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Angola's capital Luanda is a lively, gritty city where construction cranes and luxury cars abound, while the shanty towns at the city's periphery grow larger every week. It is the country's main seaport, its administrative and residential centre, and it is home to a surprisingly well connected airport, offering direct flights to many major international destinations.
Luanda tourist infrastructure remains underdeveloped however, and is mostly visited by businesspeople and expat workers who shuttle between their project sites and five star hotels. This is a pity, as it is certainly not short of exciting sightseeing opportunities. Founded by Portuguese colonists in 1575, Luanda became an important seaport and export base for both minerals and foodstuffs, and infamously for the slaves who were sent in their hundreds of thousands to the Portuguese colonies in Brazil. Many of these slaves spent their last night in the distinctive Fortaleza de São Miguel, dating from 1576. This structure was the colonial heart of the old city, a well defended citadel that was home to the Portuguese garrison and its merchants.
The nearby National Museum of Slavery houses artefacts and images from this terrible time. There are also beautiful, ancient churches and interesting museums to spend time in; a welcomed respite from encounters with the city's grim history of slavery. Luanda also has a number of good restaurants and cafés on offer, and sun-worshippers should visit the best beach in town, Mussulo, which can be accessed by boat from the main harbour. Also, don't miss a shopping trip to Benfica market where everything from Tupperware to good quality African crafts is sold in a vibrant, cacophonic and richly scented environment that only an African city can provide.
Luanda has a mildly tropical climate with little variation in temperature throughout the year. Summer (October to May) averages 77°F (25°C), and is Angola's rainy season; the heavy rains can make roads impassable and conditions decidedly uncomfortable. Some popular tourist attractions close for the rainy season. Winter (June to September) is slightly cooler and much drier, with temperature averages between 65°F (18°C) and 72°F (22°C), and is considered tourist season.
Public transport in Luanda is limited and the best means of getting around the city is by private car. Car hire is available from the airport; it's possible to also hire a car with a driver, which is a safer option than trying to navigate the city's chaotic streets alone. Minibus taxis (Candongueiros), recognised by their pale blue and white colouring, are the most popular means of transport for the local population; they generally offer a safe and fast means of transport around Luanda. Buses and trains are also available, but are not the most reliable transport in the city and are not recommended.
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