Warning: if you want to venture to Angola, make sure you check how safe it is before going. There are landmines throughout the countryside, therefore travelers are advised to stay in the capital of Luanda unless otherwise advised.
Located in south central Africa with its west coast on the Atlantic Ocean, Angola was ruled by Portugal for over four hundred years. After gaining its independence in 1975, a bloody civil war broke out which didn't end until 2002. Even though Angola is the second-biggest diamond and petroleum producer in sub-Saharan Africa, its infant mortality rate and its life expectancy rate are very close to the worst ranked in the world. The people are mostly Bantu, which is a blended with Portuguese culture. Among the many ethnic groups with their own traditions and languages are Mbundu, Chokwe, Ovimbundu and Bakongo.
Angola might shock you. Torn apart by years of war and untouched by foreign travelers for forty years, Angola is truly remote. Few have been allowed to see the geographic splendor of this land nor the cultural wealth hidden deep within the violent exterior. But now, with the ending of the forty-year conflict (a peace treaty was signed in 2006), a new period of stability and peace is taking hold, allowing after all this time for exploration and discovery of this mysterious country.
Despite the staggering level of corruption, the dire poverty, and the barely-there infrastructure (although it's getting better by the day), the country has much to offer. The people are lovely, gracious and welcoming if they see you're interested in them, and the untouched wildlife parks are unmatched in their level of pristine remoteness.
The city of Luanda provides striking contrasts. Lying on the Atlantic coast, the sun-bathed balmy seaside setting is magnificent, yet further back into the city are the townships (bairros), the shantytown shacks sprawling out of control. The city is built for half a million people, yet its population has now reached three and a half million and shows now signs of slowing down. The overpopulation problem is evident at all turns, in the stench of sewage, the crazy gridlocked traffic jams, and the frequent power outages throughout the day. Despite all this, the city somehow still keeps a sense of excitement about it.
If you make your way just half an hour south of Luanda, you'll think you've landed on the moon. Literally. Miradouro da Lua (Valley of the Moon) is reminiscent of Utah's Bryce Canyon with its red rocked geological spires stabbing into the blue of the sky. Coming upon the valley is truly a heady experience, especially after experiencing the urban confusion of the city just thirty miles to the north.