Mozambique is a beautiful travel destination that offers an endless dune-fringed coastline, remote archipelagos with turquoise waters (especially in the North), well preserved corals, pounding surf (in the South), colonial-style architecture and wide bushland populated with elephants, lions and other animals you expect to see on a safari. This large, Portuguese-speaking country in Southeast Africa stretches as far as 1600km from north to south. Huge distances on mostly crappy roads make it quite challenging and require lots of time and a sense of adventure to get around on public transport (especially in the northern half). If you are fine with that, jump into a journey of a lifetime.
• Gurue: If you like hiking it is easy to spend a week or even more in the area around the town of Gurue. This part of the country is the highest and coolest but offers a beautiful countryside with picturesque tea plantations. Climbing Mt. Namuli (2419m) about 15km northeast of Gurue is another option here. Arrange your guide in town at least a day in advance.
• The train between Cuamba and Nampula: A train connects both cities departing in each direction at 5am from Tuesday to Sunday. It's a very interesting ride with the train stopping at many villages along the way and offering a fine taste of rural Mozambican life. At every stop the locals sell food but you should bring some snacks and enough bottled water to make the ride more convenient.
Tip: There is a more comfortable executive class (around 12 US-$) which I highly recommend because the 2nd and 3rd classes are too crowded and too uncomfortable for a ten-hour ride. Buy your ticket a day in advance at the ticket counter at the train station.
In my opinion Cuamba and Nampula itself are nothing special. Be aware of organized pickpocketing gangs that operate around the station in Nampula! Keep all your valuables hidden until you reach your accommodation (for example Ruby Backpackers)!
• Vilankulo & Bazaruto Archipelago: The Bazaruto Archipelago consists of two big (Bazaruto, Benguera) and some smaller (Magarugue, Santa Carolina, Bangue) islands that seem to consist mainly of sand. The surrounding waters are turquoise-colored and offer great snorkeling, diving, fishing and sailing opportunities. Although Bazaruto is an upmarket holiday destination (a single night at one of the island resorts costs a few hundred Dollars!) there are some ways to explore the area on low budget. The best way is to stay at one of the numerous backpackers in Vilankulo, the main hub for the archipelago. Many (for example Baobab Beach Lodge) offer camping and self-catering facilities.
Walk along the beach and compare the offers of the local dhow safari operators (for example Sailfish or Dolphin Dhow) for a day trip to at least one of the islands. You should not pay more than 60 US-$ including snorkeling equipment, lunch and water/tea. If you go to Bazaruto Island make sure you climb the top of the big sand dune for breathtaking views! If you are willing to spend some more Dollars on accommodation then check out Mandimba Secret Gardens about 15km north of Vilankulo. This Swiss-run eco-lodge offers a beautiful, quiet setting in the sand dunes, delicious food and arranges great tours to the islands.
• Tofo: Tofo is located on the southeast coast of the country, right on a beautiful long beach overlooking the ocean where humpback whales (June to October), whalesharks, Manta rays and dolphins are waiting for your visit. If you are interested in the "big stuff" then this is a fantastic dive spot. Besides that Tofo offers good conditions for surfing and other activities like quad biking. Due to the many budget accommodations with camping and self-catering facilities it's understandable why Tofo is the most popular backpackers place in Mozambique.
Tip: During my ten-day stay in Tofo I stayed at Pariango Beach Motel which is situated right on the beach and in good walking distance to the market, restaurants and dive operators. Staying here gives you a 15% discount on diving and ocean safaris both with Peri-Peri Divers and Diversity Scuba and even 20% at Liquid Divers who are just moving to a property next to Pariango! Pariango Beach is German-run and offers a self-catering kitchen, camping (7 US-$/person), dorms (11 US-$/person), and basic double rooms (from 26 US-$ Euros/room). Ask the owner Jochen for his lifting weights if you want to work out ;)
For people who like it more quiet and can afford to spend more money on accommodation, head north to Barra or south to Tofinho. As there is still no ATM in Tofo at the time of writing you need to withdraw money at the petrol station a few kms before you reach town. Once in Tofo you can easily hitchhike there and back.