On the face of it you can see why Burkina Faso lacks mainstream appeal: a landlocked West African nation with rowdy neighbours, this country has a harsh climate, unforgiving geography and an infrastructure few would want to be at the mercy of. Major attractions are also lacking.
Yet Burkina Faso remains an enthralling destination for intrepid travellers, thanks to its wonderful inhabitants and dramatic landscapes. As such, the country, though not frequently visited, is a fine place in which to immerse yourself in West African culture.
Meaning “land of the honest people,” Burkina Faso proudly proclaims to be one of the friendliest countries in Africa – and visitors are sure of a warm welcome. Burkinabé, as the people of Burkina Faso are known, are the exact opposite of the harsh land that they inhabit – and it is these cordial and courteous people who make coming here such a joy.
Burkina Faso’s traditional cultures are best sampled in its two largest cities: the fabulously named capital, Ouagadougou (also known as “Ouaga”) and the second city of Bobo-Dioulasso (simply referred to as “Bobo”).
Both have large communities of artists, particularly Ouagadougou, which is famed for its music scene. The art and architecture of the capital are also worthy of attention, with several large-scale sculptures enlivening the streets.
Away from the cities, Burkina Faso’s four national parks harbour a surprising diversity of wildlife. If you can’t explore them all, then make a beeline for Arli, which is home to a wide range of ecosystems and is an important habitat for West Africa’s last big cats and elephants. Hippos, monkeys and various exotic bird species also call this national park home.
Burkina Faso might not suit first-time travellers, but for hardy adventurers, this is a destination in which to veer off the tourist trail and discover the hidden gems of West Africa.