumsiki, the access point for most visitors. See tourisminformationcameroon.net

RWENZORI MOUNTAINS, UGANDA

Africa's highest mountain range culminates at 5109 metres on one of the three peaks of Mount Stanley. Summits are shrouded in snow, lower ranges often misty, and hiking conditions seldom short of slippery. Yet when conditions are just right, this meeting of glaciers, waterfalls, heather-covered highlands and tropical and bamboo forest is among the world's most beautiful alpine landscapes. Foothills are covered in coffee plantations and farmland. See ugandawildlife.org

NGORONGORO CRATER, TANZANIA

KW6NE9 Hippopool in landscape of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, UNESCO world heritage site, Tanzania, Africa SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian JohnstonCredit: Alamy

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO world heritage site in Tanzania. Photo: Alamy

The world's largest inactive volcanic caldera is 610 metres deep, covers 260 square kilometres, and sits between volcanic highlands and the plains of the Serengeti. Montane forest clings to its side, while the crater's floor features open grasslands, small springs and salt lakes where flamingos feed. The conservation area is unique in protecting both wildlife – which includes lions, rhinos and cheetahs – and the Maasai indigenous pastoralists. See ngorongorocrater.org

FISH RIVER CANYON, NAMIBIA

CE5A9H Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia at dawn. SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian JohnstonCredit: Alamy

Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia. Photo: Alamy

On a continent fabled for the scale of its natural wonders, this canyon in southern Namibia's far south is outstanding: 160 kilometres long, 27 kilometres wide in places, and a half-kilometre deep. Its wonders include rust-red rock, twisted cliffs and refreshing rock pools ideal for swimming. You might spot antelope and zebras. After a day's hiking, reward your muscles with a dip in the Ai-Ais hot springs. See namibiatourism.com.na

NYIKA PLATEAU, MALAWI

A53G3A Wattled crane Grus carunculatus Nyika Plateau Malawi SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian JohnstonCredit: Alamy

Wattled crane (Grus carunculatus) in Nyika Plateau, Malawi. Photo: Alamy

This national park of high-altitude rolling highlands tips into the Great Rift Valley to the east. Cut through with rivers and waterfalls and dotted with giant boulders, it could be a film set for heaven. Glorious wildflowers bloom and, in the rainy season, nearly 200 species of orchids emerge. Gorgeous birds shimmer and twitter. The grasslands are dotted with zebras and antelopes; less visible is a big leopard population. See visitmalawi.mw

TSINGY DE BEMARAHA, MADAGASCAR

Beautiful tourist on an excursion in the unique limestone landscape at the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve in Madagascar. SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian Johnston
Credit: Shutterstock

The unique limestone landscape at the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve in Madagascar. Photo: Shutterstock

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The ecosystems of this national park include deciduous and tropical forest, savannah, canyons and mangrove swamps, home to endemic creatures such as chameleons, fish eagles and lemurs. But it's the jagged limestone extrusions that make it so spectacular, thrusting several hundred metres high and eroded into twisted bonsai arrangements. Ladders, rope bridges and walkways help you explore. The Manambolo River Gorges are magnificent. See parcs-madagascar.com

CANGO CAVES, SOUTH AFRICA

The Swartberg Mountains in Western Cape Province are riddled with caves, none better known than at Cango, where chambers and tunnels wander four kilometres into the mountains. Spectacular limestone formations have been given fanciful names such as Cleopatra's Needle, Ice Cream Parlour and Leaning Tower of Pisa. Adventure tours take you deep into the system, where you'll have to squirm through rock chimneys and low tunnels. See cango-caves.co.za

ERG CHEBBI DUNES, MOROCCO

DXDME5 Sahara sand dunes of erg Chebbi, Morocco, Africa SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian JohnstonCredit: Alamy

Sahara sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Morocco, Africa. Photo: Alamy

The sculpted piles of Saharan sand around the village of Merzouga on Algeria's border are a spectacular sight most romantically accessed on a camel trek, though a 4WD will do. Camel footprints might be the only mark on the landscape. Some of the vivid orange dunes are 20 kilometres long and 150 metres high. If you catch springtime rain you might see asphodels bloom and flamingos flock to small lakes. See visitmorocco.com

VICTORIA FALLS, ZAMBIA/ZIMBABWE

Rainbow over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, sunny day in Africa
 sunsep2africa - Africa: Second Honeymoon - Nina Karnikowski 
Credit: Shutterstock

Rainbow over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Photo: Shutterstock

Where the Zambezi River plummets 100 metres into the Batoka Gorge it creates what locals call The Smoke That Thunders. The spray along a two-kilometre stretch of water can be seen from 80 kilometres away. Walk the river's edge for panoramic views and the visceral experience of the roaring water. Scenic flights are stunning. At night during a full moon you see unusual lunar rainbows formed by the mist. See zambiatourism.com

LAKE NAKURU, KENYA

CBHMKK Flamingo birds in the lake Nakuru, African safari, Kenya SunNov11Ten - Traveller 10 African landscapes - Brian JohnstonCredit: Alamy

Flamingo birds in Lake Nakuru, Kenya. Photo: Alamy

This shallow, alkaline soda lake in the Rift Valley within a day tour of Nairobi contains an abundance of algae that attracts vast numbers of flamingos to its shoreline. Millions sometimes gather here, providing a shimmering movement of pink as far as the eye can see. Other bird species include kingfishers, herons and African fish eagles. The lake's shores are home to endangered black and white rhinos and leopards. See kws.go.ke

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