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Exploring Somaliland: A Hidden Gem for Adventurous Travelers, off the Beaten Path

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

A winding road in a mountainous desert landscape in Somaliland
A mesmerizing landscape of arid peaks and endless horizons

Welcome to Somaliland: a captivating destination, brimming with untapped potential and cultural wonders. A hidden gem in the horn of Africa that beckons adventure-seekers looking for extraordinary experiences, in a land of rich history and untouched beauty; a remarkable place that often goes unheard of by travelers.

Wow! This sounds amazing. Why haven’t I heard of it before?

Somaliland border on the world map
Somaliland, located in the horn of East Africa

Somaliland is a self-declared de-facto state located geographically within the borders of Somalia. Picture visiting a country that’s not technically a country!

The Republic of Somaliland remains unrecognized internationally and thus offers its visitors a unique and authentic experience.

Nestled in the horn of East Africa, Somaliland shares a border with Djibouti to the northwest, Ethiopia to the west, and Somalia to the east and south.

Is it safe?

While Somalia's overall security situation remains challenging, Somaliland has managed to establish a stable environment within its borders, with its own regional government and security forces dedicated to maintaining peace. Although risks may not be entirely out of the picture, travelers who follow guidance and exercise common sense will find themselves welcomed to explore this fascinating region.

Join Crazy Puffin on this virtual tour to discover the wonders of Somaliland in the following article, as we highlight some of the top attractions and activities that make this destination a true hidden gem.

The Capital

In 1991, Somaliland declared its independence and has since operated with its own government, political institutions, security forces, and their very own capital city – Hargeisa.

This is where your adventure begins. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the capital’s bustling street markets, filled with bright textiles, aromatic spices, local handicrafts, and unique artwork. Marvel at the Ottoman-inspired architecture, reflecting their colorful history.

A vibrant market scene in Somaliland's capital
A kaleidoscope of colors and energy at Hargeisa's markets

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the bustling Livestock Market – one of the largest and busiest in the region, trading camels, cattle, goats, and sheep.

With livestock playing a vital role in Somaliland’s economy, the Hargeisa Livestock Market serves as a central hub and attracts buyers and sellers from various parts of the country, as well as from neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The animals brought to the market are often sourced from rural areas and nomadic communities, where livestock rearing is a traditional and important livelihood.

A group of goats waiting to be sold at a market
A herd of goats patiently waiting to be sold

Another fascinating experience whilst in the capital is to visit the Money Market. Exactly what the name suggests – this is an area in the city center with money exchange stalls featuring stacks upon stacks of the local currency, Somaliland Shillings.

Each stack is worth a few U.S. dollars due to the currency’s poor value.

A man seated with stacks of cash notes, showing the poor value of the Somaliland Shilling
A man sitting beside a stack of cash notes, highlighting the depreciation of the Somaliland shilling

Ancient Cave Art of Laas Geel

Next, we head to discover the Rock Art of Laas Geel. Uncovered in 2002 by French explorers, these stunning Neolithic cave paintings were created in ancient times, dating back at least 5,000 years.

The caves can be found 55 kilometers (34 miles) northeast of Hargeisa, on a granite outcrop that can be seen ascending from a plateau at an altitude of 950 meters (about 3116.8 ft) above sea level.

“Laas Geel” translates into “the camel’s well” in Somali, referencing the availability of water nearby on account of seasonal rivers running through these badlands in the past. The art describes nomadic life, depicting the shapes of humans and animals.

The paintings are said to be among the oldest and most well-preserved in Africa, retaining their clear outlines and vibrant colors.

drawings of animals on the cave walls
Ancient cave art in Laas Geel, Somaliland – A captivating glimpse into prehistoric art and cultural heritage

Unwind on Berbera's Pristine Coast

Berbera overlooks the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Aden. This bustling port city served as the capital of British Somaliland from 1884 to 1941. It also served as a major port during the 13th to 19th centuries due to its ideal location in the Gulf.

Take a boat tour, scuba-dive, or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters to discover vibrant coral reefs and sea life, or simply lounge on Berbera’s golden sandy beaches under the African sun.

A deserted beach landscape with a boat in the ocean, blue skies and vibrant blue waters, and golden sand
Serene golden beach in Berbera, Somalia – Tranquil beauty along the shores of the Gulf of Aden

Visit Somaliland: Experience the warm and welcoming hospitality of locals, eager to share their stories and traditions in this hidden corner of the world – a true “off the beaten track” experience. Somaliland is certainly one for the more seasoned travelers seeking new and unique experiences away from generic tourist attractions.


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