Senegal is among the top 3 African countries I always recommend to both first time visitors of the continent or seasoned travelers looking to experience a modern alternative to the travel possibilities in Africa. I love Dakar in particular because it's such a modern city and is pretty easy to navigate independently (so long as you speak some French). I highly recommend it to all kinds of travelers - from luxury to adventure backpacker. So if you're considering a visit, here's a quick guide of my favorite places to explore throughout Dakar, Senegal to help point you in the right direction.
1. The Surf Scene
Dakar’s swells were put on the international stage thanks to the 1996 cult classic movie Endless Summer, and for good reason. The city has several surf schools and hubs which are always great for people watching and hanging out. Secret Spot and Surfer's Paradise on the corniche in Almadies are among my favorites.
2. The Islands
Ngor Island - For me, Ngor Island is quintessential Dakar. There's art everywhere, beautiful people eating roasted Thiof and drinking bissap under parasols, and always an overall chill + easy going vibe. Since you can also take surf lessons at the same surf camp that was featured in Endless Summer here, there tends to be quite a diverse group of people to interact with. To get here, just take a pirogue or a private speed boat (I recommend the latter) from Ngor Beach on the mainland.
Goree Island - Most people know Goree because of The House of Slaves, which is of course something worth going and learning about. But there's a lot more to see on the island. Lots of people still live on the island, so you can have very interesting conversations with locals and learn about it's history directly from them. I typically like to spend a full day walking around and taking in the old architecture, colorful buildings, and narrow alley ways.
Îles des Madeleines - A stone's throw away from the hustle & bustle of the city, this archipelago is completely uninhabited and is filled with volcanic rock formations, rare bird species, with a few baobab trees. It's the perfect place for a staycation (day trip only though) that'll make you feel like you've been transported to distant private island.
3. The Landmarks
Monument de Renaissance - This famous monument is first visible from the air until the moment you touch down, and is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods to people watch. You can take a tour and learn about how the monument came to be and take the elevator to the very to see some insane views of Dakar, but I mostly just love people watching from the stairs.
Mosqueé de la Divinité - The mosque is another one of the most commanding landmarks in the city thanks to it's architecture. It's well placed near a fisherman's beach, so it makes for a very interesting place to observe and capture simple yet beautiful moments.
4. The Beaches
Plage de Yoff - This has to be my all time favorite beach because there is such a warm and fun energy here. I like to come on Sundays, rent a little shack and spend the spend relaxing, eating, and mingling with other beach goers.
Plage de Ngor - Though it tends to be packed, particularly on weekends and holidays, I love this beach because it embodies the classic image of Dakar with it's colorful pirogues docked on the beach. It was also the very first beach I visited in Dakar and made a huge impression on me.
Phare des Mamelles - This one is a nice, rocky off the grid beach to explore. It's a nice change of scenery because it tends to be secluded, but you can enjoy bonfires and picnics with friends.
5. the NEIGHBORHOODS
Médina: I love this neighborhood because it's perfect for walking around and observing daily life in an unfiltered way. I always recommend it to first time visitors as the first part of the city to spend time in to get a good idea about what life in Dakar is like. You’ll discover the culture of the city here and also find loads of interesting art, merchants and shops.
Ouakam: There is so much personality and life happening in this urban area, which make sit one of my favorites. I love shooting daily life here: the women dressed in colorful garb, the men selling Café Touba on the sidewalks, and the kids playing basketball and football on the courts a stone's throw away from the Monument Renaissance just before in the late afternoon.
Almadies: Even though this area is very upscale and typically attracts loads of expats (particularly Americans), it's one of my favorite areas to unwind in. There tends to be a lot less intensity here; just a chill vibe thanks to the numerous surf restaurants along the coastline.
Photography by yours truly and Sopsiak Photography
Are you thinking about visiting Dakar? Get my guide book below for all my detailed tips on how to travel off the beaten path in Senegal and Africa as a whole.