If you’re looking to experience some of Africa’s centuries-old traditions, then Nigeria should be top of your list.
In the northern half of the country, indigenous architecture with elaborate motifs and emirates steeped in ancient history are a constant attraction for visitors; in the south, you can explore vibrant markets, caves, waterfalls and be part of a long list of festivals.
And if you’re all about contemporary culture, good news: Nigeria’s creative industry is at the height of its growth and global influence. Nollywood, the home-grown movie industry, has kept Africans entertained for decades, and Nigerian youthful artists are exporting Afrobeat sounds and performing to sold-out shows worldwide.
Nigeria has no high or low season – any time of the year is good to visit. However, you can experience Nigeria at its best in the second half of the year when the rainy season has reached its peak and the dry season is gradually easing in.
Explore the planet’s most surprising adventures with our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox. There are festivals throughout Nigerian in the months of August to October © Riccardo Mayer / Shutterstock
August to October is the best time for festivals
If you’re looking to enjoy Nigeria’s lively festivals, plan your trip to coincide with the start of the festival season in August, when communities mark the harvest of new crops and do so with a flourish. In Ugep, in the South South Cross River State, there’s the Leboku New Yam Festival. In the South Eastern States, the season climaxes with the grand Ofala Festival in Onitsha.
August is also when the Badagry Heritage Festival is held. This celebration of the culture and heritage of the Egun people also includes a memorial march for the millions lost to slavery through the Badagry port. The high point of this gathering is the fitila procession, during which participants attempt to recreate the painful march to the Point of no Return. In previous years, there have been naming ceremonies for Africans in the diaspora who attend.
The Osun-Osogbo festival, a two-week cultural fiesta in honor of the river goddess Osun, peaks with a grand procession in the third week of August. For decades it has drawn devotees from Europe, South America and the African diaspora. Outside of the festival, you can tour the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Up north, there are the elaborate Durbar festivals, the biggest usually staged during the Eid el Kabir celebrations. They are grand equestrian spectacles, a tradition that has been kept alive for at least a century.
November is the best time for the creative arts
In November, Nigeria is overflowing with events in the creative arts. From film and theater festivals to fashion and literary gatherings, Lagos is where most of them take place. It typically begins in mid-October with Felabration, a week of nightly concerts in honor of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, founder of the Afrobeats movement and one of the country’s most notable cultural exports. It’s followed almost immediately by the Muson Festival, which promotes the appreciation of classical music.
November kicks off with Art X Lagos, an international fair celebrating the creative geniuses of artists on the continent and in the diaspora; the month ends with Lagos Books and Arts Festival (LABAF), billed as the “biggest book party in Africa”. But if you’re around in the early months of the year, you can attend the Kaduna Arts and Books Festival (March) or the Jos Festival of Theatre (April), which has been running for two decades and pulls a crowd.
Of course, there’s plenty in-between: the Lagos Fashion Week, Lagos Poetry Festival, Design Week Lagos and Lagos Fringe Festival, all establishing the unrivaled status of Lagos as Nigeria’s creative hub. For comics and animation buffs, be sure to target the Lagos Comin Con and Renda Con (Animation & Visual Effects Film Festival).
Celebrate Detty December with concerts and celebrations throughout the country © ariyo olasunkanmi / Shutterstock
December is the best time for concerts and music
Nigerians love to wrap up their year with a bang. Everyone looks to the end of the year, not just to spend more time with family and friends but also to party hard. Nationwide, the hospitality industry is at its liveliest and busiest; and Lagos, the country’s entertainment and commercial capital, is at the center of the festivities known as “Detty December”.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the Afrobeats frenzy, then buy tickets to concerts scheduled throughout the month. The party peaks and ends with the One Lagos Fiesta, a state-sponsored concert hosted in the city’s five administrative regions. Down south, in Cross River State, the annual Calabar Carnival pulls participants from Nigeria and a couple of other countries, and is the highlight of a month-long series of events.
November to March are the best times for wildlife spotting
You can explore Nigeria’s rich eco-tourism assets best in the dry season, starting in November. But the top months are February and March when the dry and lean vegetation makes wildlife spotting easier. There are dozens of national and state parks to choose from, but the most popular with visitors are Yankari Game Reserve, Cross River National Park, Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and the Old Oyo National Park.
January to February is the best time for budget travelers
If Nigeria has a low season, it is January. After the riotous celebration of the Christmas and New Year holidays, things are more sedate in January. Residents in the big cities don’t return to their bases until the middle of the month, and normal activities pick up in February. Traffic is reduced and accommodations are cheaper.