Overview

Niamey at night
Niamey at night © Jake73

Niger is a landlocked country in the heart of Africa known for its diverse cultures, oases of wildlife, and beautiful desert landscapes. Unfortunately, most people associate Niger with drought and famine, as well as violent conflict. While it's not without charm, travel authorities advise against visiting this very poor country due to terrorism.

The capital city is Niamey, a pleasant and fairly modern settlement with great open-air markets and a picturesque setting on the banks of the Niger River. The National Museum is worth a visit, mostly for the impressive artisans collective which produces high-quality goods for fair but surprisingly non-negotiable prices.

The country's top attraction is W National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to abundant wildlife. Koure, southeast of Niamey, is famous for its herd of giraffe, supposedly the last wild herd in West Africa. Other sites worth visiting are the old trading centres of Agadez, with its vibrant Touareg culture, and Zinder, with its maze-like old town and interesting Sultan's Palace.

Niger was a former French colony, achieving independence in 1960. It suffers from periodic droughts, widespread corruption, and an unskilled workforce, all of which combine to make it one of the poorest countries in the world. Niger also has the distinction of having one of the highest fertility rates in the world as well as one of the highest infant mortality rates.

Travel can be arduous as the roads are mostly unpaved and potholed, and banditry is common enough for a night time curfew to be imposed for cars. It is also astoundingly hot. Apart from aid workers and businesspeople, the only visitors Niger usually sees are intrepid backpackers and adventurers.