Journey to the Land of Endless Desert: Mauritania

Welcome to my trip report on Mauritania! In this article, I will share with you my personal experience of traveling to this beautiful country. From the stunning desert landscapes to the vibrant culture and friendly locals, Mauritania is truly a hidden gem in West Africa. Join me as I take you on a journey through my adventure-filled trip, filled with unforgettable moments and cherished memories.

I just returned from my trip to Mauritania. It was an interesting experience, and I’m glad to share my thoughts on the country. In this trip report article, I’ll talk about my observations and experiences while traveling around the country.


  • First, let’s talk about transportation. Getting around Mauritania isn’t super easy, but the people are nice and always willing to help. Most of the minibuses are relatively new and comfortable, much better than those in Senegal. The tourist attractions are unique and worth visiting, including old villages and Terjit Oasis. It’s also an excellent opportunity to live for a while in villages in the middle of the desert with local families, which is quite an uncommon experience and easy to do in Mauritania. The iron ore train is also a cool experience, and I highly recommend trying it.
  • As a traveler who’s visited many Muslim countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, I would say that Mauritania is the second most religious country I’ve ever seen. We stopped almost every two hours on the bus to pray. Nevertheless, people in Mauritania are respectful of your beliefs, and they are always willing to help you.
  • Food isn’t a highlight of the country, but if you’re interested in trying, you can find good camel meat almost everywhere.
  • One thing to keep in mind, though, is that Mauritania’s population can be delicate about images. So, it is essential to get permission before taking a photo. It’s preferable to be respectful and ask first because they might sometimes say okay but other times might prefer not to be shot.

My Itinerary

Dakhla – Noadhibou

dakhla morocco

Let’s now go into the specifics of my journey. While Dakhla itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, I began my journey there and experienced the best Moroccan cuisine I’ve ever had. Restaurant Chez Ntifi is an incredible place to eat and must be tried. Cool bars can be found in Dakhla, but they are usually found in upscale hotels outside of the city center. I slept at the Hotel Soukina, which was spotless and reasonably priced at roughly $15 per night if you simply turn up.

The border crossing to Nouadhibou was smooth, and I paid 55 Euros for the VOA without any bribes or problems. The driver on the Mauritanian side followed me through the entire process, and from there, they brought me to the bus station of Nouadhibou with a minibus.

If you arrive earlier than anticipated, you might be able to catch the iron ore train the same day because the bus stop is close to the train station. I arrived in Nouadhibou at 15:30, so I went to the train station and boarded the train, even though the train was supposed to leave Nouadhibou at 16:00. Nouadhibou doesn’t have much to offer, in any case.

I had some trouble finding a reputable sim card during my vacation to Mauritania. I paid 10 euros at the border for a sim card that had 1GB of data, but it was never functional. But, I was able to locate another one for the same amount on the streets, and it did function. Later, I discovered that a sim card actually costs roughly 5 euros in a legitimate store, plus an additional 5 euros for every 6GB of data. Fortunately, buying sim card credit is simple and can be done at any nearby grocery.

For breakfast enthusiasts, I highly recommend visiting Shahd El Houda in Nouadhibou. This hidden gem offers a delicious and filling breakfast for only 5 euros, making it the perfect spot to start your day of adventure in Mauritania.

Riding The Iron Ore Train

iron ore train

When I arrived at the train station in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, I was eagerly anticipating my journey on the famed iron ore train. However, I quickly learned that schedules are not always followed in this part of the world. Despite the advertised departure time of 3 pm, I ended up waiting for hours until the train finally departed at around 5:30 or 6 pm.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous about what lay ahead of me as I made my way to my wagon, which just so happened to be empty since I was moving in the opposite direction of the iron ore truck. It can be quite busy and uncomfortable on the train because it serves as a lifeline for many residents of the area. Even though I chose to take the commercial wagon, I still made the error of pacing myself too much inside the station.

The ride itself was both exhilarating and challenging. As night fell, the temperature plummeted, and the wind picked up, making it crucial to have warm, heavy clothing and protective eyewear to shield against the sand. The journey to Choum takes around 12 hours, and if you’re continuing on to Zourat, it adds an additional four hours.

One thing to keep in mind is that the train only stops briefly in Choum, and it’s easy to miss your stop in the middle of the night. It’s essential to be alert and check your offline map to ensure you’re getting off at the right station. Once you arrive in Choum, you’ll find a plethora of minibusses waiting to take you to Atar, even in the wee hours of the morning.

Despite the challenges, the experience of riding the iron ore train is one I will never forget. The stunning desert landscapes and the camaraderie of fellow travelers made the journey more than worthwhile.


atar mauritania

If you’re feeling fatigued after your journey and find yourself in Atar, you won’t want to miss Bab Sahara – a cozy retreat with comfortable tents, complete with mosquito nets and proper beds, available for only 10 euros per night. The English-speaking staff is always happy to answer any questions you might have about exploring the area, and you’ll have access to hot water, proper toilets, and showers to help you rejuvenate after a long trip.

A lot of people are afraid of traveling independently through Mauritania if they don´t speak French. This might be challenging, but in Atar, you can go to see Picasso, a charming Senegalese man who has a shop nearby. If you buy something from him and have a cup of tea with him, he’d be pleased to help you figure out how to go everywhere you need to go. Simply proceed toward the roundabout from Atar; his sign will be on your right before you reach it.


oudane mauritania

As you’ll be arriving in Ouadane in the afternoon, it’s advisable to leave Atar around 3 o’clock. However, you’ll need to leave early—around 7 am—if you intend to travel to Chinguetti after Ouadane. You will therefore need to stay at Ouadane for a minimum of two nights. The Ouadane old city is charming yet compact. If you’re searching for something more daring, you can spend about 100 euros on a private driver to take you to view the Eye of the Sahara.

During my stay, I booked a room at Auberge Maeittegue, which is owned by a friendly family. Although they don’t speak English, their son is adept at using Google Translate. They also arranged my transportation to Chinguetti, which cost me around 50 euros for two nights, two dinners, one lunch, and one breakfast. However, the accommodation is quite basic, with no proper beds or blankets, so it’s better to bring your own sleeping bag. Don’t hesitate to bargain for a better price if you want to save some money!



I wanted to let you know for your convenience that only the other direction—from Chinguetti to Ouadane—can be traveled.

You’ll arrive at Chinguetti early in the morning if you leave from Ouadane, giving you plenty of time to tour the town and its library. For your departure the next morning, you might ask your Auberge to assist you in finding a taxi.

The old library, one of the city’s most well-known attractions, wasn’t really noteworthy. While the ancient city was charming, I thought Ouadane was more spectacular. If you’re short on time and can only pick one, I’d suggest Ouadane.

During my stay in Chinguetti, I stayed at what I believe is the most costly lodging in the village – La Guella, owned by a French lady. It’s priced at around 50 euros per night, and it includes dinner and breakfast, as well as good WiFi, hot water, and other great amenities. The place is fantastic overall, and the owner speaks English fluently.


terjit mauritania

I arrived in the picturesque village of Terjit, a location unlike any other, after traveling through Mauritania. The spectacular scenery, complete with bizarre rock formations and breathtaking views, was without a doubt the highlight of my trip in Terjit. I went on a daylong hike around the area, savoring the special beauty of the setting. The terrain can be difficult to maneuver, so I strongly advise having an offline map on your phone.

Terjit is a must-visit place. Make sure to ask your auberge for a taxi when leaving the village; from there, you can easily locate a minibus to take you to Nouakchott or another area in this lovely country.


nuakchott mauritania

My journey to Nouakchott began with a sense of anticipation mixed with a tinge of uncertainty. I had heard mixed reviews of the city, with some people describing it as nothing special. However, I was eager to explore this city and see what it had to offer.

Upon my arrival, I checked into Terjit Vacancies, which was recommended by a friend. Although the bungalows were basic and not very cheap, the food was delicious, and I enjoyed eating in front of the beach. The staff did not speak English, which made communication a bit challenging.

On my final day in the city, I was told by numerous locals about Sehdini, a “Uber-like” taxi app that has reasonable rates and fresh cars. I chose to test it because I found this concept intriguing. It was a lot more convenient than hailing a taxi on the street, and the app performed as advertised.

Bottom Line

Mauritania, in my opinion, is a distinct and fascinating nation that is not frequently on travelers’ radars. In spite of its problems, including as poverty and political unrest, the nation has a lot to offer those who are ready to stray from the established route.

One of my favorite experiences was hiking around the surreal rock formations in Terjit, feeling like I had stepped onto another planet. I also enjoyed discovering hidden gems like the beachfront bungalows at Terjit Vacancies and the cozy tents at Auberge Triskell.

Overall, my journey through Mauritania left me with a deep appreciation for the beauty and resilience of its people and culture. I hope that more travelers will consider adding this incredible country to their travel itineraries and experiencing its wonders for themselves.

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