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Gambia Holidays

We'll say it up front – Gambia isn't your average holiday destination. With gold sand beaches, an incredible wealth of wildlife, energetic craft markets and some of the friendliest locals you're bound to meet on your travels, this little African country is in a holiday genre of its own.

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The smiling coast of Africa

Gambia is a slim country along the western coast of mainland Africa, hugged almost completely by Senegal, minus its narrow coastline. It's the smallest country in all of Africa, named after the river snaking through the land.

Gambia first entered the sights of tourists after a group of Scandinavian holidaymakers catapulted it onto the scene in the sixties, but the country itself did the rest. Holidays to Gambia combine swathes of beaches with exotic wildlife, and locals so welcoming that the country has earned itself the nickname 'the smiling coast of Africa'.

Where to stay in Gambia

Quick Tips

  • Islam
  • Dalasi
  • English, Mandinka,Wolof and Fula
  • Approx 1.5 million
  • GMT - 0

Along the Atlantic

It goes without saying that the beaches in Gambia are the country's main attraction. With only 80 kilometres of coastline to call its own, Gambia beach holidays offer less beach space than other coastal countries, but what they do have is supremely relaxing and laid-back.

Kololi's beach is one of the most popular in Gambia, stacked with thatched umbrellas and backed by cafes and beach bars. Cape Point follows suit, heavy on the gold sand and relaxation. For holidays that focus on a quiet time, the beach at Bijilo offers even more tranquil afternoons, as one of the least built-up resorts on the coast.

Wildlife central

Though Gambia might have increased its presence as a holiday hotspot over the years, it still maintains a local and home-grown feel in spite of its hotels and beaches. This means Gambia still has some of the best wildlife reserves and forests in West Africa, just waiting for you to see up close.

Just south of Cape Point in the town of Bakau is the Kachikally Crocodile Pool, a sacred spot used for fertility rituals where crocodiles skim the surface. The Bijilo Forest Park is a protected area teeming with monkeys and some of Gambia's huge array of bird life.

And then just south of Banjul you'll find the Abuko Nature Reserve, the country's first designated wildlife reserve. That's where a further array of monkeys live, along with reptiles like crocodiles and cobras, plus more than 200 bird species.

As if that weren't enough, you can really dive into African wildlife with an authentic safari experience. There are a number of safari excursions that take off from Kololi and Banjul, and whisk down the Gambia River or into the bush where lions, giraffes and hippos await.

Craft markets

There's no faster way to get to the real heart of a Gambian city than visiting its local craft market. Most come with their very own, where locals spread out their wares, fresh fruits and vegetables are piled high, and women stack huge wicker baskets atop their heads, just like you've seen in pictures.

There are craft spots and full-blown markets in Cape Point and Kotu Beach, and the Senegambia Craft Market in Kololi. Some, like the one in Cape Point, are just little pockets along the street, while the Senegambia Craft Market has a community vibe. One of the liveliest is in the capital city Banjul, known as the Albert Market. That's where you'll find Gambian paintings, leather goods and wooden carvings.

Gambian cuisine

Traditional cuisine in Gambia is heavily influenced by the country's resources, the biggest one being the river. There's a healthy amount of seafood available, along with spiced meat served with fresh vegetables and a glass of fruit juice on the side. Grains are also popular here, and you'll find local rice accompanying many flavoursome dishes.

But being a holiday destination, Gambia has built up a tolerance for international cuisine and exhibits a wealth of food from all over the world. If you're in search of familiar comforts on cheap Gambia holidays, you're in luck. There are restaurants here specialising in everything from Italian to Indian, Chinese and full English breakfasts.