Couched between the arid desert lands in Northern Senegal and lush tropical forests in the south, this country boasts a stunning array of sights, sounds and flavours. The capital Dakar alone hands you the country in a capsule. Perched on the tip of a beach-lined peninsula, this dizzying city is composed elegance and street hustle all rolled into one. The busy streets, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife will easily draw you into their relentless rhythm, but the escape route is always open – be it to the meditative calm of the historical Île de Gorée or the golden sands of Yoff and N’Gor. And if Dakar’s sensory overload really gets too much, architecturally beautiful Saint-Louis, the first French settlement in West Africa, boasts a vibrant urban culture without the inner-city bustle.
Most visitors head to Senegal for its beaches, and for good reason. North and south of Dakar, wide strips of white sand invite swimming and sunbathing, whether in the built-up resort zones, where a lazy day at the beach can be followed by a cocktail trail at night, or in one of the coast’s charming fishing villages, the beaches of which are dotted with hundreds of colourful wooden pirogues. At the deltas of the Casamance and Saloum Rivers, the coastline is broken up into a maze of thick mangroves, tiny creeks, wide lagoons and shimmering plains. A pirogue trip through these striking zones reveals hundreds of bird species, from the gleaming wings of tiny kingfishers to the proud poise of pink flamingos. Whether you want to mingle with the trendsetters of urban Africa, or be alone with your thoughts and the sounds of nature – Senegal is the place to be.
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Île de Gorée
Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, the historical, Unesco-designated Île de Gorée is enveloped by an almost eerie calm. There are no sealed roads and no cars on this island, just narrow alleyways with trailing bougainvilleas and colonial brick buildings with wrought-iron balconies – it's a living, visual masterpiece.