For many travelers, Senegal is their intro to West African culture. From the dust covered streets of Dakar to the tropical mangroves of Casamance, the country packs an impressive array of landscapes and attractions into a relatively small area. Whether you are a history or nature buff, here are 10 reasons to visit Senegal.
1. Goree Island
This beautiful island off the shore of Dakar has a dark past and was the center of the West African slave trade. It is a popular pilgrimage spot for people of the African diaspora. If you can’t make it, you can take a virtual visit to the island here.
2. Petite Cote
This stretch of beach is one of the most popular places in the country to visit. Tradewinds keep the dazzling white beaches cooler than spots farther inland, and the peaceful surrounds make a great side trip from Dakar.
3. Saint-Louis Jazz Festival
This decades-old festival is one of the most important in Africa. Jazz first became popular in Senegal in the 1930s when records from Cuba were aired on the radio. The northern coastal town of Saint Louis, which used to be the capital of Senegal, has a charming colonial atmosphere.
4. Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
Located about 60km north of Saint-Louis, this park is the third largest ornithological park in the world. The site is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is a sanctuary for 1.5 million birds.
Separated from Senegal by Gambia, this tropical region has experiences a bitter low-level civil war for the past three decades, so it’s best to check travel advisories before you go. Despite the sporadic flare-ups, it’s still worth seeing for the uninhabited beaches and giant mangrove lagoons.
6. Thiossane, Youssou N’Dour’s Nightclub
The famous artist’s nightclub, Thiossane (pronounced cho-san) is a prime nightlife spot in the bustling center of Dakar. N’Dour performs his famous mbalax music from 2am every Saturday.
7. Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine
Larger than the Statue of Liberty and completed in 2010, this 49-foot bronze monolith is a beacon of hope for Africa. If you can’t make it all the way up the steps, the monument can be easily seen on the Dakar skyline, and also when flying into and out of the airport.
8. Lac Rose
The water in this salt lake often appears bright pink due to the presence of Dunaliella salina algae. It is a popular spot for swimming or boating (in a pirogue, above) through the other-worldly waters. The lake is currently under consideration to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
9. Langue de Barbarie
Home to ruins, pelicans, and tortoises, this national park is a fantastic place to see birds if you can’t make it all the way to Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. The park is only 18km south of Saint-Louis and makes a quick excursion.
10. Sine Ngayene and the Wanar Stone Circles
While archaeologists aren’t sure when these were built, they believe they could date as far back as 300 B.C. There are 52 stone circles in Sine Ngayene and 1102 carved stones. It is thought that the area was used as burial sites.
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