With its expansive and limitless deserts, rugged coastlines and a glorious birdlife, Mauritania is a beautiful destination that needs a visit atleast once in a lifetime. Located in the Maghreb region of Western North Africa, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Morocco and remnants of Western Sahara in the north, Algeria in the northeast, Mali in the east and southeast, and Senegal in the southwest. Mauritania is a feather in Africa's cap for it is brimming with sparkling historical jewels and is high on natural beauty.
Kick-start the trip by heading towards the dynamic capital - Nouakchott. This incredible city features a traditional Berber style of architecture. It is situated near the sea in a desert landscape of low dunes and is close to Ksar, an ancient Moorish settlement. Some of the attractions to be visited are the Plage du Wharf, the Ksar and its market, the vibrant African market and the camel market, the crafts market, the craft centre, Maison de la Culture and the carpet factory.
Do make it a point to head over to Atar, capital of the Adrar Region, an oasis lying on the route of salt caravans. It is the market hub for the nomads of northern Mauritiania and features an old quarter, the Ksar, with flat-roofed houses and an amazing palm grove. Beach-a-holics will be delighted to know that Mauritania's coast is basically one long sandy beach. Although not home to any vegetation, it houses an incredible array of birds. Depending on the tide, one can use a 4x4 vehicle to drive along the beach.
One of the primary attractions of Mauritania is the splendid Parc National du Banc d'Arguin. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the globe's biggest bird sanctuaries. One can also find numerous archaeological sites on the islands. Interested in wild-life? You can catch a glimpse of the rare monk seal, an endangered specie and one of the last and biggest remaining colonies housed on the Cap Blanc peninsular in Mauritania. They are comparatively big seals with adults weighing 300kg or more. One can even hope to view the seals from the cliffs.
Head over to Oualata, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fortified medieval town. For a long time, it has been a destination of retreat for scholars. One will find a manuscript museum featuring calligraphy on ancient scrolls. Be sure to also visit Tirzet and its Muslim cemetery. Make some time to drop by at the holy city of Chinguetti - a sacred city of Islam, founded in the 13th century and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is home to a medieval mosque and a library encompassing ancient manuscripts.
When it comes to shopping, be sure to procure handicrafts such as dyed leather cushions and some engraved silver items, rugs and woodcarvings, silver jewellery, daggers, wood and silver chests, carpets and decorated nomad tents. As for cuisine, do indulge into local fare such as Thieboudienne ( Regarded as the national dish. It is fish and rice in a sauce usually made from tomatoes) and Yassa Chicken ( chicken cooked in a sauce prepared with onions and tomatoes).
The stay options in Mauritania are abundant with the best luxury hotels, rental apartments and cheap accommodations available with the tourists choosing to opt for the kind they prefer based on their budget and taste.
Mauritania experiences hot and dry climate throughout the year. The best time to visit would be during December and January when the temperatures are relatively pleasant.