Where else on earth do the sand dunes of the Sahara meet a wild untamed coastline? Only in Mauritania. Situated in northern Africa, Mauritania contains ancient cities, deep canyons, oceans of desert dotted with dizzying green oases, and high plateaus.
The coastline of the country is almost entirely pristine, its vast stretch of shore protected. Parc National du Ban d'Arguin is a top bird watching spot with the fishing port city of Nouadhibou making a gateway to the area. For fresh seafood, many come to Nouakchott. For outdoor lovers there are trekking spots throughout the country and even camel trips through surreal desert landscapes. The Adrar, Mauritania offers superb hot air ballooning over the desert. Mainly though, people come to Mauritania for the culture and history. Dotted with UNESCO World Heritage sites, the country's ancient civilizations are in evidence in countless ways. With a population half made up of black Africans and the other half made up of Moors descended from Arabs, this Muslim country has a fascinating black twist and it's this very combination which makes Mauritania so unique.
For a glimpse into an ancient Sahara camel caravan town, go to Chinguetti. Shrouded in history and famous for its ancient Islamic scholars, this was the capital of the Moors, with some buildings going back to the 1200s. It's also entirely picturesque with the sea and sand dunes forever in the background.
The jewel in the crown of this intriguing and beautiful country is The Adrar. A Berber word which means 'mountain', The Adrar also refers to several regions of Northwest Africa, most of them in Mauritania. Here you'll be immersed in an array of natural wonders with a distinct culture, such as the ancient Saharan villages of Ouadance and Chinguetti containing massive sand dunes looking as if sculpted by an artist. Interspersed between the dunes are oases where travelers can relax beneath a Moorish tent and drink mint tea while looking out at basaltic plateaus. Trekking expeditions, camel expeditions (short or long) and hot air ballooning are also to be found in The Adrar. The Adrar is how one would imagine the Sahara, full of sand dunes into infinity (called 'ergs'), and 'regs' which is rocky desert with small mountains. The majority of travelers stay mainly on the west coast and take excursions inland, often to see, for example, rock formations in Aioun.
Although Mauritania is Islamic, it's not extreme. Most of the people in the north are reserved and conservative, while the people of the south are welcoming and friendly.