More than 1.3 million people live, work and play in the capital city of Niamey, making it the veritable human heart of Niger.
The city straddles the courses of the Niger River in the south-west, and bustles with fantastic open air markets, and a surprisingly heady nightlife scene after dark (check out the beer joints around Yantala Ancien – and remember the strict drinking laws as you do!). International eateries touting pizzas and pastas mix with the spicy creations of the African kitchen too, while the bulbous blue domes of the Grand Mosque are simply not to be missed!
Boasting nearly 1,000 years of history and steeped in tales of Sahelian camel caravans, the Ottomans (believe it or not!), and the old Songhai imperialists, enthralling Agadez certainly has a story to tell.
The town is found smack bang in the heart of the country as a whole, surrounded by the sun-scorched dunes of the Sahara Desert and the endless yellow of the sand sea.
It’s formed from a grid of narrow streets and adobe, mud-brick homes.
The centerpiece has to be the earthen minaret of the central mosque, which mimics the great landmarks of the desert towns of Mali to the west.
4. W National Park
Unquestionably the most famous national park in all of Niger, the W National Park has also attained that coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site tag, which it was awarded on account of its unique display of transition habitats between the savannah and the West African woods.
Just one fragment of the huge W Transborder Park that crosses into Burkina Faso and Benin, it’s made up primarily of dusty bushland.
And the animals? Well, suffice to say you should get the camera ready for a medley of baboons and African buffalo, giraffes, leopards, lions and more!
After just three hours on the rumbling dust roads from the capital you could find yourself alighting in the charming river town of Ayorou, one of the top draws of Southwestern Niger.
Known for the surrounding riparian habitats that encompass the settlement, Ayorou itself sits on its very own island, where the mosque and marketplaces both make their home too.
In fact, the bazaar is a great place to start your travels here, searching through the curious folk remedies and sampling simple Sahel street food, all before breaking out to see the hippos splashing and lazing in the muddy waters nearby.
6. Abaaba National Park
Established back in 1987 for the sole purpose of protecting the endangered animals that make this territory their home, the Abaaba National Park has remained firmly off the radar for nature-loving travelers making their way through this land on the join of the Sahel and Sahara.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the trip though.
There are forests of low-lying acacia trees and semi-savannah plains aplenty, all crisscrossed by herds of bucks and elephants.
The territory is also important on the conservation front, as one of the last remaining habitats of the uber-rare black rhino.
The gateway to the aforementioned Abaaba National Park and the easternmost settlement in the whole of Niger, the town of Nguigmi buts up the banks of cross-border Lake Chad with its humble air strip and pretty city mosque.
The whole place oozes the character you’d expect of a far-flung desert town, with camel caravans coming and going every day of the year.
The small settlement is also home to the tribal groups of the Kanuri people, the Daza and the Wodaabe-Fulani – many of whom are some of the few remaining examples of Niger’s fascinating pastoral communities.