Liberia travel guide
Liberia’s unique origins make for a history as diverting as its natural beauty. In the 1820s, bands of freed blacks left plantation era America for West Africa, where they founded settlements that would later become the independent state of Liberia. In so doing, they created divisions between settler and native populations that would lay the foundations for the civil wars which tore through the country from 1989 until the early 2000s. Combined with the 2014 Ebola crisis, these conflicts put off all but the most intrepid of visitors.
Liberia’s petite frame bristles with rainforest, beaches, and dishevelled colonial buildings, whose walls tell the tale of freed slaves forging a brave new West African world.
Lately, however, things are looking up. At peace for over a decade, and now Ebola free, Liberia is more than ready to welcome tourists. And while its small contingent of beach resorts and eco lodges are largely full of expats and Liberian returnees, adventurous travellers are also starting to feel the pull. They’re arriving – albeit in a trickle - to discover fascinating colonial relics, an empty golden coastline, little-visited rainforests and energetic cities full of music and optimism. Find out more in our Liberia travel guide.
full of history and natural beauty
an Ebola ravaged basket case
Our Liberia Holidays
Liberia map & highlights
Liberia is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast, with a long golden coastline that unravels into the Atlantic Ocean. Geographically it is beautiful and diverse, with landscapes ranging from sandy coastal plains and mangroves in the south, to plateau and lush rainforest in the centre, and the rolling hills of the north, capped off by 1,440m high Mount Wuteve, the highest peak. Flights land in the capital Monrovia, but there are no direct services from the UK, so you’ll need to transfer. Getting around isn’t straightforward. Other than a few main highways, roads outside urban centres tend to be poor and can be impassable in the rainy season; and while there are local buses and minibus taxis, they tend to be slow and unreliable. In this respect, you’re best off joining an organised tour.
1. Bassa Villages
Organised tours take you to explore the small villages of Liberia’s Bassa people, in the country’s central coastal region. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about their culture and daily life, including the traditional initiation ceremonies, during which women decorate their bodies with chalk. The Bassa are Liberia’s largest ethnic group, with over half a million people; it is believed they migrated here many centuries ago from Egypt.
2. Chimpanzee Island
This small archipelago close to Marshall City is home to a community of more than 60 chimpanzees that were once used for medical research, but now live a successful semi-wild existence. You can arrange to accompany local rangers to the island as they deliver food to the chimps. Just don’t get too close. These feisty creatures have been known to throw fruit!
Dating back to 1926, Firestone is the largest rubber plantation in the world, and a highly controversial one at that, leased from the government under a 99-year concession agreement. It has its own housing, schools, hospital, banks and even an 18-hole golf course – as well as a rubber processing plant, all of which can be visited on an organised tour.
4. Kpatawee Waterfall
An hour outside second city Gbarnga and covered by a dense canopy filled with vivid birds and butterflies, beautiful Kpatawee Waterfall and its natural pool have long been a sacred place for local people. As well as visiting the falls, you can take to the surrounding walking trails, which offer the chance to learn about local plants and their use in traditional medicine.
Despite strong associations with the country’s civil war, Liberia’s energetic capital has a great deal to recommend it. Fantastic bars and restaurants, windswept beaches that offer great surfing, and a fascinating and, at times, tragic history. The country’s National Museum and the impressive Masonic Temple of Liberia will give you a valuable insight into the country’s past.
After following deep red roads through the lush, jungly landscape of the Grand Cape Mount peninsula, you arrive at Robersport. An overgrown fishing village with a laidback vibe, it’s a popular hub for surfers, thanks to its warm waters, low key lodges and impressive breaks. History buffs can check out the giant cotton tree where freed American blacks reportedly sheltered after arriving on Liberian shores.
Our top Liberia Holiday
Lively markets, chimpanzees and the ghostly Bassa people
From £2299 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2021: 2 Dec
2022: 1 Dec
2021: 2 Dec
2022: 1 Dec
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More about Liberia
It's always warm in Liberia, but the best time to go to is the dry season of November to April, when the roads are passable, and the weather fine for both big city exploration and off-the-beaten track wildlife walks. Read on for more detail on the best time to visit.