The Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), located in western Africa between Liberia and Ghana along the Gulf of Guinea, became an independent nation in 1960. However, the country of around 20 million people hasn’t always been a peaceful place. Internal conflicts traditionally made this lovely landscape less hospitable to tourists than some of its neighbors. Fortunately, the climate in the Ivory Coast is much more tourist-friendly with the ascent of a new government that happened in April 2011.
As of May 2012, the U.S. State Department still advises travelers to closely monitor the political situation within the Ivory Coast and to check in with the American Embassy when they arrive in the country.
If you are headed to the Ivory Coast, you’ll find the American Embassy and most of the tourist hotels in the coastal town of Abidjan, the former capital city. Government offices and the new capital are located in the city of Yomoussoukro in the central part of the country.
The Ivory Coast offers a wealth of man-made and natural attractions. Below are the seven we think every visitor to this African nation should see.
1. National Museum in Abidjan
Though many of this museum’s treasures were lost from looting during the political unrest over the last decade, the National Museum in the capital city of Abidjan still contains a fascinating collection of artifacts that tell the country’s history from the Stone Age to the present. Among these are musical instruments, pottery, coins and tools.
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Abidjan
Another must-see attraction in the capital of Abidjan is St. Paul’s Cathedral. This modern church, designed by Italian architect Aldo Spirito, is laid out in a stylized version of the figure of Paul with his robes flowing behind him. The Catholic Church is known for its elaborate stained glass windows that depict scenes from Paul’s life.
3. Parc du Banco in Abidjan
Located just north of the Abidjan city limits, this 7,500 acre park is home to a diverse collection of hard woods, flowers, bushes and wildlife. In addition, Parc du Banco has picnic facilities, a restaurant and an arboretum.
Located in the south-central part of the Ivory Coast, Tiagba is a coastal community popular with tourists because nearly all of the homes here are built on stilts. Visitors can spend the night in one of the traditional stilt homes and enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of the seaside restaurants.
5. Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro
Yamoussoukro, pronounced “yam-so-kro,” is the new capital city of the Ivory Coast. The most striking attraction here is the Our Lady of Peace Basilica. This Roman Catholic Church, which claims to be the largest church is the world, was constructed in 1990 as a modern version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The church is large enough to seat 7,000 people with standing room for an additional 11,000.
If you crave a little rest and relaxation after all that big city sightseeing, Assouinde is the place for you. The seaside resort, located about 30 miles east of Abidjan, boasts long stretches of palm-fringed, uncrowded beaches, small seaside hotels and excellent surfing conditions.
7. Comoe National Park
Though not easy to get to, hiring a driver to take you to Comoe National Park in northeastern Ivory Coast is worth the effort. The 7,000 square mile park is one of the largest in West Africa and is a UNESCO World Heritage designation because of the park’s pristine rain forest and diversity of plant and wildlife.
Non-business visitors from the United States to the Ivory Coast need to carry a valid passport stamped with a tourist visa. They also need to carry a vaccination certificate for Yellow Fever. Non-stop flights arrive in Abidjan’s Port Bouet Airport from Paris, Brussels and cities throughout Africa.
Andy Johnson is an outdoor recreation major. He has travelled the United States extensively making it to 48 of the 50 states, but he calls Utah home. For the past 6 years he has worked as a recreation and travel specialist for an outdoor recreation store.