January 31st, 2018

Adventure Travel Bucket List: Djibouti

Adventure Travel Bucket List: Djibouti

Are you looking for an unforgettable travel experience off the beaten path? Head to East Africa, where the beautiful, untouched wilderness of Djibouti just begs you to explore!

Adventurous travelers are always seeking the next out-of-the-way hidden treasure of a global hotspot. It’s 2018 now, and the buzz is sweeping the blogosphere: Djibouti is the place to be. While a large amount of people can’t pronounce its name (say jih-BOO-tee), let alone find it on a map, this exciting nation located on the Horn of Africa beckons with fascinating history, diverse landscapes, and plentiful adventure travel activities—there’s a seemingly limitless number of things in to in Djibouti once you start looking.

Some quick backstory: Djibouti is situated with a coast on the Red Sea, surrounded by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. It has been a free country since 1977, when it declared its independence from the joint colonization of the French and the Somali. Arabic and French are the two official languages here, and 94 percent of the citizens are Muslim. The capital is Djibouti City, and the country is known around the globe as a national shipping hub. But it’s so much more than just shipping, it’s a thriving destination in East Africa with a fast-growing number of tourist-friendly adventure activities. When travelers are wondering where to go in East Africa, you can bet that this will soon be the answer. Here are four reasons you should plan a trip to Djibouti:

The landscape is seriously gorgeous.

Djibouti’s landscapes are a photographer’s dream. While you won’t plan an epic safari like you would in other East African countries, Djibouti is situated on the Afar Triple Junction, which is where three of Earth’s tectonic plates converge. The result is large expansive volcanic rock and inactive volcanoes, like Ardoukoba, which is perfect for trekking. There are dusty plains and salt flats interrupted by limestone chimneys spewing smoke and ash. And don’t forget about the bubbling natural hot springs. On the coast, sparkling blue waters make the perfect backdrop for scuba diving, cage diving with sharks, and fishing.

Tourism has grown to accommodate adventure travelers specifically!

Various tour groups have popped up around the country, and through them you can arrange for adventures like bush camping, trekking, kite surfing, and camelback expeditions. You are limited by nothing except your own level of bravery and willingness to try new things!

Just off the coast of the mainland are the tiny islands of Moucha and Maskali, gems set in the Gulf of Tadjoura. You can enjoy a day trip to explore the islands, or camp overnight beneath a canopy of stars. Excursions to swim with whale sharks are a can’t-miss opportunity!

It’s free from busy crowds.

Because Djibouti is only just developing a tourism sector, traveling and exploring there can be costly. For the price, however, you get to experience a raw, untouched part of Africa completely unlike anything surrounding it. Unlike the lush valley of Ethiopia, Djibouti can feel almost alien, with an otherworldly landscape carved out of sand, rock, and salt.

You’ll enjoy the best seafood of your life.

For a more refined experience, you’ll want to make camp in Djibouti City. Unlike other parts of the republic, the capital has a good infrastructure and you’ll be able to find nice hotels, clubs, and restaurants. In fact, Djibouti City is known as something of a foodie paradise! Baked fish and chapati are staples for the unadventurous eater, but if you want to dine like a local, you have to try the camel—prepared the right way, it’s delicious! French cuisine is readily available, owing to the nation’s colonial history, and dishes of a French-Mediterranean fusion are highly recommended. 

What You Should Know to Plan Your Trip

Of course, packing the perfect bag is the key to kicking off any proper adventure. During my six months backpacking across Africa, I came to truly appreciate having the right bag to navigate bus rides, mountain hikes, and even sandy beaches! The Global Companion 40L W is a great option (here’s why), plus it comes in a variety of fun colors. And to be sure you have everything accessible, sort your gear with packing organizers and carry a handy daypack and you are shipshape and ready to go anywhere!

Winter is the best time to visit (November to January), when the cooler air makes most activities quite accessible and the whale sharks are migrating through the area. Temperatures during summer reach well over 100F (40C), so be sure you’re prepared for the heat if you venture to Djibouti even in the shoulder seasons.

Djibouti has a large Western military presence and this has made the destination safer than many anticipate. Although you should certainly exercise caution in general, pickpocketing issues are confined primarily to the capital city and that’s essentially the main concern. The State Department has no travel warnings for Djibouti, and that’s not anticipated to change any time soon.

Djibouti is bursting at the seams with things to see and do, and the opportunity to visit a place that most travelers will never get to explore. What’s on your personal itinerary for 2018, world travelers? Have you caught the Djibouti buzz? Let us know in the comments below!

Related Products:

Wayfinder Backpack 30L

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by Shannon ODonnell

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.