Go off the beaten track on this eco-friendly, 8-day trip to continental Africa's tiniest country. You'll unwind on gorgeous beaches, discover tropical wildlife, and get an inside look at local culture - all while being a responsible traveler.

What The Gambia lacks in size, it makes up for in natural beauty, variety of activities, and the friendliness of its people. Slow down and spend your week delving into the culture, nature, and traditions of The Gambia. Nicknamed "The Smiling Coast," this vibrant West African nation offers so much more than just sand and sea. You'll canoe on the River Gambia, trawl for treasures in village markets, and learn about the country's fragile ecosystem.

Highlights

  • Relax on the The Gambia's famous sandy beaches 
  • Encounter wildlife on a guided nature walk
  • Watch the sunrise over the mighty River Gambia 
  • Get a taste of village life and explore local markets 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights
Day 1 Arrive in The Gambia
Day 2 Relax on pristine beaches
Day 3 Nature and wildlife walk & talk
Day 4 Discover Gunjur Village
Day 5 Explore the beautiful Gambia River
Day 6 Watch the sunrise over the Gambia River
Day 7 Visit Banjul, The Gambia's capital city
Day 8 Departure

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in The Gambia 

The Gambian coast
Colorful fishing boats along the Gambia coast

Welcome to The Gambia! Your driver will meet you at the airport in Banjul and bring you to your eco-lodge near the coastal town of Gunjur. Enjoy a welcome drink and settle into your hut - you'll be sleeping here for the majority of your trip. This environmentally-friendly establishment is run entirely on solar power, and features composting toilets and its own greywater (water recycling) system. Have dinner at the hotel restaurant, which cooks all its food using locally-grown ingredients. Choose from European or traditional Gambian dishes.

Day 2: Relax on Pristine Beaches

Watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

Spend your first full day in The Gambia unplugging and enjoying Gunjur's gorgeous ocean views. After a delicious buffet-style breakfast at the lodge, take a short 25-minute stroll down to the quiet, unspoiled beaches nearby. Back at the lodge, stretch it out in a yoga class, take a dip in the freshwater pool, or simply relax in a hammock under the palm trees. If you'd prefer something more active, explore the neighborhood by bicycle.

Day 3: Nature Walk & Talk

The Gambia is full of fascinating wildlife

Today you'll get an in-depth look at the rich landscape and fascinating wildlife around you. Your guide will meet you at the lodge early in the morning, and after a quick breakfast you'll set out on a three-hour nature walk in the neighboring Koofung Forest Park. Discover some of the hundreds of species of birds that call The Gambia home, as well as monkeys, chameleons, and hares. Learn the medicinal and religious uses of the various tropical plants and trees. Your walk will continue into the nearby wetlands, where you'll encounter turtles, crabs, and more beautiful birds. Spend the rest of your day at leisure.

Day 4: Discover Gunjur Village

Catch a glimpse of local village life

After breakfast, you'll spend the day exploring the rural town of Gunjur on foot. Take in all this vibrant community has to offer, led by a guide whose ancestors were among the first settlers in the village. Visit the local school, the open market, and even a family home to get an inside look at Gambian culture. Then make your way to Gunjur Fishing Village, just under 2 miles (3 km) from the town center. Watch the fishermen bring in their haul in multi-colored pirogues, or small, flat-bottomed fishing boats. Learn how the locals dry the bonga fish on racks and then smoke them over a fire for preservation. 

Sample the local cuisine and enjoy a cold drink by the beach before walking back to the lodge. If the heat has gotten the best of you, feel free to grab a taxi back instead and cool off in the pool.

Day 5: Explore the Gambia River

The River Gambia, a major West African river

Today you'll switch things up and travel 1.5 hours inland to a lodge by a creek off the southern banks of the mighty Gambia River. The country's borders mimic the path of this major river, which meets the Atlantic Ocean at the country's capital, Banjul. Spend your afternoon relaxing, or take a canoe out on the river for a bit of adventure. Keep an eye out for monkeys, otters, and even bottlenose dolphins! Paddle over to the ruins of Kunta Kinteh Island, once a colonial fort and slave trade stronghold. The small island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was renamed in honor of Kunta Kinte, who was sold into slavery from the nearby village of Juffure in 1767 and made famous in Alex Haley's book Roots.

Day 6: Watch the Sunrise Over the Gambia River

Take it easy by the Gambia River

Wake up early to enjoy a magnificent sunrise over the Gambia River. Enjoy breakfast at the lodge before your driver brings you back to Gunjur. You'll have the rest of the day to yourself, so take advantage of the many activities at the lodge. Learn to play traditional Gambian instruments, like the djembe or kora, or work on your moves in a dance class. Try your hand at beach fishing like the locals and see if you can catch your dinner! Take a cooking class, or simply pamper yourself with a massage.

Day 7: Do Banjul Like a Local

Banjul is home to Albert Market, one of the largest markets in the country

Today you'll explore The Gambia's small coastal capital city, Banjul. Travel in a shared yellow bush taxi from Gunjur to Banjul accompanied by your guide (although a regular private taxi can be arranged, if you prefer). Banjul is situated on an island at the mouth of the Gambia River about an hour north of Gunjur. 

Practice your haggling skills at Albert Market, one of the largest markets in the country. Here you'll find gorgeous souvenirs like vivid fabrics, jewelry, and carved wooden masks, along with fresh produce and spices. For panoramic views of the island city, climb to the top of Arch 22, a 118-foot-tall (36 m) monument built to commemorate a bloodless coup in 1994. Then roam around the National Museum, where you'll find historical and cultural artifacts like musical instruments and architectural tools, and an archaeological reconstruction. Watch the ships dock at Banjul's bustling harbor.

Day 8: Departure

Have one last delicious breakfast before saying goodbye to The Gambia. Your driver will take you back to the airport for your departing flight.

This article is based on an itinerary created by kimkim local travel specialist Linda Veråsdal.