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The “Red City” of Marrakesh is a magical place, brimming with markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques. Exploring the intimate courtyards and snaking alleyways of the historic Medina can easily eat up a day. Find inner peace at the serene Jardin Majorelle or take in the beauty of one of the city’s historic mosques (taking note that, unless you are Muslim, you are not allowed to enter).
The Zanzibar Archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a breathtaking spot to escape from the world. You’ll enjoy clear, turquoise-blue water; shallow sandbars perfect for wading; and many small, nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by tourists. Explore the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarter. Or just go beach to beach between tiny fishing villages—each one's better than the next.
Cape Town glistens at the southern toe of the African continent. Tourist brochure-views at Blaauwberg Beach and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are within easy driving distance of "The Mother City." The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve provides sweeping sea vistas, hiking trails and wildlife encounters. On a more somber note, travelers can visit Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years.
The oldest university in the world isn’t Oxford or the Sorbonne—it’s the University of Al-Karaouine, and you’ll find it in Fes el Bali. This walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will transport you back to medieval times. Visit the ancient maze-like quarters of the Medina to Fes el-Bali and the four imposing Gates of Fes, with their distinctive Moroccan tile work. You can walk, or, if you're brave, take a taxi—the daredevil drivers will have you hanging on for dear life.
Portuguese, French and Berber architecture frame the maze-like streets of Essaouira, a charming and vibrant port and resort town on the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby, couples and families stroll the beaches of Cape Sim and Sidi Kaouki, which also attract surfers of all types. Relaxation is easy to find here, as is a bus to Marrakech, for those looking for a daytrip.
Known as the safari capital of Africa, Nairobi is an energetic, modern city that serves as a fascinating introduction to both wildlife and nightlife. Music clubs pulse with life, shops and markets bustle, and a mélange of restaurants will tempt your palate in this former Maasai watering hole. Top sights include the Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre and the black rhinos of Nairobi National Park. The compact city center is safe to walk in and taxis make other areas accessible.
With lively restaurants, white-sand beaches, ever-expanding resorts and a natural harbor, Grand Baie is fertile tourist ground. Located on the northwest coast of Mauritius, its fashion and craft shops appeal to landlubbers, while swimming, sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts frolic in the emerald Indian Ocean. Glass-bottom boat trips provide a window on the underwater world, but for a one-of-a-kind experience, board a two-person submarine and cruise beneath the surface with the tropical fish.
If you’ve ever dreamed of an African adventure, consider Arusha. This Tanzanian city is a wonderful base for Mt. Kilimanjaro climbers and safari enthusiasts, thanks to its location in the Great Rift Valley. Book a guided tour to trek through some of the world’s most beautiful and bountiful landscapes, such as Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Lake Manyara.
Rainbows are cool. But what trumps rainbows? Moonbows. If you visit Victoria Falls during a full moon, the light of the moon through the the waterfall spray produces a lunar rainbow, or moonbow. More of a daredevil? Then try what’s been called the world’s best white-water rafting.
Johannesburg is the place to go to mix big-city culture, shopping, dining and nightlife with outdoor adventures, up-close wildlife encounters and visits to historical sites. Explore caves and nature reserves, or visit a traditional village by day, then enjoy dinner at a hip cafe or five-star restaurant. And if you're a shopper, bring an extra, empty suitcase. With malls, open-air markets and places that blend the two, you'll find plenty of unique souvenirs.