This mysterious continent has historically been one of the least explored regions on earth. The tremendous Nubians and Egyptians dominated the world several millennia ago, but today Africa tells a very different story.

Many people believe the world’s largest continent is a dangerous, inaccessible place, but for adventurous travelers Africa has some exciting times to offer, boasting a wealth of culture, history and incredible nature. It is true that military dictatorships, genocide, famine and poverty have dominated the country’s contemporary history, but among the madness the intrepid traveler will find stories of success against all odds coupled with warm welcomes and big smiles.

From the majestic pyramids of Egypt to the wild animals of the Serengeti in South Africa, this continent would take many lifetimes to fully explore and understand. As far as scenery goes, it is hard to compete with Africa in terms of untouched wilderness. From its highest peak—Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, jutting 5,895m above sea level—to Lake Assal in Djibouti, whose surface lays 157m below sea level, it is possible to enjoy many worlds in just one continent.

The world’s longest river, the Nile, runs from Burundi to Egypt, covering over 4,000 miles, and the continent’s largest lake, Lake Victoria, spanning 43,000 square miles, contrast with the dryness of the massive Sahara Desert. Gold, copper and diamonds are all mined in Africa, which is surrounded by the Mediterranean in the north, the Red Sea in the northeast, the western Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The mostly flat Sahel is an area of grasslands which contains a number of isolated mountain ranges and plateaus.

The highest HIV and AIDS rates in the world are found in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 25 million people infected, and many more lives touched by the disease. That means that more than seven percent of adults are infected on the continent. There is also a danger of contracting a number of tropical diseases so vaccinations should be sought prior to travel.