Riding the Iron Ore Train: A Wild Expedition through Mauritania!

Have you ever heard about the Iron Ore Train in Mauritania? It’s this super cool and gigantic train that travels through the desert, and it’s loaded with heaps of iron ore (that’s a kind of rock that has iron in it – pretty neat, huh?).

The Iron Ore Train isn’t like the trains you might be used to. It’s one of the longest trains in the world, and riding it is an adventure like no other! You get to sit on top of the iron ore and watch as the desert zooms by! Imagine watching the sunset over the golden sands of the Sahara and gazing up at a sky full of stars – all while rumbling along on this massive train!

Now, you might be thinking, “How do I get to go on this wild ride?” Well, guess what? We’ve got all the deets you need to know about how to hop aboard the Iron Ore Train and have the time of your life exploring Mauritania. So, grab your backpack, put on your adventurer hat, and let’s dive into the thrilling journey of riding the Iron Ore Train through the beautiful and mysterious lands of Mauritania!

train night

What Is The Iron Ore Train?

Have you ever wondered what “Iron Ore” means? Well, it’s a type of rock that has iron in it. Iron is a metal we use to make all sorts of things, like cars and buildings!

Now, this Iron Ore Train we’re talking about isn’t just any train—it’s a BIG deal in Mauritania. Mauritania is a country in Africa, and this train is like a moving mountain of iron ore, rumbling through the vast, sandy desert. People in Mauritania rely on this train to transport iron ore from the mines in Zouerat to the port where it can be shipped to countries around the world.

And here’s a fun fact for you: the Iron Ore Train is one of the longest trains in the entire world! Can you believe it? It can be up to 2.5 kilometers long! That’s longer than 24 football fields put together. Imagine being on a train that long, zooming through the desert, watching the endless sands and the starry skies!

Isn’t it wild? Riding this train is like jumping into a thrilling adventure book, and we’re just getting started on this exciting journey through Mauritania! Keep reading to discover more about this fascinating train and the amazing experiences waiting for you!

Preparing For The Journey

This isn’t your typical touristy train ride—it’s a raw and thrilling adventure. Trust me, a little prep can go a long way to make sure you have a wild story to tell, rather than a wild time surviving. So, here’s my insider checklist for this epic train quest:

  • Goggles are a must! I took ski goggles, and let me tell you, they were eye-savers from the desert sun.
  • Masks – Bring a bunch. I layered a fabric one over a medical mask and switched the medical one out a few times since it turned into a dust magnet.
  • Consider double underwear or a sanitary pad. Sounds weird, I know, but you’ll want that extra barrier from the iron ore dust. I did this, and trust me, it was the cleanest part of me after the journey.
  • Snacks and water are key. You don’t know how long you’ll be on that train, and the last thing you want is a rumbling stomach or parched throat. I had a light bite and a little water—adrenaline kept me going. But don’t skimp on water like I did, you’re not a cactus, and it’s seriously hot out there.
  • A head torch is like finding treasure when it’s pitch black at night, which it probably will be.
  • Dress in layers. I’m talking thermal leggings, cargo pants, a top, a t-shirt, a pullover, and even a winter coat, plus gloves and a snood. Yep, it gets that cold. But by mid-morning, you’ll strip down faster than you can say “heatwave” because it gets hot, despite the breeze that feels like it’s high-fiving your face a little too hard.
  • Power bank – Your phone might just be your camera on this trip, but keep it charged. Electronics and sand don’t mix well—my poor pink camera is still coughing up sand!
  • Portable urine bags were a suggestion from a fellow traveler, but I passed. Just remember, it’s not easy to dash to a bathroom in a moving ore carrier.
  • Don’t forget your meds and painkillers. It’s not exactly a place you can pop to the pharmacy.
  • Plastic bags or covers for your luggage. Everything will get a coating of dust, but plastic helps.
  • Sunscreen is non-negotiable. The sun’s not kidding around here.
  • Tie your hair up or cover it. I braided mine, and while it turned into a bit of a wire afterward, it was better than the alternative!

Last but oh-so-important: bring your patience. It’s a test of endurance, and your cool, calm collectedness will be your best travel buddy.

Read more: 5 Reasons That Make Traveling to Nouakchott Unforgettable

What To Avoid

Alright, so you’re getting ready for the Iron Ore train ride, which is basically the ultimate see-Mauritania-like-a-local adventure, right? Well, there are a few things you’ll want to leave behind to make sure your trip is epic for all the right reasons:

  • Valuables – Just leave them at home. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll get ruined with all the dust and the bumping around.
  • Perishable snacks – Imagine getting a tummy ache on a train in the middle of the desert. Not fun, right? So skip anything that could spoil.
  • Big, heavy stuff – Remember, you’ve got to haul everything you bring onto a train car filled with iron ore. So pack light and keep it simple.
  • A grumpy attitude – Look, there will be moments when you’ll wonder why you thought this was a cool idea. It’s okay to have those moments, but if you’re with other people, try not to rain on their parade. Everyone’s just trying to have their own adventure.
  • Entitlement – This one’s big. The train isn’t a five-star hotel and the journey’s pretty rugged. There are no tickets, no guarantees, and it’s definitely not a luxury ride. You’re on your own, and it can be risky, so remember, no one owes you anything.
  • The “white savior” mindset – If you want to help out the local kids or communities, that’s great, but it’s not cool to just give out candies or treats without thinking about what they actually need. Talk to a local school or orphanage first. And when you do help, it’s not about getting a cool photo for social media. It’s about making a real difference in someone’s life, without making a show of it.

Keep it real, pack smart, and stay positive. You’re about to embark on an adventure that’s all about the experience, not the extras. Have a blast and soak in every wild moment!

iron ore train mauritania

What Is The Train’s Route

Let’s chat about the awesome route the Iron Ore Train takes through Mauritania! So, the train goes from Zouerat to Choum, and finally to Nouadhibou.

  • Zouerat: This is where our exciting journey begins! Zouerat is a town that’s all about mining; it’s where the iron ore mines are located. It’s pretty far from the coast of Mauritania—about 700km! So, imagine, the train starts its journey from this cool mining town and heads out, loaded with iron ore!
  • Choum: Next stop, Choum! It’s a tiny place tucked between Zouerat and Atar. Here, the train makes a short stop. People get on and off, and some cargo gets loaded and unloaded.

And here we are, the final stop—Nouadhibou! It’s the second biggest city in Mauritania, and it’s where the train reaches its destination. All the iron ore is unloaded here at the port. So, it’s like the train has completed its mission, delivering all the iron ore from the mines in Zouerat to the port in Nouadhibou!

iron ore train

Where To Catch The Train

Ready to embark on a rolling adventure on the Iron Ore Train? Let’s delve deeper into the main spots where you can jump aboard this metal giant!


  • The Journey Begins!
    Zouérat is the northern starting point, and it’s where the train loads up with tons of iron, preparing for its long journey. This place is like the gateway to a thrilling adventure, with the train all loaded and the desert sands whispering tales of the journey ahead!
  • Why Start Here?
    Starting your journey in Zouérat lets you experience the train in its full glory, loaded with iron and rumbling through the desert. It’s the beginning of the story, where the excitement is at its peak!


  • The Shorter Adventure!
    Choum is a sweet spot some hours from Zouérat. It’s a great place if you’re looking for a shorter ride but still want to catch the excitement.
  • Nearby Wonders:
    Choum is pretty close to other magical Mauritanian spots like Atar and Chinguetti. So, catching the train here means you can have more Mauritanian adventures packed into your journey!
  • Why Choose Choum?
    It’s the best of both worlds! You get a taste of the iron giant’s journey and also get to explore other mesmerizing locations nearby. It’s a win-win!

Iron Ore Train Prices

You can actually ride on top of the iron ore wagons or even inside the empty ones for free! Yes, you heard me, for free! It’s like a cool, giant moving playground! A lot of locals use it to travel to and from their work at the iron ore mines in Zouerat.

Oh, and there’s also a little special spot on the train, a single-passenger carriage! But here’s the thing, space in there is pretty limited because, well, there’s only one passenger carriage on the whole train!

If you fancy riding in a bit more comfort, you can grab a ticket for this passenger carriage. In 2023, a ticket costs 6 EUR. It’s a neat option if you want to have a different experience on the Iron Ore Train!

What Is The Passenger Carriage Like?

Did you know that each Iron Ore Train, no matter which way it’s going, has over 200 wagons just for the iron ore and only 1 for passengers? Yep, just one!

So, about that passenger carriage… It’s pretty simple, with a few wooden benches inside. I think it officially has about 30 seats. But here’s the crazy part! The number of tickets sold definitely doesn’t match up with the number of spaces taken.

You will see people rushing and tossing their coats, bags, packages, and even boxes onto the train. The passenger carriage is packed like a can of sardines!

It’s so crazy, that people pass babies through the windows, and everyone is scrambling to get on! There are whistles, shouts, babies crying, and even goats being loaded into wagons! It is like a scene from a movie, with all the chaos and noise.

What Is The Iron Ore Train Schedule?

Did you know that the Iron Ore Train takes off every single day? Yep, every day, no exceptions!

So, there are like two or three trains a day that start their journey from Zouerat, but guess what? There’s no official timetable! The trains just leave when they are all filled up with ore, not at a scheduled time.

People say that usually, the train leaves Zouerat around noon, but do not be surprised if the departure time is closer to 2:00 pm or 3:00pm.

And in Nouadhibou, they said the train always leaves at 2:00 p.m. when it’s going the other way around. But surprise, surprise! There are even cases where the train departs at 2:00 am! Yep, in the middle of the night!

Welcome to Mauritania! The train schedule here is a whole different story compared to what you’re used to back home. But one thing’s for sure—the train definitely leaves every day, going both ways.

So, if you plan to catch it, patience is your best buddy on this wild adventure!

Read more: Why Chinguetti Should Be Your Next Adventure Destination

Is The Iron Ore Train Safe?

Short answer is… NO! Some people say that hitching a ride on the Iron Ore Train is one of the most dangerous journeys in the world.

Now, I’ve heard whispers that this might become a “cool thing” to do with big tour groups soon. But honestly? We gotta remember it’s a bit risky. (I mean, it’s all fun and games until someone gets a tiny scratch, right?)

But hey! With a little bit of care, you can totally enjoy the ride and stay safe. Even though it’s tempting to take that super cool selfie for social media, remember: if you slip, the train ain’t waiting. So bundle up in cozy clothes, pack a lot of water, protect your face and eyes from all that dust, and please, pretty please, don’t hang off the edge of the wagon just for fun.

train safety

How Much Time Do I Need For The Iron Ore Train

Let’s talk about the time it takes to journey on this crazy Iron Ore Train in Mauritania, and oh boy, patience is the key here!

So, if all goes well, and there are no train hiccups or super long waits (yeah, like a 12-hour wait at Noudhibou train station), here’s roughly how long you’ll be on the train:

From Zouerat to Choum, it’s around 4 hours.
Then, from Choum to Nouadhibou, it’s about 14 to 15 hours.
So, the whole trip from Zouerat to Nouadhibou? That’s a whopping 18 to 20 hours!
I know, I know, Google Maps says it should be less than 15 hours from Zouerat to Nouadhibou, but trust me, it usually takes longer. So, be ready to chill and enjoy the ride.

And remember, you need a ton of time and, you guessed it, patience! Why? Because this train’s main job is to carry iron ore and the awesome locals to and from work. It’s not a tourist train, so things might not go as smoothly as we’d like.

Here’s a pro tip: give yourself a buffer of at least 48 hours on either side of your train adventure. Trust me; you don’t want to be booking any flights or making plans to leave Mauritania too close to your expected arrival time. Things can, and let’s be real, probably will change! So, keep your plans flexible, your spirit adventurous, and enjoy every moment of this wild ride!

Are There Toilets On The Iron Ore Train?

There are no toilets on this train! Yikes! I mean, there might be something that sorta-kinda looks like a toilet in the single passenger carriage, but if you’re hanging out in the empty wagons or chilling on top of the iron ore, you’re out of luck.

Now, the train does make some stops during the journey. This is when you gotta be quick, like a ninja, and do your thing before the train starts moving again. Don’t worry, it’s not as stressful as it sounds or as some YouTubers might make it seem. The train is super long, like 3km, so it takes a bit to get moving again. But don’t mess around! The train doesn’t care about bathroom breaks.

For the guys out there, if you’re riding on top of the iron ore, you’ve got it a bit easier. When the train stops, usually in the middle of nowhere, you can just go off the side of the carriage. If there are locals with you in the wagon, just follow their lead. Or, you know, use your best judgment.

iron train

Life on the Train

Imagine you’re on a gigantic, rumbling train. Everywhere you look, there’s this reddish-brown iron ore beneath your feet. The wind is playing with your hair, and the vast, endless desert stretches out on both sides. It’s like being in the middle of a giant sandbox!

Now, as you’re rolling along, you’ll spot fellow adventurers: locals going to work, families catching a free ride, and maybe a goat or two (yep, you read that right!). Everyone’s bundled up in blankets or wearing headscarves to protect from the dust and sun. And oh, the stories they have to share! Every person has a unique tale about their journey or their day.

Come nighttime, the scene changes. The sky overhead fills with a bazillion stars, like nature’s own nightlight. Some folks start singing or sharing food, making it feel like a massive sleepover with new friends.

Read more: A Week In Mauritania Itinerary: What To See And Do

Getting Off the Train

The train pulls to a stop a bit outside of Nouadhibou. It might feel like you’ve stopped in the middle of nowhere, but don’t worry, it’s all part of the journey!

You’ll see a bunch of taxis hanging around, waiting for passengers like you to hop in.

Now, if your journey is starting in Nouadhibou and you’re heading to Zouerat, you’ll likely spend quite a bit of time at the Nouadhibou train station. It has a waiting room—it’s pretty bare, just an empty room with a few benches—and there’s a super basic toilet outside (I’d skip it if I were you, really!). But here’s a little secret: this train station is actually fancier than the one you will see in Zouerat!

out of the train

Bottom Line

Remember, this journey is so much more than just a train ride. It’s about diving into new experiences, learning about different ways of life, and having stories to share with everyone back home! We saw stunning landscapes, met some super cool locals, and experienced the heartbeat of Mauritania.

Always keep your sense of adventure, be ready for surprises, and remember to be safe and respectful. This trip teaches us patience, appreciation for what we have, and it brings us closer to understanding the wonderful diversity of our world.

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