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Sierra Leone travel guide

About Sierra Leone

Like one of its rough diamonds, Sierra Leone is a destination of exquisite natural beauty. But despite its lush rainforests, palm-fringed beaches, fascinating history and vibrant culture, the country remains largely unexplored and undiscovered.

It’s hard to believe now, but Sierra Leone once attracted some 100,000 tourists a year. They were drawn to the country’s white sandy beaches, azure waters and swaying palms, until the horrors of civil war ravaged the country and knocked it off the tourism map.

Suffice to say Sierra Leone remains somewhat overshadowed by this bitter and bloody conflict, which raged between 1991 and 2002. Dramatised in the 2006 film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the war is still one of the first things most people think about when Sierra Leone is mentioned.

Happily, this negative reputation is gradually receding and a new picture is emerging. Pioneering travellers are also trickling back to this corner of West Africa to rediscover the country’s many charms.

In some ways, nothing has changed. Known locally as ‘Sweet Salone’, Sierra Leone remains one of the friendliest countries on the continent. The smiling people and relaxed vibe are characteristic of this small nation. Wherever you go, and whomever you meet, you’ll be greeted as though you are part of the family.

Another thing you will notice in Sierra Leone is the abundance of wildlife. From hippos, forest elephants and chimpanzees, to bountiful birds and exotic insects, Salone is a dream ticket for nature enthusiasts. Pack your binoculars.

It’s also paradise for sun-seekers. In fact, Sierra Leone’s gorgeous sandy beaches are considered by many to be the best in West Africa. Combine this with the country’s off-the-beaten track feel, welcoming people, and awe-inspiring scenery, and it’s easy to see why ‘Sweet Salone’ is being vaunted as an up-and-coming destination for adventurous travellers.

Key facts

Area:

71,740 sq km (27,699 sq miles).

Population:

7,929,199 (UN estimate 2020).

Population density:

106 per sq km.

Capital:

Freetown.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Julius Maada Bio since 2018.

Head of government:

President Julius Maada Bio since 2018.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

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