Best Places To Visit In Western Sahara

laayoune gate-western-sahara

Western Sahara is a disputed territory located on the northwest coast of Africa. It’s famous for its white sand, clear blue water, and desert climate. It also has many traditional tribes that date back thousands of years.

As far as food goes, Western Sahara has all of these delicious local specialties, such as harira soup, sardines, breadfruit, and a tajine. Seafood lovers should also visit Western Sahara because the country has some of the best seafood in the world. Western Sahara also has amazing hotels and guest houses.

Laayoune

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As the largest city in Western Sahara, El Aaiun (Laayoune) serves as the administrative center of the region. This desert city offers a range of attractions and activities.

One of the most notable features of El Aaiun is its stunning desert beach, where visitors can enjoy the tranquility of the vast expanse of sand and sea. The city also boasts several historical sites, including the Spanish Cathedral and the old Spanish Quarter.

For those interested in trying local cuisine, El Aaiun offers a variety of traditional dishes, such as couscous, tajine, and mint tea.

Aousserd (Ausert)

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Aousserd is one of the most popular towns in Western Sahara. It is a small, coastal town home to a historical fort from the Portuguese era. It is still in use today and is surrounded by a military base. However, visitors can still see it from a recently renovated park.

Aousserd is located in the province of Tichla and is about 270 km from Dakhla. The city is connected to Dakhla via road. The road is fairly good but quite long and monotonous.

You will have to hire a car to get to Aousserd. There are some regular bus services but they may not reach Aousserd. If you have a rental car, it will be easy to get around the town. The best time to visit Aousserd is from June to August.

Dakhla

dakhla city - western sahara
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Located in the southernmost part of Western Sahara, Dakhla is a vibrant city known for its lively atmosphere and stunning natural beauty. In contrast to the quiet desert experience of El Aaiun, Dakhla offers a range of water sports and activities, including kitesurfing, windsurfing, and fishing.

The city’s lagoon, with its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, is a popular spot for water enthusiasts. Dakhla also serves as a gateway to the nearby Dakhla National Park, which is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including migratory birds, gazelles, and the endangered monk seal.

Cape Boujdour (Cape Bojador)

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Boujdour, a port city located along the coast of Western Sahara, offers a relaxed atmosphere and unique attractions that often go overlooked by travelers. The city’s harbor is a hub of activity, with fishing boats coming and going throughout the day.

Here, you can purchase fresh fish directly from the boats and enjoy a meal at one of the local seafood restaurants. Boujdour is also known for its unique sculptures, which can be found scattered throughout the city.

Esmara (Smara)

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Smara, a small city in the northeastern part of Western Sahara, holds significant historical importance in the region. Founded in the late 19th century as a religious center, Smara played a crucial role in the resistance against Spanish colonial rule.

Today, visitors can explore the limited architectural remnants from the pre-Spanish occupation era, although access to these sites is closely monitored. The city also features a bustling market where travelers can purchase traditional handicrafts and textiles.

Tarfaya

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Situated on the southern coast of Western Sahara, Tarfaya is a small fishing town with a rich history and cultural significance.

The town is particularly noteworthy for its connection to the renowned French author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who served as the head of the Aéropostale airfield in Tarfaya during the 1920s.

Tarfaya also offers excellent surfing opportunities, with its long stretches of sandy beaches and consistent waves attracting surfers from around the world.

Bou Craa

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Bou Craa is about 110 km southeast of the capital, Saguia el-Hamra. It’s known for its phosphate industry, which is controlled by Morocco. The town is also home to the world’s longest conveyor belt. Although the town is not a city in itself, it is a great place to visit if you’re interested in Western Sahara culture.

This former caravan stop is now an army base, but the old palace and mosque remain. You can visit the zaouia on Fridays. You’ll find a monument depicting the presence of Ma el Ainin, the “Blue Sultan.”

Bou Craa is part of a triangle in the middle of the Sahara, known as the “useful triangle.” Since the 1970s, Morocco has been occupying increasing parts of Western Sahara. It currently controls around 75 percent of the territory.

Unique Desert Experiences

Beyond the main cities and towns, Western Sahara offers a range of unique experiences for adventurous travelers. You can stay with local families in traditional tents, learning about their way of life and enjoying traditional meals. Another fascinating aspect is the nomadic lifestyle of the desert dwellers.

For those interested in wildlife, Western Sahara’s seemingly empty desert is teeming with life. Nocturnal animals, such as the fennec fox, come out to play after dark, offering a unique safari experience. The region is also home to a variety of bird species, including the rare and elusive African Dunn’s Lark.

Warp-Up

Western Sahara, with its unique blend of cultural richness, political complexity, and natural beauty, is a compelling destination for adventurous travelers willing to navigate its challenges.

The region’s complex political history and the impact of Moroccan claims add a layer of intrigue for visitors, with monuments and local narratives providing insights into the area’s past and present dynamics.

With careful planning and respect for local customs and advisories, Western Sahara offers a unique and rewarding travel experience.

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