The richly diverse Ivory Coast fully expects its football team's World Cup appearance to boost its tourist profile.
The Ivory Coast, or the Republique de Cote d'Ivoire, is a small nation in Sub-Saharan with dramatic landscapes and an exotic indigenous culture.
The country, situated in tropical west Africa, prepares to make its debut at this year's World Cup next week and is starting to attract more visitors, as it raises its international profile and works towards peace after years of civil war.
The country gained independence from France in August 1960 and flourished, as trade with the West continued and the economy grew. However, the Ivory Coast has suffered from drought and recession in the 1980s, political unrest and tensions between ethnic groups in the early 1990s and a devastating civil war sparked by a military coup in 1999.
The small nation remains divided into a north and south, but a series of accords signed by President Gbagbo and rebel leaders in 2003 have restored a fragile peace.
Covering an area of around 322,000 sq km (125,000 sq miles) and home to a population of more than 18 million, the Ivory Coast borders Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and the Gulf of Guinea, and the official language is French.
The capital Yamoussoukro is a strange, small, bustling city on the edge of the jungle, with lavish buildings and the giant Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix, a full scale replica of St Peter's in Rome. The largest city, Abidjan, remains the administrative centre of the Ivory Coast and is lively and colourful.
Elsewhere in the country, the sweeping mountains in the northwest, pretty beaches and charming fishing villages are all worth visiting. The Parc National de Tai is one of west Africa's last remaining swathes of virgin rainforest, with vast trees towering above busy rivers and full of plant and animal life.
Nature lovers will delights in a tour or safari, with a number of companies offering trips, the best of which cover the Parc National de la Como, home to lions, elephants, monkeys, antelopes and a host of wild bird species.
The colonial beach resort of Grand Bassam has some good, old hotels and seafood restaurants and the coastline is dotted with a number of more modern seaside settlements.
One of the highlights of a trip to the Cote d'Ivoire is taking in local traditions, art and music. The November Fetes des Masques (Festival of Masks) in the Man region sees dancers don elaborate masks and take place in local contests.
Music styles vary around the country, with traditional performances celebrating most major events and instruments fashioned from local materials. The Ivory Coast is also famous for wood carvings, ceremonial masks and dancing.
The country tends to be sunny and warm year round, with a lot of humid days and a rainy season in the north between May and October.
Flights to the Ivory Coast are available from Europe and the country's roads tend to be good. Accommodation is generally clean and basic outside the main cities, with a number of western chain hotels in Yamoussoukro and Abidjan.