At just 500km long and 50km wide, Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beautiful beaches, majestic wildlife and possibly the most welcoming people you will ever meet.
Situated on the unspoilt west coast, cutting into Senegal, the country is dominated by the majestic River Gambia from which it takes its name and offers a truly authentic taste of Africa. The pace is laid back, the food traditional and the people friendly. Yet just six hours from London and with no time difference, you can feel a million miles away without too much hassle.
The country’s main pull is no doubt its majestic beaches. They’re soft and golden and stretch for miles and, thanks to Gambia’s sub-tropical climate they can be enjoyed pretty much any time of the year.
Top Resorts and Hotels
The West Coast of Gambia – known as the Smiling Coast – is at the epicentre of Gambia’s tourism industry and where holidaymakers flock to for great beaches and welcoming locals.
Here you’ll find the once sleepy Gambian village of Kololi, which is now a bustling tourist spot. It’s home to ‘The Strip’, a street lined with a number of bars, nightclubs and international restaurants frequented by both locals and tourists.
Nearby Kotu is slightly more low-key with several African styled, low-rise hotels spread out along its wide sandy beach – thought to be the most beautiful side of Gambia. Here you can really see how the locals live and there are plenty of craft markets if you’re wanting to take home an authentic souvenir.
Further along the coast, you’ll find the even quieter resort of Cape Point – perfect for those who really want to get away from it all. The beach here is the main attraction, it’s a wide sweep of yellow sand, which seems to stretch for miles into the distance. If you want peace and quiet then this is the beach to head to as, like the resort itself which has just a cluster of Gambian restaurants, it is a lot quieter than Kololi Beach and Kotu Beach.
Attractions and Things to Do
Another benefit of Gambia being so small is that it’s easy to explore. If you want to find out more about the country’s colonial past head to the capital, Banjul. This is a vibrant centre with a busy harbour and a good choice of shops and markets selling everything from clothing and jewellery to spices and locally made arts and crafts. It’s not as picturesque as the beach resorts like Banjul Beach, but it is guaranteed to give you a sense of the real Gambia.
Nature lovers are spoilt for choice on the West Coast. Bijilo Forest, near Kololi, is brimming with lush foliage and rich wildlife, including very friendly monkeys and exotic birds, while the Abuko Nature Reserve Park and the Pirang Forest Park are also popular with nature enthusiasts. At Bakau you will find the tropical botanical gardens – perhaps one of the most overlooked places of interest in Gambia – as well as Bakau Kachikally, a natural pool, which is home to around 100 crocodiles.
Gambia is also a haven for foodies, with plenty of restaurants serving up traditional Gambian fair. Try specialities such as benachin (spiced meat and rice), chicken yassa (garlic and lime chicken) and mafe (meat stew in a ground peanut sauce), then head to one of the many local markets and buy some spices so you can recreate the dishes at home. There are even packages available, which allow you to visit a home in one of the villages and learn exactly how the dishes are made from the locals themselves.
Average Temperature and Rainfall
Located midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, The Gambia enjoys virtually uninterrupted sunshine throughout the year. Daytime temperatures rarely drop below 30C and with almost no rainfall from November to June, it’s the perfect place whether you’re looking for a summer break or a spot of winter sun.