From everyday activities such as eating at a local buka, to specially constructed recreational experiences such as going camping at Idanre Hills, there’s an incredible variety of things to see, do and unravel all around Nigeria. Here are 10 of the best.
Visit Ikogosi Warm Springs
Ikogosi Warm Springs in Ekiti State is one of the most astounding creations of nature in the world. The warm spring flows down a hill, right next to a cold spring, after which they meet at a confluence and continue their journey into a river. Visitors are enchanted with stories about the healing powers that can be accessed by bathing in water from the spring. The fact that both springs’ temperatures flow from the same source remains a cause of wonderment to geologists and tourists alike. Ikogosi Warm Springs are surrounded by dense, beautiful greenery, and there’s also a resort.
Collect Artsy Decor and Souvenirs
There are two great locations in Nigeria to check out if you’re looking to buy distinctly and intricately designed artworks, craftwork and fabrics that are also pocket-friendly: the Jakande Market in Lekki, Lagos, and the Arts and Craft village in Maitama, Abuja. These markets offer an impressive selection including carvings, bags, stools, paintings, sculptures and accessories. If you want to decorate your home, office or car, or to give someone a gift, a trip to either of these destinations will be just the thing.
Go to Calabar Carnival
The world-famous Calabar Carnival is an annual event that takes place in the beautiful city of Calabar in Cross Rivers State. From the first day in December every year, hotels and residents in the city begin to receive guests who are in town for what culminates in Africa’s biggest street party at the end of the month. The Calabar Carnival is one of Nigeria’s biggest tourist events, as millions of people converge to attend the array of programmes it has to offer. Visitors are thrilled with boat regattas, huge fashion shows, concerts and traditional dances and performances. All of these events are aimed at showcasing the beauty, cultural diversity, and hospitality of Nigeria.Dancers at Calabar Carnival © Akintomiwaao/WikiCommons
Climb the Magical Idanre Hills
These mystic hills are situated in the ancient town of Idanre, at the heart of what is now Akure, the capital city of Ondo State. A trip up the 667 steps of the highest peak reveals carefully preserved signs of early habitation and civilisation, including a school, a palace courtyard and a mausoleum. The hills are named after historically significant figures related to Idanre. Folklore has it that the early inhabitants of Idanre paid annual tribute to the hills in exchange for protection from invasion. Visitors troop to Idanre Hills to conquer the steps, camp and bask in the views and historical significance of its environs.
Check out Bukas, Snack Stands and Joints
If you want to experience traditional Nigerian food the local way, then bukas (also known as mama put) are your best option. From the famous jollof rice and a wide variety of other specially prepared rices, to swallows and soups from every region in the country, to tasty local snacks such as moi moi (bean cakes), bukas do not disappoint.
These local cafeterias are distinctive in terms of their structure, the kinds of food they serve, and, most importantly, how these foods taste. Look out for small shacks with curtains in their doorways and wooden benches. Most of them have big steel cooking pots out front, releasing tantalising aromas. Others are located in more modern structures but retain the same local feel. Certain areas in some states (such as Surulere and Lagos Island in Lagos, and Bodija and Ibadan in Oyo) are renowned for having large concentrations of bukas, so just ask a local for the best ones to visit.
Revel in Art
Art galleries and exhibitions in Nigeria offer some of the most profound experiences any visitor to the country can have. Nigerian galleries combine aesthetic excellence with a deep sense of the value of these artistic endeavours. Rows and rows of artworks from established Nigerian and African artists such as Bruce Onobrakpeya and Ben Enwonwu, as well as those of up-and-coming artists, can be found on display at renowned galleries such as Nike Art Centre, Omenka and Hourglass.
If you don’t feel comfortable walking into an art gallery, or if pricey artworks are not your thing, there is also the option to find some pieces of street art that suit your taste. Just keep an eye out when you’re exploring the cities.Ola Balogun, Love, Oil on canvas, 2016. / Hourglass Gallery
Enjoy the Resorts
The Obudu Mountain Resort, La Campagne Tropicana and Le Meridien Ibom Golf Resort are three of the best resorts to visit in Nigeria. These resorts present fantastic encounters with grass-roots Nigerian culture (tradition, arts and languages), beautiful landscapes and amazing local and international food, as well as all the things you would normally expect from a modern resort. All three resorts also provide magnificent views of nature and offer all the mental and physical benefits of being up close to it.
Visit the Museums
The museums in Nigeria hold a wealth of historical knowledge and some captivating pieces of art. Nigerian history is replete with significant events such as colonial rule, independence, slavery, and the civil war, and the collections at the museums reflect this. You can see artefacts such as soapstone images discovered in Esie Igbomina in Kwara, the Nok sculptures and sophisticated artworks by early civilisations such as the Benin and Ife.
While exhibitions at museums such as the Nigeria National Museum cover a wide range of historical artefacts, others, such as the Badagry Museum, provide visitors with a specific themed experience.
Shop at the Traditional Markets
Every true traveller knows that the best shopping deals are to be had at the local markets. Luckily for any such traveller in Nigeria, the traditional markets here offer a combination of great deals, great products, adventure and excitement. Whether it’s at the popular markets such as the Idumota Market in Lagos and the Kurmi Market in Kano, or the community markets all around the country, visitors can shop for practically any type of item here, and buy anything from food items to household goods. Even if you don’t need to buy anything, these are great places to window shop and to watch the local traders in action.Balogun Market/Zouzou Wizman/Wikimedia
Witness the Creative Arts
Nigeria’s creative scene is broad and infectious. There’s always music in the air, a dance in people’s steps and words to inspire you. And there are many places for you to bask in this indigenous creativity, including book clubs, open mic nights, night clubs and music clubs. The Freedom Park in Lagos is one such environment, where creatives from all walks of life gather to enjoy the beauty of the creative arts, including eclectic music, soulful spoken word performances and riveting plays.