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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
One of the largest countries in North Africa, Mauritania is a mix of desert and ocean—but mostly desert. The bulk of Mauritania's large area is made up of the world famous Sahara Desert, while the country's west coast hugs the Atlantic Ocean. The large contrast between these diverse environments means that there is plenty for travelers to see and do. The beaches on the west coast are a worthy break from the humming interior city of Nouakchott, while various medieval sites, including Chinguetti, offer amazing views of ancient buildings, some of which are considered to be national symbols. The country's many desert mosques are some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in all of North Africa.
The Top 4: What to Do in Mauritania
: There’s plenty to do in Mauritania’s capital city, including dropping by the many souks or markets, like Marche Capital or Marche Sixieme. The Saharan sand dunes on the edge of Nouakchott are worth checking out, especially at sunrise or sundown.
: While not as popular as other beaches on the Atlantic, Mauritania’s coast is still worth seeing. The most popular beach is the Plage de Nouakchott. Plan to drive in a four-by-four to travel to and around this site, and be aware of any warnings of strong currents if you plan to swim. There aren’t many hotels along Mauritania’s coast, but traveling to the beach is still a worthwhile daytime trip.
3. Banc d’Arguin National Park
: Located between Nouakchott and the city of Nouadhibou, this nature reserve is a fantastic site to see migratory birds, including flamingos and pelicans. The coastal sides of the park are known for their seaside flora, and close to the park are fishing villages that are worth a visit, too. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
: An amazing medieval town in the interior of Mauritania, this city is home to plenty of incredible ancient sites, including the Friday Mosque, a sandstone-colored building that is considered by many to be the national symbol of the country.
When to Go
Mauritania’s rainy season lasts from July to September; average rainfall during the year is about 20 to 23 inches (51 to 58.5 centimeters.) The country is also a recipient of the harmattan, a trade wind that blows from the Sahara, bringing with it sand and limited visibility. The best times to visit Mauritania are between March through June, when the weather is generally calmer.