Best time to visit Mauritania

Mauritania is mostly hot and dry with little rain, though the coast is tempered by tradewinds.
The winter season of November to March is the best time to visit Mauritania, when it’s warm but not scorching, though nights can be chilly. From May to June temperatures are at their highest, reaching into the 40°Cs in some areas. It’s also at this time of year that the winds pick up, sometimes resulting in sandstorms across the desert. From July to September the rainy season kicks in, and heavy downpours can cause a flooding risk in Nouakchott. If you’re looking for a cultural experience, Mauritanians head to oases towns for the annual date harvest from mid June to August.

Nouakchott Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
16
28
1
FEB
17
31
1
MAR
19
33
1
APR
19
34
0
MAY
21
35
0
JUN
23
35
1
JUL
24
32
12
AUG
25
33
44
SEP
26
35
36
OCT
24
37
8
NOV
20
34
2
DEC
17
30
6

Things to do in Mauritania

Things to do in Mauritania

The wild strangeness of desert landscapes is the major high point of a trip to Mauritania. It’s a land where nomadic life still flourishes and time-worn cities, rock paintings and neolithic ruins hint at a diverse and glorious past. Visual delights include vast sand seas, parched plains, and great, twisted hulks of rock, including the huge monolith of Ben Amera, the second largest in the world after Australia’s Uluru. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of the ‘train of the desert’. The longest train in the world, it transports iron ore from Nouadhibou to Zouérat. It would be criminal to spend all of your nights indoors when the desert night skies are so luminous. The Sahara assumes a different, more mysterious character at night and camping out on the sands under its stars is the perfect way to appreciate it. All organised tours that pass through this region will include some time sleeping under canvas. Seeing Mauritania on its own is fascinating enough, but for an even greater adventure you could visit some of its neighbouring countries on the same trip. You could start in Morocco, for example, before travelling down through the disputed territory of Western Sahara to reach Mauritania, and then moving on southwards to Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.

Things not  to do in Mauritania

Forget to greet people properly, even in everyday situations such as shopping or changing money, and preferably in French or Arabic if you can manage it. This is a country where traditions and codes of behaviour hold fast, so it’s also a good idea to do some research before you arrive. Most tour operators will give you the cultural lowdown on arrival so that you don’t offend local sensibilities. Respecting local people and their culture applies when taking photographs, too. Never snap away without asking permission first. Also, be aware that in some areas, taking a photo of military buildings or border post is forbidden. Always ask your guide if you’re not sure. Mauritania is a tough place to negotiate thanks to poor infrastructure and limited public transport, not to mention an unstable security situation. For this reason, we don’t recommend that you travel independently. If you join a small group tour you’ll travel in a private vehicle and enjoy the services of tour leader and an expert local guide, reducing the chances of anything going wrong and ensuring that if it does, help is close at hand. What’s more, you’ll have the added bonus of a gaggle of likeminded fellow travellers to share the highs and lows with along the road. Underestimate the power of the sun in Mauritania. You’ll be spending time in hot and dry places so do cover up, wear plenty of sunscreen and keep yourself really well hydrated, to avoid heat exhaustion, or the even more serious heat stroke.

Is it safe to travel to Mauritania?

While we do offer tours to Mauritania, you should be aware that the security situation is unstable and terrorism is sadly a risk of travelling here. Mauritania is part of the Sahel region, whose porous borders mean that terrorist groups can potentially carry out attacks and kidnappings throughout. There have been security threats in Mauritania for some time – indeed, the renowned Dakar Rally, which used to pass through the country, was moved to South America in 2009 because of safety concerns. Since 2017, the main threat has come from Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeer (JNIM) – a combination of groups including Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Murabitun.

Mauritania also faces pressing and long standing human rights issues, and it pays to read up on the country’s background before you arrive. Slavery has a long history here. Over hundreds of years, lighter skinned, Arabic-speaking moors raided African villages, leading to a caste system that still exists today. For the most part, darker skinned Afro-Mauritanians take up the lower status jobs and are underrepresented in government and industry.
Mauritania was the last country in the world to make slavery illegal, passing laws to this effect in 1981. However, despite steadfast government denial, the practice is still widespread, and it is estimated that around 18 percent of the population , mostly from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian groups, still live as bonded labourers, domestic servants or child brides.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to Nouakchott and the country’s southwestern corner and against all travel to the rest of the country. This means that you’ll need to purchase travel insurance which takes this into account, such as from our partner Campbell Irvine Direct. This insurance should cover you if you have an accident or get sick, for example, but not if any issues occur related to the FCO warnings. Mauritania is a dangerous country to travel in, but our operators know it well and are confident they can operate tours there safely, working closely with local suppliers who keep up to date with security developments.

Our top Mauritania Holiday

Mauritania small group holiday

Mauritania small group holiday

Ancient towns, stunning desert scenery and nomadic culture

From £1999 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 28 Dec
2020: 3 Mar, 28 Dec
2021: 2 Mar, 28 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Mauritania or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Mauritania travel advice

Jim O’Brien runs specialist tour company Native Eye, which offers trips to Mauritainia, and has this advice:

Mauritania Highlights

“Mauritania was an important destination on the old Saharan camel caravans and towns like Chinguetti and Ouadane played a large role in this. Now UNESCO listed, they give a sense of grandeur of the past, and Chinguetti has some fascinating manuscript libraries.

The desert scenery of the Adrar region is beautiful, with rocky outcrops and picturesque oases, and Banc D’Arguin National Park is a great place for birders, with thousands of migrating species stopping here en route elsewhere. For railway enthusiasts, Mauritania has the longest train in the world, which is possible to ride – a magnificent, if none too comfortable, journey through the desert.

Mauritania also has a strong nomadic culture although following the drought of the 1980s it’s nowhere near as prevalent as it once was. However, in the remoter parts of the desert it’s still possible to meet nomadic families following a way of life that has changed little in centuries.”

Why take an organised tour?

“It’s possible to travel independently here but public transport is few and far between, so you would need a fair bit of patience and initiative! Mauritania has suffered a huge decrease in tourism in the last decade or so, and its infrastructure has diminished as a result, making it more difficult to get around without an organised tour.”

Accommodation

“Hotels outside of the capital tend to be simple, but often with quite a bit of character, and there are also simple tented camps in some places. And of course, with all that stunning desert scenery, wild camping is a great option too.”
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Droz Jean-Paul] [Intro: Ammar Hassan] [Things to do : Ammar Hassan] [Is it safe to travel to Mauritania?: Magharebia] [Mauritania travel advice: Ammar Hassan]
Convert currencies