19 Best Sights in Senegal
Senegal is the jewel of West Africa with a special colonial charm, where every tourist will find entertainment to his or her liking.
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Who Should Come to Senegal and Why?
Inquisitive minds will surely want to unravel the mysteries of Senegambia’s megaliths. The purpose of the laterite giants is still unknown. The island of Gori, where slaves were kept, will be of interest to history lovers.
Nature lovers should visit the national parks:
- San Salum Reserve, a realm of water and mango forests.
- Lang De Barbari – home to hundreds of bird species, including migratory birds.
- Niokolo Koba is the largest reserve where you can enjoy Senegal’s nature in all its varied diversity.
The markets of Senegal are a concentration of African culture. It is worth visiting for tourists in search of new experiences and souvenirs at an attractive price.
The beaches and resort areas are also among the attractions of Senegal. All kinds of entertainment for tourists are available here, from contemplative to active.
Resorts and Parks
Niokolo-Koba National Park
Niokolo-Koba, established in 1954, is among the oldest and largest nature reserves on the African continent.
The area features diverse landscapes: swamps, impenetrable forests and savannahs are home to 70 species of animals and 300 species of birds. Large predators are relatively few, so the national park’s fauna is steadily increasing in number. Buffalo, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, mongooses, majestic elephants and other animals live here.
In the southwest of the park is the Bassari settlement. This people have preserved the way of life of their ancestors. The men and women of the tribe lead subsistence farming, hunting, and gathering. Tourists can look into the house they like and buy souvenirs.
Lang De Barbary Reserve
The national park lies on a peninsula that divides the Atlantic Ocean and the Senegal River. The reserve was created to protect birds.
In addition to its resident species of terns, gulls, pelicans and flamingos, the park also welcomes migratory visitors from Europe: herons and cranes. The park has over 160 species of birds. They are accompanied by monkeys, sea turtles, lizards and crabs.
Infrastructure of the reserve is well developed. Guests can stay in cabins on stilts and admire the nature right from the window of the bungalow. Several hotels have also been built near the borders of the park.
Beaches of Cape Skirring
The sandy beaches of Cap Skirring, covered in soft golden sand, are considered the best on the west coast of Africa. Water temperatures rarely drop below 24°C and the vast coastline, lined with lush tropical vegetation, offers enough room for everyone. Most beaches are wild, infrastructure can boast only areas at the hotels.
San Salum Nature Reserve.
Reserve area of over 76,000 hectares is named after the Sin Salum River, flowing through its territory. The length of the waterway is about 250 km. The reserve is famous for its beautiful mangrove forests inhabited by rare animals, including river dolphins and manatees. In general, there are representatives of more than 70 species of fauna.
Since 1981, Sin Salum is included in the list of protected areas under the protection of UNESCO.
The amazing pink lake is located about 20 km from Green Cape. The color of its water varies from pale red to scarlet, depending on the time of year and light. This variation in color is due to the high content of Halobacterium microorganisms in the water, which appeared on Earth over 3 billion years ago. The coloration is most intense during the dry season.
Another unique feature of the reservoir is its high salinity (390 g/l). The concentration of salt is higher than in the Dead Sea, so it is impossible to drown in the lake. On the shores of the Retba you can observe the traditional way of salt extraction – the technology has not changed for several centuries.
South of Dakar, between Rufisque and Joal-Fadiou, is the resort area of Petit-Cot. The beaches are securely enclosed by the Cap Vert peninsula, so there are rarely any big waves. There are lovely fishing villages along the coast, and the scenery is breathtaking.
In the Petit Cote area, you’ll find hotels for all budgets, bars, restaurants, and stores. Surfing, fishing, water skiing, and horseback riding are the most popular activities besides sunbathing.
Located near the city of Dakar, the Madeleine Reserve consists of several uninhabited volcanic islands and the water space between them. The rocky patches of land are home to a large colony of birds.
Only one island, Snake Island, is accessible to tourists, but it is enough to appreciate the beauty of the birds and observe their behavior in their natural habitat.
Dakar is the capital of the state, as well as the epicenter of cultural and business life. It is home to the best hotels, restaurants and stores. For several years, the Paris-Dakar rally started and ended in the city.
Of particular interest is the historical district of the city or Medina. The squat buildings are made in a colorful Afro-Arab architectural style. Also in Dakar, there are several museums: the Theodore Monod Museum of African Art, where masks and musical instruments are exhibited, as well as maritime and historical museums.
Saint-Louis was once an important economic center of West Africa, then its status passed to the dynamic Dakar.
To this day, however, the city has retained its distinctive atmosphere and colonial charm. It is especially evident in the historic center, where almost every building has a plaque that tells the story of a landmark event that took place here.
The city is spread out on a narrow island in the middle of the Senegal River, perfectly adapted for tourists. There are good hotels, clubs, restaurants and casinos. And the main entertainment is boating and boat rides.
A picturesque island lies just 2 km from Dakar. For 300 years Europeans used this little piece of land as a staging post for slaves from Africa, who were then ferried across the ocean. The slaves lived in tiny barracks in inhumane conditions.
Today Gori is a tourist attraction with a cozy beach, picturesque streets, villas and other trappings of serene life.
Its main attractions: the Slave House, built in the XVIII century, the barracks for the soldiers who guarded the “live goods” and the houses of the slave traders. A legacy of French presence is the church of Saint-Charles and a dilapidated fort in which a historical museum has been set up.
Stone giants ranging in height from 1.25 m to 2 m are scattered over an area of more than 35 thousand square meters along the border of Gambia and Senegal.
The pillars are made of laterite, and their age ranges from 400 to 2,000 years. The purpose of the megaliths is not exactly known; perhaps their appearance is related to the ancient rituals and beliefs of the local tribes. Near the pillars, scientists have found burials. Then came the version that the “African Stonehenge” is nothing more than a cemetery.
In this city, located in the west, is worth a visit for those who want to bring back from Africa practical souvenirs. Thies is the main center of production of all kinds of carpets. Products are made from natural materials on traditional looms, and their colorful threads keep the warmth of human hands.
Tourists can learn in detail about the process of carpet weaving and even take a small master class. There is also a tapestry factory in the city. From the trip is worth bringing a bright canvas in a unique Senegalese style.
Saint Louis Cathedral
The cathedral was founded in 1763, but it took 65 years to build. The white and yellow building has a classical style. The only decoration of the facade is a large wooden door and a cross above the entrance. The interior decoration is equally laconic. The church is active and holds services on Sundays.
The 16 meter Mamelle Lighthouse was built in 1864 and still operates to this day. It is also considered the second most powerful lighthouse in Africa as it shines over 50 km away (the Cape of Good Hope is the first). At the top of Mamelle is an observation deck.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Victory
An unusual Catholic church appeared in Dakar in the early 1930s. It’s difficult to attribute its appearance to just one style: it has features of Art Deco, Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau. The main gilded dome, elaborately painted on the inside, alludes to the Qubbat al-Sakhra Mosque in Jerusalem.
Markets in Senegal
The best place to buy souvenirs reminiscent of a visit to Africa is the Saint-More-de-Fosse market in Ziguinchor. Here they sell masks, jewelry, spices, decorative items and natural fabrics of all colors. Be sure to haggle – there are no fixed prices.
A small market nestled in one of the most beautiful buildings in Dakar. The structure is round and topped with a large dome. The entrance is decorated with an arch in the oriental style, complete with clock. Inside they sell vegetables, fruits, seafood and spices.
This is the largest and noisiest market in Dakar. It is always crowded, so you should be vigilant about keeping your wallet safe. Trade is carried out in stationary stores, mobile stalls and trays, set up directly on the ground. Here they sell fabric with national ornaments, clothing, shoes, souvenirs, dry goods. The prices are lower than on the beaches.
Loman Art House.
Loman Art House is something between a contemporary art gallery and a gimmicky home decor store.
The spacious rooms of the mansion are hung with paintings, installations made from recycled materials, furniture and handmade interior items. Many of the art objects are also made here. For a small fee you can see the exhibits and if you want you can buy the things you like.
What interesting places to visit in Senegal on your own trip?
Senegal is one of the most interesting countries of the African continent, which attracts many tourists from all over the world. And it is not only cultural and historical values, largely related to the colonial past of the country, but also natural resources. I want to tell a little about the places that deserve the most interest and worth visiting on a trip to Senegal.
Since most tourists on this type of tour take a flight and the first thing they do is get to the capital Dakar, I will start with the interesting places that are located in and around the city.
There are several museums in Dakar, among them the Theodore Monod Museum of African Art . In descriptions prior to 2007, it is listed as the “Museum of African Art of the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa. In West Africa it is considered one of the oldest art museums, and the collection of exhibits, which includes about ten thousand items, is among the best in the whole African continent. These are objects of everyday life and art, jewelry and others. In addition, the museum building periodically hosts exhibitions of contemporary artists of Africa “Dakar Biennale”. It is located at Rue Emile Zola and anyone can visit it. The entrance fee is three thousand CFA francs (a little over four euros).
One of the visiting cards of Dakar and Senegal itself, is the Monument of African Renaissance in the commune of Ouakam (one of the areas of the city). It was opened five years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of independence. The monument is made of bronze and stands almost fifty meters tall. The cost of the construction was about twenty-seven million dollars, which is not bad for a country like Senegal.
For preachers of Islam, will be interesting Dakar Cathedral Mosque, which was opened in 1964 by King of Morocco Hassan the second and president of Senegal – Léopold Sédar Senghor. The minaret is sixty-seven meters high and the architectural style was created jointly by French and Moroccan architects.
Perhaps the most visited tourist attraction in the vicinity of Dakar is the island of Gorée, which is located just two and a half kilometers from the port of the capital. This place was the center of the slave trade in West Africa, which was conducted here more than three hundred years, from 1536 to 1848. About three dozen special houses were built on the island where slaves were kept for sale. Inhumane conditions and the suffering of slaves are shown in the exhibition of one of these houses, which was turned into a museum in 1962. The island is now home to less than a thousand and a half locals and the architecture has been almost entirely preserved in its original form. There is no motor transport (its use is prohibited). Communication with the mainland is carried out by small ferries, which run every hour. The cost of the ferry is about five euros one way. Every year, the island of Hore is visited by several hundred thousand tourists. Among the visitors were such famous personalities as Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, George Bush, Pope John Paul II and others. Currently, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another interesting place, which is located thirty kilometers from Dakar, is Lake Retba or also called Lac-Rose. This is because of its unusually pink color. This peculiar coloring of the water gives halaphytic bacteria, the only inhabitants of these waters. This is a kind of “Dead Sea” of Senegal, because the concentration of salt in the water is almost forty percent. The density of the water is such that locals who mine salt in the lake can load up to half a ton of salt into an ordinary wooden boat and it will not sink. The extraction of salt and its sale, is the main income of this area. In order to be in the water while working, the miners lubricate their bodies with a special oil that protects them from the salt and the scorching sun. Previously, the lake was connected to the ocean, which received salt water, but over time the sand layered and separated them. Salt is extracted in large quantities, cleaned and dried on the shore, and then sold, including for export. If you decide to swim, then do not forget to rinse well after in fresh water, so as not to damage the skin. By the way, this lake was the final point of the Paris-Dakar rally.
Two hundred and fifty kilometers from the capital is the town of St. Louis, which for a long time was the capital of Senegal (until 1902) and is considered one of the oldest colonial settlements in West Africa. It is located in the delta of the Senegal River, and its historic part (which incidentally is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List) is a river island, rectangular in shape, which has preserved the architecture of the colonial period. The island is connected to the rest of the city by Faidherbe bridge, which is almost a hundred and twenty years old and is the pride of the city. The length of the bridge is more than five hundred meters (511 to be exact). On the opposite side stretches a beautiful sandy spit, washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, on which many different hotels have been built. Each year, St. Louis is visited by a large number of tourists. To get there from Dakar, you can take the train, the fare which costs four to six euros, or take a shuttle bus for six thousand CFA francs (about nine euros).
In addition, Senegal is rich in national parks and nature reserves, which are home to a large number of animals included in the Red Book. The same applies to rare plant species. The largest of them are such as: Parc Jugue, sixty kilometers from Saint-Louis and listed as a World Heritage Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Twenty kilometers from Saint-Louis is the Langhe de Berberie State Reserve. A dozen kilometers from the city is the Gumbel Special Reserve, where birds winter and rare animals such as patas monkeys and sulcata turtles stay. Senegal has one of the largest Niokolo-Koba National Park in Africa, with more than one million hectares, also protected by UNESCO. Sixty-five kilometers from Dakar there is the Bandia Reserve, where a giant baobab, thousands of years old, grows.
As you can see, there is a lot to see in this country, and I have not mentioned all the interesting places. In this final video you will get a closer look at Senegal and understand what is interesting about traveling in West Africa.