The capital, Conakry, is located on the island of Tumbo and connected to the Kaloum Peninsula by a 300m- (984ft-) long pier. The city is well laid out, its alleys shaded by mangrove and coconut palm trees. Guinea has a strong music tradition and Conakry, in particular, is a dynamic centre for music. The singing of the Kindia people is especially renowned.
In 1958, when it declared independence from France and voted in a staunchly socialist one-party government, Guinea became an isolated and secretive country. However, after the death of the dictator Sekou Touré in 1984, Guinea began, slowly, to allow tourists through its once stubbornly closed doors. Even so, it is still one of the least visited countries in Africa and it can be difficult, despite declarations to the contrary, to acquire visas.
Things to see and do
The capital, Conakry, is located on the island of Tumbo and is connected to the Kaloum Peninsula by a 300m (984ft) pier. The city is noted for its botanical gardens. The Cathedral, built in the 1930s and located in the town centre, is well worth viewing. There is also a National Museum (Musée National), with a collection of masks, statues and musical instruments. The Palais du Peuple is a large, Chinese-built auditorium that is home to two national ballet troupes. Plenty of restaurants line the main north-south street, the Autoroute (Route du Niger).
If Guinea has a 'party town', it is probably going to be Faranah. When the sun sets, this town buzzes with people frequenting the area's cafes and restaurants. Its great mosque, villas, wine boulevards and markets make this an interesting stop along the source of the Niger. Indeed, the source of the Niger is an interesting excursion. The river flows from Foroknia north to Bamako. The whole area is privy to many sacred peoples but the area is quite a sensitive one and local guides should be hired.
Known as the land of waters, fruit, faith and freedom, the Fouta Djalon highlands are renowned for their picturesque hills, offering superb views and ideal for hiking. Mamou is a good nearby town, which also has some good facilities, and excellent street food. In the eastern region of Guinea lie many historical towns with echoes and remnants of medieval empires.
Along a road following the Nimba Range, which stretches from Guinea to the Côte d'Ivoire, small groups of round houses nestle in traditional African villages. In the south is the Guinée Forestière, a highland area of rainforest and old pre-Islamic tribes.
The Kakimbon Caves in the village of Ratoma, now a suburb of Conakry, are the source of many interesting legends and are bestowed with great religious significance by the local Baga people. The Îles de Los, off the Kaloum Peninsula some 10km (6 miles) southwest of Conakry, are recommended as a tourist destination and are easily accessible from Conakry. Good beaches can also be found at the Île de Roume and Île de Kassa, the latter being accessible via a public boat service.
The town of Katikan is interesting for its open air markets and Great Mosque, along with the Presidential Palace. A medium-length excursion from Conakry is the town of Kindia, renowned for its quality of cloth and weaving - an indigo dyeing centre and a cloth market grace the centre.
Le Voile de la Mariée
Approximately 150km (93 miles) outside Conakry is the picturesque Le Voile de la Mariée, nestled at the bottom of a 70m- (230ft-) high rock from which the River Sabende plunges, amidst lush vegetation, into a deep pond. In Pita, located between Dalaba and Labé, the Kinkon Falls can be found which produce 150m (492ft) of cascading water.
There are no national parks in Guinea, but wildlife can be best seen in the northeast savannahs between the Tinkisso River and the Mali border, in the foothills of the Fouta Djalon highlands and in the southeast.