Road-tripping Senegal: Experience Africa's west coast by car

Updated: 2016-10-17 08:30


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Road-tripping Senegal: Experience Africa's west coast by car

A side street on the Ile de Goree, or Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. [Photo/Agencies]

From dizzying Dakar to vibrant Saint-Louis, Senegal pulsates with rich culture, history and charm.

If you want to experience it all-from bustling cities to sleepy, seaside villages-hop in a rental car, charge up your favorite navigation device or app, brush up on your conversational French, and start your road trip across Africa's colorful western coast.

Dakar for the music, and the art lover.

Senegal's largest city perched on the tip of the Cap-Vert peninsula is an ideal starting place for your journey.

Spend the afternoons filling your suitcases with trinkets and T-shirts from the capital's many frenetic street markets.

For a more serene shopping experience, head to La Galerie Antenna. This African art mecca boasts an impressive collection of sculptures, paintings, masks and jewelry from across the continent.

Rest up and head out after midnight to experience Dakar's thriving music scene at a local bar or club. After your late night, regroup by the beach at one of Dakar's luxury hotels.

While most of Senegal is surprisingly drivable, Dakar traffic is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for a general disregard of road signs and discombobulating roundabouts.

Some rental-car packages include drivers or one can be arranged through your hotel.

Or hop in taxis for short trips. They're abundant and inexpensive. Be sure to check rates with a local before hailing a ride and negotiate the fare with your driver in advance.

Goree Island for history buffs

An afternoon (at least) spent exploring the history and architecture of Ile de Goree is a must when visiting Dakar.

The UNESCO World Heritage site was a shipping point for African slaves during the 16th through 19th centuries.

The island's most famous and sobering attraction, Maison des Esclaves (Slave House), has had many high-profile visitors, including President Obama in 2013. It is now a museum and memorial site serving as symbol for the larger slave trade throughout Africa. You can easily book a tour guide when you arrive, but the small, tranquil island is quite walkable on your own.

Take in the scenic ocean views, colorful, crumbling architecture, shops and street vendors before dining on fresh fish at the hilltop restaurant, Dolce Vita.

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