Category: Travel & Tours

Spectacular Senegal: Sun, Sea & Sights

Sunny Senegal, the westernmost country on the African continent, sees about a million visitors a year. The country's 350 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean traditionally has been one of its major draws. If you are looking for more than a resort vacation, Senegal also has plenty of tourist attractions inland: parks crawling with wildlife, massive mosques and historic sites recalling the dark days of slavery.

Senegal's beach resorts are the genesis of its modern tourism industry, dating back to the country's first Club Med that opened in the 1970s. Many of these beaches are close to the capital Dakar: Plage Bel-Air, N'Gor Island and Yenn. To its south is a nearly 100-mile stretch of sandy beach known as the Petite Cote, dotted with assorted small fishing villages. Below that is Saly, a popular resort area for water sports. South of the Gambia is Cap Skiring, a coconut-tree-lined beach that also is home to numerous resorts.

Nature tours are a key tourist attraction for the country. Of particular note is Djoudj National Park in northern Senegal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of the world's most important bird sanctuaries. The park, on the Senegal River's delta, is home to about 1.5 million birds, including African Spoonbills, White Pelicans and Great Egrets. Southern Senegal along the Gambia River also is a prime spot for wildlife-spotting, including hippos, monkeys and crocodiles.

Historic Sites
Goree Island, off Dakar's coast, is one of the country's most-visited historic sites. The island, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once was a major hub of the African slave trade. Its House of Slaves, built in 1776, still stands as a testament to the horrific conditions that slaves faced. Dakar itself is home to the IFAN Museum of West African Culture, which showcases the history of the region's art and culture. North of Dakar, the Island of Saint-Louis, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, maintains numerous buildings reflecting its French colonial history, including balcony and gallery houses.

Religious Sites
Senegal is largely an Islamic country, and one of its largest orders, the Mouride Brotherhood, is rooted in Senegal's second-largest city, Touba. About four hours to the east of Dakar, Touba's sites of interest include its Grand Mosque, a domed building with four minarets that can accommodate as many as 7,000 visitors at once. Touba also is home to the tomb of Amadou Bamba, the founder of the Mouride order. Dakar has its own Grand Mosque, which includes a large library cataloguing Islam's history in West Africa.

Cayar and The Pink Lake
The Pink Lake is a famously warm, high-salinity lake in Senegal that is surrounded by foamy deposits. Villagers from nearby traditional African settlements harvest salt from the lake to sell. In the vicinity of the Pink Lake, Cayar is a traditional fishing villages where fishermen land their catches of lobster, shrimp and fish. A colorful market on the beach provides exchange and barter.

Sometimes called the New Orleans of Senegal, Saint-Louis was built in 1659 and features bridges connecting the city's sections laid out on peninsula, island and continent. Quaint, narrow streets, charming patios, old buildings and lots of balconies recall a bygone colonial era. Festivals and concerts of all kinds take place in Saint-Louis.



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