It isn’t hard for me to pick my favourite place in Senegal. Hands down, Ile de Goree was the top destination in the country for me. As a photographer, Ile de Goree is paradise. Beautifully painted old colonial colours, entertaining people, some dilapidated buildings, and a rugged coast line all make it a fascinating place to shoot. As a tourist less interested in photos, there is still plenty to do on the island aside from photo taking. There is a decent museum, and old fort with stunning views, a slavery museum and even a small beach with fairly clear waters despite the motorized boats on the island. While many people come out here just on a day trip, I recommend visiting overnight. It’s worth it.
Time Needed: 1-2 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: $35-40 a day
Things to do in Ile de Goree
There is plenty to do in Ile de Goree and though most people visit only as a day trip, I personally think that you’re much better off giving yourself a night on the island as well that will give you a full day and then a morning before returning to the mainland.
- Slavery Museum: It’s less of a museum than it is a house on display. And although only a few people per year were every sent from here across the seas it is still very powerful. Downstairs is the famous “door to nowhere” and the cells where slaves were kept. If nothing else, it’s a very sobering experience. Check out the video below the list of things to do for more.
- French Museum: There is a museum in the fort d’Estrees which is actually quite decent, but won’t occupy too much of your time. Be sure to go up to the roof for some beautiful views.
- Church and Mosque: The church is colourful and quite a sight on a Sunday when everyone is on their way out of the halls. The mosque is also quite nice, although not nearly as old but still one of the oldest mosques in the country.
- The Castel: If you climb to the top of Goree you’ll find the castel which in itself just looks like a hill. However, there are lots of little dungeons to climb into as well as some gun holes. The views from the area around the castel are phenomenal.
- Shopping: There are plenty of artisans on the island. There’s some decent artwork and crafts, but be prepared to be ripped off. You’re likely to get better prices in Dakar.
Where to Eat in Ile de Goree
Lots of places to eat along the waterfront near the beach. Be sure to grab seafood as it’s likely been plucked from the waters that same day. Aside from the obvious beach stops, these two places are worth a visit as well:
- Dulce Vida: Best views in town bar none, this place up the hill on the way to the castel. Sandwhiches are 1200-1500CFA and nice dishes are 3000-4500CFA. I had the fish Yassa and it was the best I’ve had to date.
- Hostellerie du Chevalier de Boufflers: This is a French restaurant in a hotel along the water that has really good food. It’s easily the most expensive place to eat on the island though. Plates go for between 4000-6000CFA.
Where to Stay in Ile de Goree
While I didn’t spend too much time searching around Ile de Goree for a place to stay I’m very happy with where I ended up. I stayed at Chez Valerie which is a quick walk from the main beach. I paid 15,000CFA for 1 night in a room that had two floors, two beds and a desk. I was told that couples pay 20,000CFA. Apparently the Hostellerie du Chevalier de Boufflers is a good option too, but for me it’s well over priced for what you get at 23,000CFA a night.
Getting out of Town
The boat that goes between Dakar and Ile de Goree takes about 20-25 minutes and basically just shuttles back and forth. Including unloading and loading time this means it runs nearly once an hour. However, on Sundays it only runs every couple hours. Still, there is never a long wait for a boat. Moreover, it runs until about 11pm so there’s no issue staying for a nice dinner and then leaving in the evening.
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