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Though political instability has been the reason most Americans have heard of Guinea-Bissau, this small nation on the West Coast of Africa has far more to offer than assassinations and contested elections.

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First and foremost, there’s Guinea-Bissau’s carnival, held every February with colorful parades and endless hours of fevered dancing. If you miss carnival, not to worry, as the capital city of Bissau is still an architectural marvel, especially when wandering the streets of the Portuguese Quarter.

The Bijagos archipelago sits just offshore and is, for the most part, uninhabited, so if you can finagle a boat ride out there you can literally have a desert island to yourself. Nearby on Orango Island, you’ll find Africa’s largest colony of saltwater hippos. Or if you’d like a beach that doesn’t involve a long boat ride — but rather a long ride on a gravel road — take the 31-mile jaunt from Sao Domingo to Varela and find one of the most isolated, picturesque beaches on the continent.

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