There can be few places in the world riper than Angola for an exponential growth in tourism – Mike Stead explores…


Until a few years ago, Angola was off-limits to leisure visitors. There was no guidebook and reliable information for travellers was hard to come by. Tourist visas did not exist, decent hotels were rare and outrageously expensive and oil workers filled all the flights into Luanda. In the space of 3 or 4 years, much of this has changed. Although still not an easy destination, Angola remains off the mainstream tourist circuit but will reward visitors with miles of deserted beaches, an extraordinarily rich bird life and stunning examples of Portuguese colonial architecture.

 

The first hurdle for visitors is to navigate the visa system – patience and persistence are required to obtain a tourist visa. Thereafter, things get much easier as airlines are queuing up to increase their frequencies into Luanda. Hardly a month goes by without an international standard hotel opening up in Luanda or one of the 18 provincial capitals. Luanda now has 5 star hotels and an Intercontinental is due to open in 2014. It is very expensive to get to and stay in Angola, but competition is slowing forcing prices down and customer service levels up.

 

Tourism is no longer reserved for expat workers wanting to take advantage of their tours of duty in Luanda to get out and about.  Angolans too are travelling in greater numbers, rediscovering parts of the country, which have been difficult to visit for decades. Internationally, there is a small but growing number of specialist travel companies catering for bird watchers, adventure travellers, safari and fishing holidays.  And, as if to add a stamp of legitimacy to the burgeoning tourist market, the first cruise liner in decades docked in Luanda in 2009.

 

 

Significant improvements to the road and rail networks mean that visitors are no longer limited to Luanda, the fascinating, vibrant but traffic choked capital. For traveller’s bragging rights, I’d highly recommend The Luanda to Malanje railway which was bombed and mined out of existence during almost 30 years of the Armed Struggle and subsequent civil war. The line was rebuilt and reopened by the Chinese earlier this year. For about £30 return, a modern air-conditioned loco will take you through the slums of Luanda’s suburbs and across lush green and rolling countryside to Malanje. This dilapidated provincial capital still shows its battle scars but the pastel pink provincial government buildings and town square were renovated a few years ago and banks and businesses are opening everywhere as the railway brings in new trade.

 

From Malanje it’s possible to visit Africa’s third highest waterfalls at Kalandula and the eerily majestic rocks of Pedras Negras, stronghold of the formidable Queen Rainha Ginga.

Tantalisingly close to completion is the Benguela railway, running from the coast through Huambo in the central highlands and onto Luau on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Benguela railway was a triumph of British engineering when built. This vital artery was a prime target during the struggles and was totally destroyed. It’s being rebuilt and scheduled to reopen sometime from 2012, though the date keeps slipping. Don’t let the railway enthusiasts hog all the seats when this legendary line reopens. A trip on the Benguela railway promises to be one of the most spectacular railway journeys anywhere.

 

It’s not all railways of course. Bird watchers, surfers, and fishing enthusiasts, will find plenty to occupy themselves with in Angola. Do-it-yourself holidays are not easy so I’d highly recommend using one of the specialist travel agencies based in the UK or South Africa and/or a Luanda based travel agent such as Eco Tur (http://www.eco-tur.com/). They can help you obtain a visa, provide airport transfers, book hotels and transport.

 

Don’t go to Angola for resort hotels and packaged holidays. Do go to meet some of the most resilient and friendly people in Africa, listen to the thumping rhythms of Kuduru, dine on fresh fish and seafood cooked in a mixture of Angolan, Brazilian and Portuguese style and witness some of the most extraordinary landscapes in the world. Enjoy!

 

 

Mike Stead is the author of the Bradt Guide to Angola (http://www.bradtguides.com/Book/58/Angola.html?prodid=209) and publishes regular travel updates on his website (http://bradtangolaupdate.wordpress.com/).

 

 

Angola-Today’s Hotel Recommendations

 

Epic Sana Luanda Hotel

New 5 star hotel – reviews have been positive

Rua da Missão Luanda, Angola

Tel: +244 222 642 600

Fax: +244 222 642 601

info.luanda@epic.sanahotels.com

www.luanda.epic.sanahotels.com

 

 

 

Hotel de Convencoes de Talatona,

Luanda

5 star hotel that hosts international conferences, hosts meetings and banquets.

No of rooms: 201 (17 suites)

Rua Luanda Sul

http://www.hoteltalatona.com/

 

Hotel Praia Mar

Restaurant, bar and lounge area

Av. Murtala Mohamed,

50 Ilha do Cabo Luanda, Angola

No of rooms: 57 (3 suites)

http://www.lunahoteis.com/homepage/hotels/index.php?cod_hotel=21

 

 

Aldeamento da Mulemba

Resort Hotel

Estrada Do Cacuaco, KM 9, Luanda

Luanda

No of rooms: 140 (18 suites)

http://mulembaresort.com/en/index.html

 

 

 

Hotel Tropico

Rua da Missao, 130-134, Luanda, Angola

No of Rooms: 280

http://www.tdhotels.pt/default.aspx?lang=ing&idHotel=493&hotel=Hotel-Tropico-Luanda

 

 

Hotel Presidente

Luanda

7k from airport, with business services and a health club

Largo 4 de Fevereiro, nº 4

No of rooms: 194 (one presidential suite)

www.hotelpresidenteluanda.com

 

Hotel Diamant, Duno

Lunda Norte

4*, pool,business centre and restaurant

Av. 28 de Agosto, Dundo

No of rooms: 54 (4 suites)

http://www.hoteldiamantedundo.com/hotel.php?lang=en

 

 

Angola-Today Restaurant Recommendations

 

Chill Out

Luanda

Popular beach-side restaurant with a relaxed vibe

Av Murtala Mohamed

http://www.chillout-luanda.com/

 

Caribe

Luanda

Beach-side restaurant, serves good food.

Av Murtala Mohamed

http://www.caribe-luanda.com/

 

Asia Lounge

Luanda

Japanese cuisine

Rua da Missao 55r/c – Ingombotas

 

Lookal

Luanda

Bar, restaurant and club on the beach

Av Murtala Mohamed, Ilha de Luanda

 

 

Tambarino

Luanda

Portuguese cuisine, the restaurant prides itself on its wine selection

Av. Amílcar Cabral, 23

 

 

Tamariz

Luanda

“Jango” style, on the beach.

Rua Mortala Mohamed

http://www.tamariz-luanda.com/

 

Sabores do Mussulo

Luanda

Very smart, part of Hotel Talatona

Rua Luanda Sul

http://www.hoteltalatona.com/hotel-angola-luanda-en/restaurants—bars/sabores-do-mussulo.aspx

 

Cais de Quatro

Luanda

One of the most famous restaurants in Luanda

Av Murtala Mohamed

 

Bahia

Luanda

Unassuming facade but glamorous inside

Av. 4 de Fevereiro, 183 – Marginal

 

Zodabar

Luanda

Smart, bar, pool, live music, cool lighting

Apart-Hotel Colinas do Sol

Talatona – Luanda Sul – Angola

www.zodabar.com

 

 

Shanghai Baia

Luanda

Sushi bar, modern, views over the bay

Av Murtala Mohamed, Ilha de Luanda

 

 

Mangais

Luanda

Looks like smart house converted to restaurant

Rua Major Canhangulo, 3 B – Ingombota

www.mangais.com

 

 

Chez Wou 1

Luanda

Chinese, colourful, with smart staff

Av Murtala Mohamed

 

Manjara Restaurant

Luanda

Bar and restaurant, live music

Av Murtala Mohamed

 

 

Café del Mar

Luanda

High end and by the beach (the same chain as Coconuts)

Av Murtala Mohamed

 

Bico do Sapato

Luanda

Smart, aimed at expats, big wine selection

Rua dos Coqueiros

 

Portofino Ristorante

Luanda

Top end Italian restaurant, aimed at international clientele

Av. 4 de Fevereiro, 185 – Marginal

 

O Cajueiro

Luanda

In the Belas shopping mall

Belas Shopping, Loja 195, Talatona