In this ultimate Mauritania travel guide we invite you to embark on a journey of exploration and discovery. From the Saharan dunes to ancient towns, we unveil the wonders that this diverse country offers to intrepid travelers. Whether you seek cultural encounters, desert adventures, or culinary delights, Mauritania’s tapestry of experiences is yours to unravel.
Fast Facts About Mauritania
- Climate: Get ready to experience a desert climate in Mauritania. Summers (May to September) can be scorching, with temperatures soaring over 40°C (104°F). Winters (November to February) are milder, but still warm, averaging around 20°C (68°F). Pack lightweight clothing, sunscreen, and stay hydrated.
- Local Currency: The Mauritanian Ouguiya (MRO) is the official currency. While credit cards are accepted in larger cities, it’s wise to carry some local currency for smaller towns and markets.
- Power Voltage: Electrical outlets in Mauritania typically provide 220V power at 50Hz. Don’t forget to bring a travel adapter to keep your devices charged.
- Language: Arabic is the official language, but French is widely spoken. English may be understood in tourist areas, but learning a few Arabic or French phrases can enhance your interactions.
- Religion: Islam is the dominant religion, influencing daily life and culture. Respect local customs, especially during prayer times and in religious sites.
- Safety: Mauritania is generally safe, but it’s advisable to stay informed about the local situation. Travel with caution in remote desert areas, and consult travel advisories before your trip.
- Cultural Etiquette: Mauritania’s culture is rooted in traditional values. Modesty in dress is appreciated, especially for women. When visiting homes, removing your shoes is a sign of respect.
- Tipping: Tipping is not a common practice in Mauritania. However, leaving a small gratuity for exceptional service in restaurants or to guides can be a thoughtful gesture.
Best Time to Visit Mauritania: Seasons and Festivals
- Winter (November to February): Winter is the ideal time to explore Mauritania, as the weather is more temperate for desert excursions and sightseeing. The Atar International Arts and Nomad Festival usually takes place in January, celebrating local music, arts, and traditions.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is another pleasant season to visit, with comfortable temperatures and blooming landscapes. The Nouakchott International Festival of Nomadic Culture is held in April, offering a unique insight into nomadic life.
- Summer (May to September): While summer can be extremely hot, it’s a time when the Tergit Lake Festival takes place. Usually held in July, this event showcases traditional music, dance, and local cuisine.
- Fall (October to November): Fall marks the end of the scorching heat and the start of more moderate temperatures. It’s a great time for exploring cities and historical sites.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in Mauritania
- Ancient Chinguetti: Step into history in Chinguetti, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient town boasts intricately designed libraries with centuries-old manuscripts, offering a glimpse into the region’s scholarly past.
- Banc d’Arguin National Park: Explore one of the world’s most important bird migration sites at this national park. Witness thousands of migratory birds and the stunning landscape where the desert meets the sea.
- Adrar Plateau: Immerse yourself in the striking beauty of the Adrar Plateau, adorned with dramatic canyons, mesas, and ancient rock formations. Discover its hidden oases and nomadic communities.
- Atar Market: Engage with local life at Atar’s bustling market. From colorful textiles to intricate jewelry, you’ll find a variety of traditional crafts and goods.
- Ouadane: Visit the desert outpost of Ouadane, another UNESCO site. Admire its well-preserved architecture and learn about its significance as a stop on historic trade routes.
The Best Ways To Get Around Mauritania
- Domestic Flights: For long distances, consider domestic flights between major cities. Airlines like Mauritania Airlines International offer convenient connections.
- Shared Taxis: Shared taxis are a common mode of transportation between cities and towns. Negotiate fares before departure, and be prepared for a cozy journey with fellow travelers.
- Local Buses: Local buses operate within cities and are a cost-effective way to get around. Keep in mind that they might not adhere to a strict schedule.
- Camel Treks: Embrace the true desert experience with a camel trek into the Sahara. Traverse the dunes and immerse yourself in the vastness of the desert landscape.
- Walking and Biking: In urban areas, walking and biking are viable options for exploring. Some cities have bike-sharing programs, and strolling through local neighborhoods can offer unique insights.
Accommodation Tips: Mauritania
- Hotels and Guesthouses: Mauritania offers a range of accommodations, from modest guesthouses to upscale hotels. Consider staying in Nouakchott or Nouadhibou for a variety of options.
- Desert Camps: Immerse yourself in the desert experience by staying in a traditional nomadic tent at a desert camp. Enjoy starlit nights and authentic hospitality.
- Local Lodges: Opt for local lodges that provide a unique insight into Mauritanian life. These lodgings often offer a chance to interact with locals and savor traditional cuisine.
- Online Booking: Utilize reliable booking platforms to compare prices and read reviews. Booking in advance ensures you secure your preferred accommodation.
Mauritania Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- Free Museums: Immerse yourself in Mauritania’s culture without spending a dime by visiting the National Museum of Mauritania in Nouakchott. Explore its impressive collection of artifacts.
- Hitchhiking: If you’re feeling adventurous, consider hitchhiking between towns. Many locals are friendly and open to giving travelers a ride.
- Local Eateries: Opt for local restaurants and street vendors to enjoy authentic Mauritanian cuisine at a fraction of the cost of upscale eateries.
- Camping: In the desert, consider camping for an immersive experience under the stars. Just ensure you follow safety guidelines and obtain any necessary permits.
- Budget Tours: Joining budget-friendly tours can help you explore Mauritania’s highlights without breaking the bank. Look for reputable tour operators offering group packages.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in Mauritania
- Thieboudienne: Indulge in Mauritania’s national dish, thieboudienne, a flavorful rice and fish stew with vegetables. It’s a hearty and satisfying meal.
- Baked Camel: Experience a unique delicacy by trying baked camel, often served during special occasions and celebrations.
- Méchoui: Sink your teeth into méchoui, a succulent whole lamb roasted over an open fire. It’s a must-try for meat lovers.
- Bouza: Cool off with bouza, a traditional yogurt-based drink sweetened with dates. It’s refreshing and provides a taste of local flavors.
- Mauritanian Tea: Savor the aromatic Mauritanian tea, a blend of green tea, mint, and sugar, often served in an elaborate tea ceremony.
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of Mauritania Home
- Traditional Crafts: Bring home Mauritanian craftsmanship with handwoven textiles, intricate jewelry, and decorative pottery.
- Local Spices: Pack your bags with Mauritanian spices like ginger, saffron, and cloves to add a touch of exotic flavor to your dishes.
- Saharan Sand: Collect a vial of Saharan sand as a unique keepsake from your desert adventures in Mauritania.
- Local Art: Support local artists by purchasing paintings, sculptures, or traditional musical instruments that capture the essence of Mauritania’s culture.
- Nomadic Jewelry: Adorn yourself with nomadic-inspired jewelry pieces that embody the spirit of Mauritania’s desert heritage.