Angola is a huge country in Africa with a variety of unique travel opportunities. It’s one of those places few people are familiar with, and even fewer have visited. Typically, the only thing you hear about Angola is how expensive it is due to an oil boom. Luanda, the country’s capital city, has even been dubbed one of the world’s most pricey cities. Although the city was quite expensive, I wanted to explore more of the country’s rural areas and natural landmarks. A few noteworthy places are Kalandula Falls – one of Africa’s biggest waterfalls, and Pedras Negras de Pungo Andongo – some interesting rock formations.
Where to Stay in Luanda
Luanda is one of the most expensive places when it comes to finding accommodation. Before I arrived, I made sure to select a hotel that was within my budget but also had good reviews. Another tip would be to look for a place that offers free airport transfers because otherwise, you’ll get ripped off by taxi drivers at the airport. In the end, I decided on Residence DB and they were waiting for me as soon as I got there.
The dilapidated surrounding area and unassuming entrance of the hotel through a dirty alleyway had me worried, but upon entering I found friendly staff and was able to check into my room despite it being early morning.I was exhausted after traveling for two days, so getting some sleep before visiting Luanda was a smart idea. The room was comfortable and clean, and there was air conditioning. The wifi connection also functioned effectively.
If you are looking to save money on your accommodation, Residence DB is a good option. Prices usually fall between $50-$80 per night, which is considered expensive for many other countries but unfortunately Luanda’s prices for hotels and Airbnb accommodations are through the roof.
If you’re looking for an alternative with a different kind of location, Thomson Art House is definitely worth considering. Set in Ilha de Luanda and right on the beach, it’s a stylish boutique hotel exhibiting local artwork. I would say it’s more geared towards tourists/visitors, but didn’t stay there myself (I’ll tell you more about it later on in the post). You can book Thomson Art House through Booking.com or HotelsCombined – both reputable websites.
I double-checked the hotel rates while preparing this blog post, and it appears that Thomson Art House has reduced their prices while Residence DB has increased them. I’d only return to the Residence DB if it was significantly cheaper than the Thomson Art House. However, when looking for a bargain, see whether HotelCombined or similar sites have better pricing.
What to See in Luanda
Luanda’s Ilha de Luanda is a spit off the coast of Luanda. There are several beautiful beaches, as well as some excellent restaurants (although most of them rather pricey). Instead of visiting Ilha do Mussulo for swimming, I would recommend going to the island of Mussulo instead.
Fortaleza de Sao Miguel
The fortress of San Miguel in Fortaleza de Sao Miguel is a must-see in Luanda. It’s a lovely Portuguese fort with historical significance, dating back to 1576 and built to protect the city’s entrance.
Mausoleum of Agostinho Neto
The Mausoleum of Agostinho Neto, which serves as the final resting place for Angola’s first president, Neto, is an obelisk-like concrete structure reminiscent of Soviet monuments. You would more likely expect to see something like this in old Soviet Union countries located in Eastern Europe than in Africa.
Bay of Luanda Waterfront
The new waterfront in Luanda is an urban area with great views of the new towers. The promenade has a clean walkway and some palm trees. This is also a place where you can see the stark divide between rich and poor that exists in Luanda due to the oil boom.
The capital city of Angola is Luanda, which sits on a rocky plateau overlooking the bay. The parliament building and presidential palace are both located in Cidade Alta. This area is ideal for anyone interested in old Portuguese architecture. Taking pictures of government buildings, however, is not permitted in most African countries, so walking around as a tourist isn’t an option. I was able to capture one photograph from a passing vehicle.
Other Places Around Luanda
If you have more time and can arrange transportation, I urge you to go see some of the surrounding areas around Luanda. The Ship’s Cemetery is a beach where twelve enormous abandoned ships lie rusting in the sand. Miradouro da Lua is a popular lookout point with stunning views of the cityscape, lush vegetation, and colorful mosaic tiles. Some visitors have been robbed here, so I suggest only going with a guide and a vehicle.
Getting from Luanda to Malanje/Kalandula Falls/Pedras Negras
I decided to leave the capital city of Angola and explore the countryside. I wanted to see natural wonders like Kalandula Falls and Pedras Negras, but found it difficult to get transportation because these sites are remote. I took the overland route and utilized public transport. I had already booked my return ticket to ensure that I would be back in time for my flight to São Tomé and Príncipe.
If you have the time, consider taking a bus to Malanje and arranging trips to the Kalandula Falls and Pedras Negras from there. Both of these locations are rather out of the way, and neither may be reached by an ordinary African minibus. Hiring a driver or hitching (typically when hitchhiking in Africa, you’re expected to pay for the driver beforehand) are likely your only options.
When I went to the hotel’s reception desk to find out about transportation options, they were unhelpful. Apparently, they don’t often have guests who are tourists. I had already tried to look up tour companies in Angola, but they were all too expensive- asking for thousands of dollars just for short trips. I considered renting a car at one point, but when saw the condition of some of the roads later on ,I was glad that didn’t go through with it .
Visiting Pedras Negras
The objective of the first day was to go from Luanda to Pedras Negras. We left Luanda early in the morning due to the length of the journey. Before we reached a road repair, the roads appeared to be in excellent shape. For a period of time, the only road available was muddy and full of potholes. We came across many vehicles that had gotten stuck trying to traverse it. I ,thankfully, rented a 4×4 so we didn’t have any issues. Although it was raining, the dirt roads were nothing compared to what I’ve seen in other African countries. Pungo Andongo’s Black Rocks are very unique and a sight to see.The rocks, which sit high above the African savanna, are easy to spot from a distance. Once you get closer there are two viewing areas. The first and easiest to find is on the right side of the road with parking close by.