With year-round sunshine and warm weather, easy access from Europe by plane and lots of unspoilt nature to explore, Sierra Leone is a wonderful destination for a winter break – and we haven’t even started talking about the beaches! However, Sierra Leone is not the kind of place where you can decide what to do day by day. You’ll get a lot more out of your trip if you do at least a little planning – especially if your idea is to get out of Freetown. This Sierra Leone itinerary is perfect for first timers, as it includes a selection of everything the country is famous for – the buzz of Freetown, scenic beaches, history and wildlife. Enough time to scratch the surface of this fascinating, diverse country, and to get back to your home country longing for more. Let’s have a look at the ideal 1-week Sierra Leone itinerary.
Day 1 – Arrive in Freetown
Depending on what time your flight gets to Freetown, your first day in Sierra Leone should be spent making your way into town from the airport, relaxing and settling in. The transfer from Lungi Airport is definitely one the most spectacular in the world – the airport is located on the opposite side of the bay compared to Freetown, so you’ll reach the city with a scenic boat ride.
Day 2 – Freetown
Today will all be dedicated to discovering Freetown. Depending on your interests, you can plan to visit one or more of Freetown’s museums, such as the National Railway Museum dedicated to the country’s former railway lines, or the Sierra Leone National Museum with exhibits about Sierra Leonean history and culture.
Other historic sights to check out in Freetown include the ruins of Fourah Bay College, the first university to open in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Old Wharf Steps, built by the Portuguese in 1818, making them the oldest landmark in the city.
Make sure you also head to the famous Cotton Tree, a huge tree that actually predates Freetown, and the Big Market, where you can pick up a range of handicrafts to take home as souvenirs.
Day 3 – Tacugama
Chimpanzees are Sierra Leone’s national animal, and no visit to the country is complete without seeing them. They are very hard to spot in the wild, so the easiest way to get to know them is a visit to Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in the mountains just outside Freetown.
The sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing chimpanzees from the pet or bushmeat trade, rehabilitating them, and reintroducing them into the wild. We recommend dedicating a full day to a visit to Tacugama, and spending the night – there is accommodation on offer in charming treehouses surrounded by rainforest.
Day 4 – Freetown Peninsula Beaches
Another must-visit in Sierra Leone are the beaches of the Freetown Peninsula, conveniently located within driving distance from the capital. There are several beaches to choose from, each offering different experiences and things to do – for instance, Bureh is ideal for surfing, whereas Sussex should be your choice if you want to go diving. Two beaches that could easily be combined in a single visit are River No. 2 and Tokeh. The former is located near a lagoon created by a river, offering easy swimming conditions for beginners, and it is managed by the local community – so you’ll be giving back with your visit.
Tokeh is home to The Place, the most exclusive beach resort in the country, and an excellent seafood restaurant. If you want a secluded getaway, we recommend spending the night.
Day 5 – Tiwai Island
With one week in Sierra Leone you have enough time to include a visit to one of the country’s national parks. One of the easiest to get to from Freetown is Tiwai Island, a wildlife reserve in the southern part of the country.
To get there, it’s necessary to drive to Bo, the second-largest town in the country, continue along an unsealed road, and then take a quick boat trip to reach the island on the Moa River. If you leave in the morning, you’ll reach Tiwai Island in the afternoon, giving you enough time for a walking tour through the rainforest, or even a sunset boat tour. Tiwai Island is home to several primate species, including the rare red colobus monkey, and to the elusive pygmy hippo.
Day 6 – Tiwai Island
Spending the night at Tiwai Island, surrounded by the sounds of the forest, is truly an unforgettable experience. Before starting your journey back to Freetown, you should have time for a sunrise hike through the forest, to see birds and other wildlife species you may have missed the previous day.
Day 7 – Bunce Island and Departure
Flights out from Lungi airport are usually in the evening, so you should be able to fit in a visit to Bunce Island, a historic site and center of the slave trade in the area for over 100 years.
The island houses the fort where tens of thousands of enslaved people were kept captive before starting the journey across the Atlantic. The buildings are now in ruins but there’s plenty of old relics, canons and hidden dungeons to explore. The island’s maintenance has improved considerably in recent years and a new jetty has been built. To see Bunce Island, you’ll have to go with a guide – so make sure you book your visit ahead of time. Visiting Sierra Leone has never been easier, with visa on arrival being available to most nationalities. Easy access to Europe, mild weather through the year and stunning crowd-free beaches to enjoy, makes Sierra Leone an ideal getaway. So, if you are excited about visiting Sierra Leone here’s all the information you need to plan your trip.