By Pelu Awofeso
Ever so often I meet Nigerians and visitors to Nigeria who don’t know much about the many tourist attractions in the country.
Having travelled across Nigeria myself many times over, I know there are 101 places to delight anyone, whatever their interests. If time permits, I will use this opportunity to mention a couple of attractions they should consider visiting if they can make out the time.
I know there are countless individuals like them out there, and I wanted to offer a more broad-based guide. So over the sit-at-home break (as a result of Covid-19), I reached out to several individuals who I know have travelled extensively around Nigeria in the past 12–18 months: bloggers, photographers, tour operators and plain leisure travellers, among others.
My request was simple: send me two of your favourite places in Nigeria with reasons. The responses poured in. Their choices included familiar and unfamiliar locations; established tourist magnets and sites off the beaten path; destinations nearby and far-off; adventure spots and heritage sites; streets and cities.
Overall, they show the diverse travel assets in every corner of the country; and they are a very reliable guide if you plan to travel anytime and need to decide where to visit. It’s quite a long list, but I’m sharing the Top 12 in this first instalment.
When you’re done reading through, please post a comment to let me know what you think of the list. This is a continuing project, so you could also nominate a place you believe merits a spot on the list. The complete list will be unveiled on a dedicated site soon.
Olumirin Waterfalls (Osun State):
Rocky cliffs, tall trees and cascading falls make this place a tourist delight. It’s also a perfect setting for mountaineering. Driving into the Erin- Ijesha community and walking towards the pool (takes about 12 minutes) on the ground level is both soothing and refreshing. You’re likely to meet local drummers welcoming you with songs and dancing.
“I love Olumirin because it appeals to you whether you want to climb for 20 minutes to the waterfalls or you want to climb for 5 hours, meandering through the villages nestled in the hills and join the amazing residents as they farm calabash and cola. “ — @funmioyatogun
“Olumirin was my first travel destination love (if there’s anything like that). I took that trip almost 10 years ago and immediately my adventurous spirit was unleashed! I love water bodies, water sports and anything ocean, so you can imagine how I felt at that place. Although, I didn’t make it past the second level but it was worth it!” — @thatgaltolani
“While nothing prepares your legs for this hike, the seven-step waterfall remains a wonder to me. I never got to the seventh floor, where rumour has it that the water source is a small pot. I am yet to visit any spot that beats this hiking experience.” — @dameyinka
Olumirin waterfall is a sanctuary of purity and beauty with its unique seven (7) cascades, which is somewhat therapeutic. Each level has a stunning fall. Aside from giving the visitor a back-to-back hiking experience and cultural history, Erin-Ijesha is also the land of Pounded Yam/ Egusi/ Eran-igbe (Bush Meat). — @atgadventours
Obudu Cattle Ranch (Cross River State)
Also known as Obudu Ranch Resort, the elegant hills is at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level. While here, you can literally reach for the clouds. Temperature is in the 7°–20°C year-round. Obudu, the town it is named after, is 6okm away. Other things to expect here: waterfalls, a nature resort, a Gorilla camp, scenic grassland, natural pool and walking trails.
“I picked obudu because it’s an all-inclusive destination with so many activities — from bird watching to hiking waterfalls and simply enjoying nature. It’s a must-visit destination in Nigeria for all travellers.” — @princess_busayo
“I loved the lush green landscape in Obudu. I loved waking up to birds chirping and just being in the middle of nature. The views were breathtaking and exploring the ranch was an adventure.” — @findingae
“Obudu Ranch is an experience I can hardly believe I’m getting in Nigeria. The scenery is breathtaking.” — @dejimcword
Ado Awaye lake (Oyo State)
The main attraction here is the suspended lake (aquamarine green), the only one of its kind in Nigeria and one of two worldwide. The view from the hilltop is priceless; and the hike up it is as thrilling as the landmark spread across the range, providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of society that lived there centuries ago.
“This is one of those places that’s so green and lush, it is unbelievable how close to major cities it is. I love the fact that you can do a day trip that includes hiking to the summit and travel time to and from Lagos. It is a tad challenging but as long as you don’t have any serious inhibitions, you can make it. The view throughout the top and the fascinating story of the rock, as well as the fact that it is one of two hanging lakes in the world makes it all worth it.” — @funmioyatogun
“It’s the best hiking destination in Southwest Nigeria and home to Africa’s only recognized suspended lake.” — @iamatabo
“Sweet sweet Ado Awaye brings so many pleasant memories. I enjoyed everything about this trip with my colleagues some years ago. The village is really quaint and beautiful and the people friendly. Also, climbing mountains really really fascinates me and Ado Awaye is a hidden mountainous gem. On top that mountain you can’t help but marvel at God’s creation and how we’re all just tiny pieces roaming the world. “ — @thatgaltolani
“It stands out in Nigeria because there are only two hanging lakes in the world, and it is one of them. It is a beauty to behold. Though best visited during the rainy season, it is available all year round.” — @travelfartour
Mambilla Plateau (Taraba State)
Visiting the Mambilla Plateau is no mean feat, but the sights and sounds that welcome you on arrival is worth all the stress and strain it takes to get there. Travellers who make it there are awe-struck by the sheer beauty of the surroundings and have nothing but inspiring tales to share. It’s awash with waterfalls, many yet undiscovered; and its residents are most welcoming of visitors. Mambilla’s peak, locally called Gangirwali, is 6,000ft above sea level and is a mountain adventurer’s dream.
“This is arguably the most beautiful location in Nigeria. Its lush and sprawling landscape punctuated with the largest tea farm in West Africa, eucalyptus forests, a lake, the Donga River and countless waterfalls, will set you on an adventure of a lifetime. Also, home to Gangirwal, the highest point in sub-Saharan Africa and the most temperate region in the whole of Nigeria, this location is simply unbeatable.” — @adedotunajibade
“Mambilla Plateau is the coldest region in Nigeria with the highest settlement and highest mountain in West Africa. It houses the biggest tea farm in the sub-region. A lot of other things make Mambilla Plateau a tourist haven: many waterfalls; lots of scenic rock formation; one of the coolest lakes you’ll find in Nigeria.” — @natureconnects
“Gembu is a magical land, a place filled with nature, resources, and happy people. From waterfalls to beautiful greenery views to the tea plantations, that place can survive on its own.” — @thattokelady
Idanre Hills (Ondo State)
Idanre town is a 25-minute drive from Akure. The range of hills, on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site for years, is a marvel of nature. They are dome-shaped, steep-sided and smooth on the surface. The peak, reached through walking up 640 stony steps, is more than 3,000 feet above sea level; and from there, you can see the new town spread out in the distance.
“Been to Idanre Hills three times and I had three different experiences. My first time was as a student on an excursion; the second time was with a tour company. My third visit was with a group of campers. Looking at the city from the hilltop, dancing by a bonfire, sharing drinks and conversations with friends and acquaintances on a hilltop at past midnight are the dominant memories I have of Idanre.” — @dameyinka
“The Idanre Hills have always captured my heart right from the first visit. The awesome experience doesn’t start from the steps that lead you to the hills, but the magnificent hills that welcome you as you enter the town. With a good tour guide, you will enjoy the fascinating stories of life on the hills before the community settled down in the town.” — @theayomidetravels
“Indigenous cultural sites are one of the attractive sites on the Hill, like the “Palace of the Owa, Footprint of Agbooogun, Omi Apaara (eng. Thunder Water), Shrines and Burial Grounds”. It’s about 3000ft above sea level, with 662 steps before u start the hiking business, you can’t but visit the Idanre Kingdom and not behold the wonders of the Almighty. The stories read in books listened to from a friend cannot be compared travelling to behold and to see.” — @atgadventours
“Idanre is one of my favourite places to visit in Nigeria. A trip to this tourist haven is not only to witness the wonders of nature but also to have a compelling story to tell the world about the wonders of nature present on this huge hill. There are a lot of things to do there at the Idanre and it’s worth visiting.” — @bolajiseun93
Ogbunike Caves (Anambra State)
The physical experience of visiting this place cannot be comprehended in this post and it is worth a visit if you are up for it.
“It has the largest colony of bats in all of the caves I have visited so far. The cave still retains its historical and spiritual significance and houses some wild animals such as the python (Eke Ogba) which are tame. Going through the cave’s chambers and channels can be quite a scary experience but it is also a perfect candidate for adventure. Brace yourself!” — @loretatravels
“This cave has ten tunnels and is connected to different faucets. The community still holds yearly ceremonies and there is a strong spiritual connection to the environment. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.” — @hadar_orizu
“It explains the history of the Igbo people during the Biafra war.” @explorewithdera
Yankari Games Reserve (Bauchi State)
The Wikki Warm Spring is popular with visitors to the Yankari National Park, but there are three others: Mawulgo, Gwana and Dimil (the only cold spring of the quartet). Besides the springs, there are historical sites, caves, wells and diverse wildlife — elephants, baboons, bush-bucks, hippopotamus, roan antelopes, buffalo and bird species (kingfishers, heron, eagle to name a few).
“Bauchi is truly a Home of Tourism and it has the Yankari Games Reserve, which is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Nigeria. It is the most sought after game reserve for wildlife and safari in Nigeria, More than that: it has other attractions within the resort such as the Wikki Warm Spring, the Marshal Cave and plenty other attractions to make any visit worth the while.” — @BolajiSeun93
“There are so many activities to do here: swim in the Wikki Warm Spring, explore the Marshal Caves, go on a safari and so on. The territorial confidence of the “notorious” baboons is also noteworthy.” — @l3ftai
Gashaka-Gumti National Park (Taraba/ Adamawa States)
The largest and most diverse conservation park in Nigeria, Gashaka-Gumti spreads across two Nigerian states and covers an estimated 6,600 sq km on the Mambilla Plateau. It houses multiple ecological zones — from scrub and savannas to forests and montane; and it is home to a wide spectrum of wildlife: chimpanzee, giraffe, cheetah, red-river hog, duikers and colobus monkey, among them.
“It is the biggest park in Nigeria with different species of wildlife. It has crocodile and hippopotamus ponds. Its warm spring, among other things, makes it a place to reckon with as game reserve.” — @natureconnects
“Besides being the largest of all the eight national parks in Nigeria with a vast expense of 6,411 square kilometres, within the park, there are rivers, valleys and peaks with lovely and well-fed animals.” — Dr Raphael James
Ahwum Waterfalls/ Cave (Enugu State)
“It’s one of my favourite places, because of the magnificent walls naturally sculpted in limestone, the enchanting waterfall dropping from an opening at the roof of the walls and the sacred statues of Virgin Mary and the three children of Fatima.” @loretatravels
Kajuru Castle (Kaduna State)
Kajuru Castle was built in the 1980s by a German resident in Kaduna in the 1970s. It was under the travel radar for so long and only became a hit with Nigeria’s top travellers and tour operators in the mid-2010s. Named after the town in which it is located, it is encircled by a range of hills and is a statement in tranquillity. Guests can book accommodation in advance and also sign up for guided tours. The facility includes a rooftop terrace, a garden, a spectacular pool
“Kajuru is one of the places in Nigeria that lived up to my expectations. I went with a friend from Abuja by public transportation and it was quite stressful but the fun we had at the castle made up for it. I felt like I travelled back in time — almost like I was in the medieval era. I loved the castle architecture and exploring the chambers. I had amazing views of the surroundings and also had an amazing time in the pool. “ — @findingae
Ogba Ukwu Caves/ Waterfalls (Anambra State)
“It is a 3-in-1 location of monumental proportion. The staggering size of this monolithic landscape feature is unrivalled by no other in West Africa. A turbulent cascade pouring over a gigantic rock outcrop that forms a half-dome as large the size of half a soccer field, and that also connects to a mammoth cave that can accommodate a small village brings a tourist to humility and an acknowledgement of the sheer grandeur of nature. “ — @adedotunajibade
“The caves look like make-believe, the sort of thing one would normally see in those sophisticated Hollywood movies. It baffles me that we have such an amazing spot in Nigeria and not much attention or publicity is given to it to showcase it to the world.” — @bmdiva
Osun Grove (Osun State)
Covering 75 hectares, the grove is one of Nigeria’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is a spiritual, cultural and historical enclave of shrines, stone sculptures and wood carvings in honour of the Yoruba deities and especially goddess Osun. Situated along the Osun River, it is the centre of activity for faithful and tourists during the annual Osun-Osogbo festival (held in the third week of August).
“I am fascinated by the compilation and preservation of unique sculptural art, the folklore of the Osun river goddess and her worshippers. Every carving has a representation such as that the goddess of fertility. In the grove, there’s a feeling of being in a totally different world where tradition is valued and represented.” — @janinetravelguide
“I would never forget the grove, because of all those breathtaking designs and architecture. It’s really nice to see that our cultures and traditions are still been preserved by faithfuls.” — @thatgaltolani