Tourism is one of the most important revenue earners for any country and an influential soft power tool in politics. Tourist destinations not only showcase natural beauty and magnificence, they also tell momentous historical stories and promote the local culture of the host community to their visitors. By attracting people, tourist destinations earn money and contribute significantly to their local economies.
Nigeria has numerous destinations that attract people due to their historical significance, cultural value, political significance and nature, and their facilitation of leisure, amusement, and hospitality activities. With restrictions now being lifted following the reduction in COVID-19 cases, Nigerians can tour more scintillating tourist attractions within the country instead of making the big money budget move for Europe, the Americas or Asia.
This piece, therefore, takes a look at the top 10 tourist destinations in Nigeria.
Obudu Cattle Ranch/Obudu Mountain Resort (Cross River State)
Located on the Obudu Plateau, this lush green and alluring environment is a spectacular attraction to tourists. The Obudu Mountain Resort is located in the highlands and deep tropical forests of Cross River State. It has temperate climate weather and is about 45 miles from the border with Cameroon. This resort was developed n 1951 by M. McCaughey, a Scottish national.
It has rich natural vegetation and provides tourists with a picturesque view of the numerous pleasant and beautiful mountain-area and the countryside. Sites available to visit at the resort include the waterfalls, a nature resort, a Gorilla camp, scenic grassland, a natural pool and walking trails. Its idyllic tranquillity and clement weather of about 7°-20°C annually ensures that it is a great place for visitors to spend their holiday or get away from the tedious city life.
Mambilla Plateau (Taraba State)
The Mambilla Plateau is located in Taraba State, and it covers an area of over 9,389 square kilometres. It is not far off from the border with Cameroon, as the plateau is Nigeria’s northern continuation of the Bamenda Highlands, located in the neighbouring country.
It stands about 1,830 meters above sea level, making it the highest plateau in Nigeria. The Chappal Waddi, locally called Gangirwali, is situated in the Gashaka-Gumti National Park on the Mambilla Plateau and is the highest mountain in Nigeria and West Africa. It is 7,936 feet above sea level, making it a mountain adventurer’s dream.
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The Mambilla Plateau is hilly with deep gorges, and visitors are constantly passing from one panoramic view to the other on the windy road. The lush green plateau is filled with many waterfalls, eucalyptus forests, lots of scenic rock formations with some exotic cliffs, and lakes. Also, plants such as apples, pears, strawberries, tea, Irish potatoes, and Arabica coffee that are exotic grow well on this plateau. Its temperate weather also complements the beauty of the surroundings.
Nigeria’s largest game reserve, the Gashaka-Gumti Game Reserve/Gashaka-Gumti National Park, is located north of Chappal Waddi on the northern border of the Mambilla Plateau.
Ogbunike Caves (Anambra State)
Looking for a change of scenery for relaxation and contemplation, look no further than the Ogbunike Caves. They are situated in a valley with tropical rain forest behind the “Ogba” hills in Ogbunike in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State. It is said that the Ogbunike caves were discovered by a man named Ukwa, from the Umucheke family of Ifite-Ogbunike, about 4000 years ago. According to legend, the caves were created by a deity, Ogba, who they believe lives within.
The caves are sprinkled with streams, rivers and small lakes. A visitor will have to go through a lengthy walkway of about 317 steps to get to the caves. Upon getting to the end of the walkway, visitors are, by tradition, required to remove their shoes due to their revered historical and spiritual significance.
The main cave consists of a massive structure with a big open chamber of about five meters high, 10 meters wide and 30 meters long at the entrance. There are 10 tunnels in the main chamber leading in different directions. Within the tunnels are big chambers and other tunnels of varying lengths, some interconnected.
It is populated by a large colony of tameless bats of various sizes that seem to stand as guardians of the structure. Also among the animals in the location are deers, antelopes, grasscutters, porcupines, rabbits, alligators, snakes and frogs. Others are fish, crabs and birds. The caves have been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) tentative list to be considered a World Heritage Site.
Yankari Games Reserve (Bauchi State)
Nigerians and foreigners can explore the vibrant & breathtaking scenery of Yankari Games Reserve, Nigeria’s largest game reserve. It is located in Bauchi State and covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres.
Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Its topography is composed of savannah grassland with well-developed patches of woodland. It is also a region of rolling hills, mostly between 200m and 400m. Kariyo Hill is the highest point at 640m.
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Also, the reserve is home to several natural warm water springs, 59 marshall caves, 130 wells, as well as a wide variety of flora and animals. Importantly, it houses the largest surviving elephant population in Nigeria. It is also the home of the critically endangered West African lions (one of only four known populations that still survive) as well as buffalo, hippopotamus, roan and hartebeest.
Idanre Hill (Ondo State)
Idanre Hill is a beautiful hill in Idanre, Ondo State, with 682 steps for any visitor to climb before reaching its peak. While climbing the hill to its peak, visitors will find five huts or resting points. The hill is renowned for its landscape as it is dome-shaped, steep-sided and smooth on the surface.
Locally known as Oke Idandre, its attraction are a wide variety of cultural and political significance. Upon reaching the peak, visitors have a unique view of a community which used to be the settlement region for the ancient people of Idanre. Visible from the hill’s peak is the Iraye tree, ‘Owa’s Palace’, The Old Court, shrines, Belfry, Agbooogun footprint, thunder water (Omi Apaara) and burial grounds. Another spectacular sight is the view of St Paul’s Primary School, the first school in Idanre.
In terms of wildlife, the Amietophrynus Perretti (Sclerophrys perreti) or the Perret’s toad is endemic to the Idanre Hill. It is on the UNESCO tentative list to be considered a World Heritage Site.
Kajuru Castle (Kaduna State)
Dreaming of living in and being serenaded by royalty, then Kajuru Castle is the destination to fulfil such fantasy. The building is named after the town in which it is situated. It was built as a luxury villa in the 1980s by Gerhard Huebner, a German resident in Kaduna, in the 1970s. It, however, only came to the consciousness of tourists by the 2010s.
The castle is described as an African version of the Bavarian Castle due to its similarities with other medieval structures of the 19th-century. It was built with a one-meter thick granite stone in a fanciful medieval-inspired Romanesque style and is adorned with turrets, an armoury, and a dungeon, and its towers are lined with crenellated walls.
Visitors can also see the castle’s baronial styled hall, the big “knight’s hall”, the landlord’s (masters) residence and several other rooms over its three floors. There is also a rooftop room for couples, where they flenjo.
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Olumo Rock (Ogun State)
This popular tourist attraction is located in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. Also known as the fortress of Abeokuta, Olumo Rock is the city’s name and can be translated as underneath the rock. The rock was used by the early settlers of Abeokuta and the Egba people of the 19th century as a hiding place against their enemies.
It has a height of 137 metres above sea level. Visitors can, on their visit, see natural tunnels, unusual trees, natural cantilevers, gardens on the rocks, and monuments of various ancient religious symbols. They can also catch sights of carvings on the rock, cowrie-studded statues and the ancient abode of the priestesses of the mountain deity who live in huts on the rock.
New renovations completed in early 2006 upgraded the site’s infrastructure to include a new museum, restaurants, water fountain and the ancient Itoku market.
Osun Sacred Grove (Osun State)
The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a sacred grove along the banks of the Osun River, just outside the city of Osogbo, the Osun State capital. Its tourism importance and religious significance cannot be understated as it is one of Nigeria’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It covers 75 hectares of land, and it is a spiritual, cultural and historical enclave of shrines, stone sculptures and wood carvings in honour of the Yoruba deities, especially the goddess Osun, who is described as the goddess of fertility. The surrounding forest has around 400 different plant species that are mainly utilised for medicinal purposes.
This place hosts the Osun worshippers, locals and tourists during the annual Osun-Osogbo Festival, which is held every August.
Ikogosi Warm Springs (Ekiti State)
A natural and spectacular phenomenon, those are the apt words to describe the Ikogosi Warm Springs. This tourist attraction in the town of Ikogosi, Ekiti State, is renowned for the presence of a warm spring and cold spring. Both springs meet a confluence, yet they maintain their thermal properties of being hot and cold and never mix. According to research, the warm spring has a temperature of about 70oC at the source and 37oC at the confluence. It is the only spring with such characteristics known globally.
The rich green scenery and its fine topography aptly qualify this spring to be termed as one of the wonders of the world. A resort has been built near the spring to help accommodate visitors and for them to soak in the experience of this stupendous place.
Lekki Conservation Centre (Lagos State)
The Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC), situated in the Lekki area of Lagos, is one of the best nature reserves in Nigeria. This conservation and relaxation centre offers a breath of fresh air and an escape from the forever buzzing city of Lagos. It covers an area of 78 hectares, and it is generally regarded as an icon of nature conservation.
The LCC presents to visitors the preservation of unique biodiversity and the scenic, natural, and scientific recreational values of the coastal environs of western Nigeria. It is filled with animals such as monkeys and crocodiles, which move around in their natural habitat while gesturing to visitors. Birds and a range of snakes and lizards are also found here.
Its lush green environment, tree-top views, the swamp landscape, and the iconic canopy walkway (the longest in Africa) mesmerises visitors and catapults them to another level.