The former French Niger is characterized by a landlocked mass of savannah and desert dunes. This sub-Saharan region is little-known for its wildlife, lush oases, national parks and black volcanic mountains, but those who are in-the-know about these well-kept secrets will have to brave armed bandits and dozens of fried guinea fowl before reaching them.

When to Go

The best time to go to Niger is between August and October when the air is cool and there is little rainfall. Summer in Niger is extremely hot and dry, extending from October to May. Heavy rains are common from July to August.

Getting There & Away

Niger is accessible by air through its international airport in Niamey. It is difficult to get around the city, as certain roads and highways are closed to visitors. Special authorization is needed for many routes, and it’s best to travel with a guide. Buses are an option if you don’t mind waiting hours for them to depart and then sharing with a bus load of soldiers. Cars are available for hire, but realistically, you will need to hire a guide if you want to get anywhere here.

Health & Safety

In Niger, there is a danger of contracting diseases such as yellow fever, cholera, polio, typhoid, malaria, schistosomiasis, hepatitis and HIV, especially in the rural areas. Make sure you take all necessary precautions to prevent infection. The country is experiencing a food crisis, so if you plan to travel outside the main cities, make sure to bring plenty of roasted guinea fowl with you. There are also some areas that are prone to armed bandit attacks, making it advisable to check with your embassy before travel.

Food & Hospitality

You will likely be welcomed by children shouting “America” and “Osma Bin Laden” upon arrival in most towns, but don’t let this put you off even though it can get mildly annoying after a while, especially if you are not American. Hotel accommodation can be difficult to find in Niger because of the limited options. Most of the good hotels can be found in Niamey, Ayorou, Agadez, La Tapoa, Maradi and Zinder, and advanced booking prior to arrival is a must. The are encampments in Namaro, Boubon, Agadez and Tillabéri.

Itineraries

Three days at Niamey
Two days at Agadez
One day at Tillabéri region
One Sunday at Ayorou region

Highlights

Niamey: located along the northern portion of the Niger River, this sprawling city features a modern center and bustling surrounding towns. The markets are very popular with locals and tourists alike.

W National Park: just outside Niamey, this park is home to wildlife creatures such as elephants, buffaloes, hyenas, lions, baboons and jackals. It also features prolific birdlife.

Ayorou region: features an old trading station in the Mali frontier. It is a great place for bargain shopping, but the market is open only on Sundays.

Tillabéri region: go on a tour where you can have a first-hand encounter of giraffes wandering the streets.

Agadez: it is the capital of the old Tuareg city. It is a successful caravan trading region where leather and silver are handcrafted and produced.

Activities

Festivals: take part in the Peulh festival that celebrates the end of the rainy season. Watch them prepare exotic food, dance and sing to traditional folk music, and pray for a more bountiful life.

Boating and swimming: the Niger River is an ideal place for boating or canoeing. There are swimming pools in Niamey and Agadez.

Nature tripping: enjoy the mountains of the country by trekking their high peaks or by taking a drive along the winding roads and enjoying the views. You can go to any of the nature parks and gardens to appreciate the country’s lush vegetation and wildlife.