1. Laas Geel
The Laas Geel cave formations and paintings located on the outskirts of Hargeisa are often regarded as the number one attraction in the region as a whole. The cave paintings are estimated to date as far back as 6,000 years BC and are very well preserved. The reason for their superb condition is three-fold... the area was only discovered in 2002, the paintings are protected by granite overhangs, and tourism levels still remain extremely low.
A 2 hour drive North East of Hargeisa will take you to the coastal town of Berbera. The town has been a fishing port for decades and has provided a thriving trade for locals. There's also crumbling architecture across the entire town, which shows remains of Arab, Indian, and Jewish past eras.
3. Local Integration
The locals of Somaliland are extremely photogenic. However, they're not used to seeing tourists and their English language is broken at best. Be polite to the elders and playful with the young. The locals lead a very basic life, while the children are happy playing with a rock and piece of string. I found that they loved getting their photo taken and wanted to view on the camera screen.
4. Hargeisa City Tour
The capital city of the self-declared republic doesn't have any notable standout attractions of interest, but it's still worth a stroll around for a couple of hours. There's plenty of fruit stalls, local markets, and an unusual War Memorial. You'll see the locals walking around buying khat (a socialising drug) and carrying guns. This is normal!
5. Change Currency
Somaliland has a pretty unusual banking system due to a low value local currency of Somali Shilling and a lack of trust. You'll see a very unusual set up of currency trading stalls all across the main streets of Hargeisa, which are deemed "local banks". US Dollar is the only accepted currency and Somali Shilling is the only currency handed back in return. An unusual experience!
6. Local Markets
You'll see many local markets along the streets of Hargeisa. The goods on offer range from textiles to hardware items. Some of the textile is locally made, although there's also imports from China. Note that you'll struggling finding traditional souvenir items such as fridge magnets and keyrings.
7. Beach Time
The beaches surprised me the most in Somaliland, specifically in Berbera. Fine black sand and crystal clear water. Add an abundance of marine life without a single tourist in site, and you've got yourself a great beach spot.
There will be locals and they will stare at you. This isn't to intimidate you, but they just rarely see tourists. You can also catch a great sunset!
If you're using Hargeisa as your base, you'll see that there's a real lack of hotel options, and also limited access via the usual booking sites. I personally didn't spend a night in Hargeisa, but if I was, Ambassador Hotel would be my choice.
It's a decent standard, with good reviews, and a central spot to explore the city.
Somaliland isn't home to the finest level of cuisine by any means, but their fresh fish is a delight. This is more so around Berbera due to its coastal location. For Hargeisa, you'll find chicken, rice, and vegetables pretty much everywhere.