Six reasons to detour to Burkina Faso

Of the seven countries I visited during my backpacking trip, Burkina Faso was one of my favorites. It’s sandwiched between two West African countries that are popular with tourists – Mali to the north and Ghana to the south – and yet the French-speaking nation sees few visitors.

Here’s why you should add this culture-rich country to your itinerary:

Tempted to munch on these fried caterpillars...

1. Fried Caterpillars. They’re a popular snack in Burkina, sold by roaming vendors who carry them in buckets or bowls on their heads. Crunchy and burnt, these insects look awesome hanging from your mouth for a photo to send back home.

2. Fewer tourists mean less hassle. Compared with its neighbors, Burkina attracts few tourists. Perhaps partly for that reason, Burkinabés are friendly but not aggressive, and rarely hassle foreigners to buy whatever they’re hawking. Even though this country isn’t as well known with Europeans and Americans as Mali and Ghana, there’s still plenty of affordable accommodation.

3. Motos make for a cheap thrill. Motorcycles are the primary means of getting around in Burkina, which is a perfect excuse to rent one and zip around the city. If you’re afraid to drive a two-wheeler, hail a moto-taxi.

Locating Burkina Faso on a map of Africa.

4. Tourists and volunteers boost an impoverished population. Burkina ranks as one of the least developed countries in the world. Since fewer international non-profit organizations are on the ground there than in neighboring countries, it may take some digging to find volunteer opportunities. But once you do, you know you’re helping a needy population.

5. Buses beat bush taxis. Burkina’s two biggest cities, Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, are connected with a beautifully paved road, one of the nicest you’ll see in West Africa. Riding the Greyhound-like bus, which boasts tickets and a full seat for each passenger, is luxurious compared with the bush taxi transport that’s popular throughout most of the West Africa.

6. Ouagadougou. Nowhere will you find a capital city with a more euphonious name than Ouagadougou (pronounced WA-ga-DOO-goo). It’s almost as good as saying you’ve been to Timbuktu. And to make it easy on you, locals and visitors shorten the name to Ouaga.

Which countries would you like to visit in Africa? If you’ve already explored the continent, which countries would you recommend?

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