Then there are the slow coastal communities around Île de Gorée, Yoff, and N’Gor. However you choose to travel throughout Senegal, there’s something that will appease even the most jaded traveller. For those who travel in pursuit of culture and history, colonial Saint-Louis with its national parks is sure to be your favourite destination.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a treasured iconic symbol of the Senegalese people. Senegal is largely an Islamic country, and at the center of every village or town you’ll find a beautiful mosque. Most open-air markets are also located next to the mosque, where the focal point of daily activities occurs. Come here to mingle with the locals while sampling local fare and handicrafts. There is no shortage of museums, festivals, and art galleries, either.
Outdoor adventurers, you’re in luck. Surfing is huge here, and the water is warm year-round. There’s tons of hiking to be done in the rainforest-covered mountains, and biking along Senegal’s red clay roads in the Sahel countryside is a must-do.
Cities to Visit in Senegal
- Île de Gorée
Iconic Attractions in Senegal
- Saloum Delta National Park
- The House of Slaves
- N’Gor Beach
- Casamance region
- Théodore Monod Museum of African Art
- Keur Moussa Monastery
- The Guet N’Dar neighbourhood in Dakar
- Lompoul Desert
For those who have never been to Senegal, the culture can be a little intimidating on your first visit. The official language is French, but many languages are spoken within Senegal’s borders. Most of the population is also Muslim, so it’s necessary to respect social conventions such as dressing appropriately, especially in places of worship. Senegal is a blend of so many cultural and historical influences that the result is one big colourful national identity. Colonial ruins are well preserved, and attractions like the House of Slaves pay tribute to the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The Senegalese have a special joy for life, and it’s not uncommon for impromptu dance routines and festivals to break out in the streets. France, Britain, and Portugal all had their claws dug into Senegal at some point, but in 1946, Senegal became an overseas territory of France. It gained its independence not long after, however, in 1960.
Senegal is also home to many native tribes, and visiting these people in the bush or in their villages means certain greetings are more appropriate than others. When visiting a village, for example, it’s polite to call upon the village headman or schoolteacher to request a place to stay for the evening. Turning down hospitality is considered rude, but returning the hospitality with gifts of medicine, food, or money is encouraged. Above all, relax and enjoy your new friendships!
Getting around Senegal
The safest and quickest way of getting around the country is by sept-place taxi. These are old-and-used Peugeots that will take you absolutely anywhere you want to go, and they’re usually the most reliable form of transportation.
There is also the car mourides bus service that offers transportation between major towns. Failing that, a rental car isn’t a bad idea, but the road network in Senegal is often pretty shoddy and hard to navigate. Caution is advised.
Best time of year to travel to Senegal
Senegal’s rain season occurs mostly between June and September, but between September and October in Casamance and the south. National parks tend to close during this time, and temperatures get overwhelmingly humid. The dry season occurs between December and to April, and temperatures can drop drastically during those months (especially in the evenings). Most people come from November to February, when the average daily temperature in Dakar is 24 degrees Celsius. You’ll find that most of Senegal’s major events and music festivals take place during this time as well.
Ready to plan your visit to Senegal? Check out these popular guides and trips.