The Ultimate Travel Guide to Exploring Goree Island

Nestled off the coast of Senegal is the petite yet profoundly historic Gorée Island, a haunting reminder of the transatlantic slave trade’s grim past. But it’s not just about the shadows of history; the island stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Beyond its profound history, Gorée flaunts pristine beaches and bustling marketplaces, painting a vibrant picture of a thriving cultural hotspot. Dive into this guide as we unravel the many layers of this unique island. Whether you’re a history buff or an avid traveler, we’ve got the ins and outs of everything Gorée has to offer. From its deep-rooted history and culture to its must-visit spots, we’ve got you covered. Let’s embark on this journey together!

goree island

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History & Culture Of Goree Island

A little island called Goree Island is about two kilometers off the coast of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. The island’s history, which dates back to the 15th century, is lengthy and intricate despite its small size of 900 meters long and 350 meters wide. The fishermen and traders known as the Lebou first inhabited the island. Portuguese settlers established a small trading post on the island during the 15th century. Subsequently, commercial posts were founded on the island by the Dutch, British, and French as well.

But Goree Island’s most well-known reputation came from the transatlantic slave trade. The island played a significant role as a hub for the trade of West African slaves between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. French colonizers who managed the island’s slave trade built the Slave House, the House of Ladies, and the House of Men.

But, all of them pale in comparison to the storied history of the transatlantic slave trade. The island served as a key slave trading location during the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Together with the Houses of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Slave House was established by the French, who were in charge of policing the slave trade on the island.

goree island

Getting To Goree Island In Senegal

Goree Island, which is easily reachable by boat from Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is situated just offshore. These are a few ways to reach the island:

  • Public Ferry: It’s easy on the pocket and a favorite among locals and tourists alike. These ferries zip back and forth from Dakar’s port all day, getting you to the island in a breezy 20 minutes. And guess what? A one-way ticket will only set you back around 500 CFA, which is under a buck in US dollars!
  • Private Boat: It gives you the freedom to set your own sailing time, making your itinerary more flexible. Just swing by the Dakar waterfront or chat with local tour operators to set it up. You’ll be sailing in style in no time!
  • Island Tour Packages: Many tour operators in Dakar offer tour packages that include transportation to Goree Island, as well as a guided tour of the island’s top attractions. These packages often include round-trip transportation from your hotel in Dakar, ferry tickets, and a guided tour of the island. The cost of these packages varies depending on the operator and the specific itinerary.

It’s crucial to remember that the ferry can get crowded during the busiest travel season, so it’s better to arrive early to prevent standing in queues. This is true regardless of the method of transportation you select. Also, as the trip might become hot and muggy, it is advised to pack sunscreen, a hat, and lots of water.

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goree island senegal

How Many Days Should I Stay?

While it’s certainly possible to do a day trip to Goree Island, I would highly recommend spending at least one night on this beautiful and historic island. Although a day trip can give you a taste of Goree Island’s unique culture and attractions, staying overnight will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the island’s charm and character.

By spending the night, you’ll have more time to explore the island’s museums, historic sites, and cultural attractions at a leisurely pace. You can take a stroll through the quaint streets, enjoy the stunning views, and dine on delicious local cuisine. Plus, staying overnight allows you to experience Goree Island after the day-trippers have left, giving you the chance to experience its more peaceful side.

What To See & Do On Goree Island?

If you’re making your way there, you just can’t miss the gems of Gorée Island. With its sun-kissed beaches, one-of-a-kind buildings, and museums echoing tales of the slave trade, there’s a bit of everything to enchant every traveler. Ready to dive into the best spots on Gorée Island? Here they are:

  1. Maison des Esclaves (Slave House): This museum is one of the most significant places to visit on Goree Island. It tells the story of the transatlantic slave trade, and you can see the tiny cells where slaves were kept and learn about their harrowing experiences.
  2. The Door of No Return: This is a symbolic location on the island where slaves were coerced into ships to be taken to the Americas. Everyone interested in learning more about the slave trade must visit since it serves as a potent reminder of the island’s sordid past.
  3. The Fort: The Goree Island fort was constructed in the 19th century and used as a military outpost. It presently serves as a museum that displays information about Senegal and the island’s past.
  4. The Beaches: Gorée Island is a beach lover’s paradise. Especially the Plage de l’Est – it’s the perfect spot for a dip or to soak up some sun.
  5. The Island’s Architecture: The island’s architecture is a blend of French and Portuguese styles and has remained remarkably well-preserved over the centuries. Take a stroll around the island and marvel at the beautiful buildings.
  6. The Cemetery: The cemetery is a serene and solemn location that is well worth visiting. The tombs’ numerous colorful tile decorations provide a unique viewpoint of the island’s past.
  7. The Market: Goree Island’s market is a bustling and vibrant place where you can find all sorts of local products, including crafts, clothing, and food. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture and do some souvenir shopping.

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Where To Eat On The Island

Being snuggled up next to the Atlantic means Gorée Island has seafood dishes to die for. Whether you’re craving traditional fish stews or something with a modern twist, there’s a dish for you. And don’t get me started on the street food scene! From sizzling grilled corn to roasted peanuts, it’s a treat. Plus, if you’re in the mood for flavors from afar, many restaurants dish out international favorites too.

Here are some of the best places to eat on Goree Island:

  • Chez Tonton Depuis 1949: From the moment you step inside, you’ll be impressed by the excellent service and welcoming atmosphere. But it’s the food that really steals the show here. The fish with peanut sauce is an absolute must-try – perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor. And the monkfish brochettes are equally delicious, featuring tender, succulent pieces of fish grilled to perfection. Even the vegetables are given the same care and attention, cooked to just the right level of tenderness.
  • Chevalier de Boufflers Restaurant: When it comes to stunning views and top-notch seafood, this restaurant is a clear winner. With its prime location, it offers some of the best views you’ll find on the island – and that’s just the beginning. The food is just delicious! The grilled prawns are succulent and flavorful, and the fish was cooked to perfection.

Best Places To Sleep On The Island

Looking for a place to rest your head after exploring all that Goree Island has to offer? Look no further! Whether you’re living a high life or sticking to a budget, there are plenty of options for a comfortable and unforgettable stay. Here are some of the best places to sleep on Goree Island:

  • Minutevents pour Villa Charles: The rooms are thoughtfully decorated, offering a warm and inviting atmosphere, and open up to a stunning and colorful garden. The owner is incredibly friendly and will go out of their way to ensure that you have a memorable stay. Price $165 USD/night for an entire villa.
  • Maison Augustin LY: This is an atmospheric period property. The staff is incredibly helpful and friendly. The highlight of the room is the lovely wide four-poster bed with mosquito nets, perfect for a peaceful night’s sleep. Additionally, the room also has a cozy settee and a nice bathroom with hot water. I would highly recommend this hotel for a relaxing and enjoyable stay in Senegal.
  • Chez Eric: This hotel provides guests with a nice and tidy place to stay. Also, your visit is made much more charming by the lovely patio. Also, it’s at a great spot for exploring the island. The best thing is? With this reasonable choice, you won’t go broke. Your money is well spent here! A room is $40 USD per night.
goree island senegal


If you’re planning a trip to Goree Island, it’s always a good idea to budget accordingly. Of course, the total cost will depend on several factors, including where you’re coming from, how you’re getting there, where you plan to stay, and what activities you want to do. But to help you get started, here are some rough estimates:

  • Transportation: A round-trip ferry ticket to Goree Island from Dakar costs around 5,000 CFA francs (approximately $9 USD).
  • Accommodations: A budget-friendly hotel on Goree Island may cost around 30,000-50,000 CFA francs per night (approximately $55-90 USD), while more upscale options can cost 100,000 CFA francs or more (approximately $180 USD).
  • Food and drinks: A lunch at a midrange restaurant can cost between 7,000 and 10,000 CFA francs (about $12 to 18 USD) per person, although street food can be had for as little as 2,000 CFA francs (about $4 USD) each meal.
  • Activities: Entrance fees to museums and historic sites on Goree Island can range from 1,000-5,000 CFA francs (approximately $2-9 USD) per person, while guided tours may cost around 10,000-15,000 CFA francs (approximately $18-27 USD) per person.

Overall, a budget traveler could expect to spend around $100-150 USD per day on Goree Island, while those seeking more luxurious accommodations and activities may need to budget closer to $300-400 USD per day.

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Gorée Island boasts a rich tapestry of local crafts. Now, before you dive wallet-first into shopping, remember the artisans behind these crafts. Buying ethically isn’t just a trend—it’s about supporting the local talent and ensuring they get a fair shake. Every time you buy directly from an artisan or a local market, you’re giving back to the community.

And hey, we all love a good deal, right? When you’re on the island, bargaining is part of the experience. But remember, it’s a dance—respectful and playful. So here’s a tip: always approach with a smile, and never undervalue the work. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where both you and the seller walk away happy.

Tips For Exploring Goree Island

It’s so much fun and interesting to visit Goree Island! Let me give you some advice on how to maximize your time there.

  • Wear comfortable shoes because there are numerous winding, congested streets to negotiate. Pack sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the warm, sunny weather.
  • One of the best ways to explore Goree Island is by hiring a local guide. They can give you a deeper understanding of the island’s history and culture, and provide insider tips on the best places to visit and eat. And speaking of food, be sure to try some of the delicious local cuisine, especially the seafood which is a specialty on the island.
  • Visit one of the island’s lovely beaches, including Plage de l’Est, if you’re looking to unwind. It is the ideal location for relaxing and soaking up the sun due to the turquoise ocean and soft beach.
  • Staying overnight on Goree Island is a great way to experience the island in a unique and unforgettable way that a day trip simply can’t provide. One of the main advantages of staying overnight is the opportunity to experience the island after dark. Goree Island takes on a different ambiance at night, with peaceful and quiet streets and little to no vehicular traffic.
  • Goree Island is best visited between December and April, which is the dry season. The weather is typically sunny and dry throughout this period, making it the ideal time to visit the island’s historical attractions and take advantage of its stunning beaches.
goree island senegal

Bottom Line

In conclusion, a trip to Senegal’s Goree Island is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that blends a fascinating past with breathtaking natural beauty and a dynamic cultural scene. There is no shortage of things to see and do on this charming island, from its museums and historic buildings to its beaches and restaurants. You will gain a greater understanding of the island’s special appeal and character whether you decide to stay a day or a few nights there.

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