From the loud laughter of traffic-choked Lagos to the green-fringed villages that line rivers and streams, Nigeria is one of the most exciting places to visit in Africa.
Once known only for oil and chaos, the country is changing rapidly. It has a rising middle class, a dynamic arts scene and more miles of golden sand than you can shake a bucket and spade at. Its national parks are home to some of the last remaining endangered species in West Africa, while its mountains offer a cooler climate and spectacular views of the most populous country in Africa.
Those 177 million people are as diverse as the nation itself; in the north, you'll see men in colourful Muslim dress lining prayer mats on Fridays, while their southern counterparts play checkers before church. The cuisine too is varied; there are hot and spicy dishes, fresh fish and meat, fast food and imported fare.
But Nigeria's greatest asset – its wealth of native races and religions, its vibrant population – have also proven its downfall on countless explosive occasions, and military overthrows, coups and assassinations have been numerous. The situation is particularly fraught in northern Nigeria, which is home to the jihadist group, Boko Haram (meaning “Western education is forbidden”).
For all its domestic difficulties, Nigeria remains a major regional power and lays claim to the biggest economy in Africa – if you want to feel the excitement of an emerging country, this land will blow you away.
It’s full of surprises, too. Visitors can find themselves dancing the night away at a Nigerian wedding party, sipping champagne with supermodels, haggling for art in Lagos’ hipster district, Yabi, and swimming beneath cascading waterfalls in the mountains.
Though Nigeria is a loud and brash destination, it also has a quieter, more reflective side that deserves to be seen. In fact it has so many faces that at times it feels more like a continent than a country.