Senegal is incredible music, vibrant colour and design, rich history, stunning architecture and exotic wildlife. The country is often overlooked by tourists but it makes for the perfect winter break. The sun shines gloriously over its exciting landscape and welcoming people.
Dakar is a vibrant city that will simultaneously overwhelm and charm you. The city stretches over the Cap-Vert peninsula with a beautiful array of colour and colonial architecture. At first the overpowering noise, bustle, traffic and dust of the city can appear daunting but take your time to settle in and immerse yourself amongst the fabulous people that live there. There’s a constant happy chatter and a riot of colour in clothing and spice markets.
Music defines Senegal and it is most alive in Dakar with an exciting nightlife. Two clubs worth seeing are Thiossane and Just 4 U, offering Cuban classics and exhilaratingly fast dance music of Wolof, Senegal’s biggest tribe, all week. Alternatively, if you feel like chilling after a day wandering the city in the sun then find a bar overlooking the crashing waves with a cocktail. There’s sure to be music to enjoy there too, as Dakar has a city wide soundtrack.
The rich history of Dakar is explored in the museums around the city which are certainly worth visiting. The Musée Théodore Monod is a fabulous museum with exhibitions showing African art and culture through masks, dress, tools, instruments and much more from the past. The L’Institut Français houses the Glaerie le Manège as well as lush gardens, a library and café that offer a refreshing break from the bustle of the streets. Just 3km off the coast of Dakar is the UNESCO-listed island of Gorée. Senegal’s slaving history can be best revisited in the museums here such as the House of Slave museum.
Other sights worth seeing in Dakar include the African Renaissance Memorial which was unveiled in 2010 in commemoration of 50 years of freedom for Senegal. As well as this the Medina is full of life in colour smells and tastes and the central square of the city, Place de l’Indépendance is the home to some of the main, and most striking, colonial buildings of the city.
Dakar also offers some gorgeous beaches such as Soumbédioune and Secret Beach. Secret Beach is a favourite spot for suffers but unfortunately its strong currents are not safe for swimming. Venturing out of Dakar, surfers still find paradise in the waves of the coastline of Senegal. Other sandy hot spots can be found in Cap Skirring in the southern region of the country.
Don’t limit yourself to a only the stunning beaches of Senegal because its exotic wildlife will make your trip truly special. Niokolo-Koba is Senegal’s largest national park at a whopping 900 sq km. Sadly its listed as a World Heritage site in danger with the resources struggling to protect its animals. Living in the park are elephants, lions, warthogs, monkeys, antelopes as well as crocodiles and hippos that are best sighted on a river tour. A relatively new reserve, created in 2006, is the much smaller Fathala Wildlife Reserve and Lodge. Here you can stay in luxury safari tents and explore the land on tours hoping to spot giraffes, rhinos, warthogs, buffalos, antelope and a number of monkey species.
Cropping up in guide books time after time, understandably, is Lake Retba. Due to its high salt content caused by dunaliella salina algea, the water is a jaw-dropping hue of pink. Whilst you shouldn’t try to swim in it the lake is worth a visit because it’s a wonder of nature you’ll never forget. Deterring from the paradise of crystal-clear blue waters to a lake that looks like someone has dropped a ginormous candyfloss bath bomb into it.
Located in the north of Senegal is Saint Louis. An enchanting city of colonial architecture and a rich history of it being West Africa’s first French settlement. The old town centre wonderfully sits on an island in the Senegal river and can be reached by the 500m-long Pont Faidherbe bridge, a masterpiece of engineering. Saint Louis is home to the glorious Grand Mosque as well as a number of interesting museums to explore. Near by is the The Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie, another spot worth visiting for an exotic nature fix. Located in the southern tip of the Langue de Barbarie peninsular, it impressively covers 2000 hectares and is home to water birds and migrant birds from Europe during the winter months.
Eating throughout Senegal is a joy. The national dish is called thiéboudienne. Chunks of fish are stuffed with herbs, and served on a bed of rice and vegetables in a tomato paste with tamaring and habanero pepper. Another favourite of visitors is yassa poulet, grilled chicken deliciously marinated in lemon and onion sauce.
A little fact about Senegal to intrigue you to explore its rich culture and interesting history: the father of African cinema is Senegalese. Ousmane Sembene pushed the boundaries of cinema in many different ways to create a lifetime of hugely celebrated work that showed Senegal faithfully through the camera lens. Watch one of his films, such as La Noire De, for a deeper insight into the country and its past.
The sun in Senegal is always shining brightly so grab yourself a pair of sunglasses for your trip from our site now.
Which part of Senegal looks most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below.