Formerly a British colony, Gambia retains some past influences, including the national language. However, the present day identity of this incredible country is undoubtedly all its own, with the vibrancy of its golden coast, intrigue of its reserves and parks and sweeps of the majestic River Gambia that transects the land. Wherever you wander, Gambia holidays will put a smile on your face.
Lively, vivacious, colourful and diverse, Banjul is a fitting capital for this fascinating destination. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the country’s larger hotel complexes and beach resorts can be found within its stretches, mainly along the city’s envy-inducing coastline of white sand and azure waters.
One of the largest and most bustling cities in Gambia is Serrekunda, a colourful and vibrant location that makes a great base. With a gorgeous, rolling coast and buzzing market scene, this is Gambia at its most vibrant. Serrekunda is replete with dazzling resorts situated around its northern coastal point.
For those who are looking for a Gambia holiday to experience its heavenly beaches, there is no better location than the stunning Kotu. Offering a dazzling array of luxurious resorts as well as charming guesthouses right by the water’s edge, this is relaxation like you’ve never experienced before.
If you are looking for a bit more civilisation from your holidays to Gambia, the country’s buzzing cities provide endless days of entertainment, with museums of African history, bustling bazaars and incredible traditional restaurants. The energy of the capital Banjul is particularly infectious – discover its colonial past, taste the traditionally prepared cuisine and meet the ever-cheerful locals.
One of the best times to visit the country is during the British winter when Gambia's rainy season has faded and the sun begins to creep out. While temperatures aren't unbearable, usually peaking at around 30C, there is still enough heat for you to feel satisfied by your winter escape. January and February prove very fruitful periods to visit the country, ironically in its dry winter season. Gambia's wet season tends to run from June to October when the temperatures get hotter and the humidity levels increase further, proving a more challenging period to visit.
Made famous by the novel "Roots", Jufureh and James Islands have slowly increased in popularity as some of Gambia’s most mesmerising cultural attractions, perfect for history lovers. Jufureh is not visually impressive, but boasts an incredible slavery museum with replica slave ship. James Island is much more picturesque, but it is the remains of Fort James, a major colonial outpost dating back to 1661 that make it worth a visit.
Those looking to discover Gambia’s hidden natural wonders should put their best hiking foot forward and head to the incredible Bijilo Forest Park. A community environment and small-scale reserve, many well-trodden paths snake their way through verdant vegetation and fascinating wildlife, with a lively population of red colobus and patas monkeys, sure to put on a show.
Those who enjoy bartering for a bargain will delight in the frenzied atmosphere of Banjul’s Albert Market. Fabrics, shoes, housewares and an endless array of local fruit, veg, herbs and spices collide in this explosion of business and trade. Get stuck in with your best haggling techniques – you never know what you might find!
Banjul is home to various craft markets, perfect for picking up little treats for a loved one, or loved ones back home. There are a lot of handcrafted goodies there, made in the traditional fashion, so keep your eyes peeled, you’re bound to find something good. You may also want to spend a day, or two at Sanyang beach. As one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, it is a fantastic place to enjoy the sun, and just relax. Bakau has a few art galleries to visit, as does Banjul. Many of these showcase cultural treasures, but there are a few that cater solely to West African artists. It is definitely worth visiting.
Visit the fantastic Makasutu Culture Forest, where you learn about local plants and a demonstration of local music and dance is performed. Bird watching is also very popular among guests to Gambia. The Tanbi wetlands and the Tanji Reserve provide fantastic opportunities to see exotic, and migrating birds. There are many fantastic beaches, so spending a day splashing in the surf is a must.
Although there is a terrific local cuisine, many western dishes can be found at the resorts. But, if your willing to give it try, you should. With amazingly fresh produce, and fish caught right outside the hotel, you’re in for a treat. Bakau has a number of great restaurants. One of the local favourites is the late night barbeques, or “Afra” takeaways. These are often found on the beach, cooking fresh caught fish. Typically only tourists frequent the clubs and bars, as many Gambians do not drink. You will find these places near the resorts.
Invest in a hotel that will leave you feeling truly inspired, and stay in one of the hotels that Gambia is renowned for. Alternatively, find a quiet retreat where you can save money and be in the heart of the scenic surroundings either way lowcostholidays.com has a hotel for you
Gambia is a wonderful holiday destination, and that is thanks in part to the lovely towns within its borders. Banjul, the capital, is home to fantastic beaches, wonderful museums and terrific local cuisine. Kololi is another beach town, full of seaside bars and a very relaxed atmosphere. Bakau is a little bit livelier, with a greater selection of restaurants, bars and hotels. Though this is the primary destination for visitors, Bakau doesn’t lose an ounce of its West African charm.
A must see in Gambia is the Abuko Nature Reserve. Here you can walk through the tropical forest and view a host of fanatically exotic creatures, such as, crocodiles, monkey and reptiles, not to mention the equally exotic birds that call Gambia home. Something truly special to visit is the Wassu Stone Circles in Eastern Gambia. These stone circles date back some 1200 years, and are shrouded in mystery, but are thought to be an ancient burial ground for an extinct society. While in Bakau visit Arch 22, a large structure with a truly interesting design.
With the heat index cracking the mercury on certain days, you’ll wish there were fewer things to do in Gambia. The beaches provide plenty of water sports activities, which will help keep you cool. There is water skiing, surfing and sailing, or you can try your hand at fishing. But, if you’re dying to feel the wind in your hair, then rent a quad bike, and zip across the beach on four wheels.
During the first week of February, Gambia is host to the bi-annual Roots Homecoming Festival. This commemorates the forced enslavement of the African people, and invites people from all over the world whose ancestors were forced into slavery, or were affiliated with slavery, to find atonement. This culminates with dance and music, sporting events, trade fairs and carnival parades. The Kartong Festival invites people from all over the world to celebrate music and culture, similar to the Abene Festival in the village of Abene.
Take a journey to the Abuko Nature Reserve, and there you will find crocodiles, monkeys and a host of other exotic species, along with over 300 varieties of birds. At the Katchikali Crocodile Pool, in the village of Bakau meet a few of the friendly crocs. They are wild, but well fed, and mostly content, so it’s a great experience to see something special. Similarly, take a tour of the Makasutu Culture Forest, where you will learn about medicinal plants, followed by a display of local music, and dance.
Gambia has so much to offer in the way of cultural activities. For instance, you can take dance and music lessons from local teachers. You may even have the opportunity to have a djembe, or drum, commissioned from a local craftsman with the help of your music teacher. Riverboats are also available, where you can tour the River Gambia, through the River Gambia National Park, where monkeys fly overhead, Hippos lounge and pelicans relax.
Expect exciting cultural nights when in Gambia. Many of the resorts put on performances of drumming, dancing and fire eating. These tend to be very lively, and audience participation is highly encouraged. But, if you are looking for something a little more subdued, some resorts organize a softer traditional music, played on a type of African lute.