The January 2023 expedition was sold out in a matter of days, so we decided to run a second one just 2 days after.
From riding a mining train across the Sahara desert to visiting dreamy oases, Mauritania is an offbeat, adventurous destination, and one of the rawest, most untouched countries I have ever been to.
In this EXPEDITION, we will ride and spend the night on top of a train full of mineral ore. We will drive through the desert, get in touch with the local Bedouin culture and visit Medieval Saharan cities, once important trading centers for the Trans-Saharan routes.
February 8th to 15th
Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.
Day 1 is the arrival day in Nouakchott, a day which we will spend picking you up from the airport, welcoming you, and checking into the hotel.
To be honest, there aren’t many daily flights into Nouakchott, so many of you will certainly come to Mauritania on the same day.
In the evening, we will have a welcoming dinner to get to know each other while we discuss the upcoming adventure.
Overnight in 5-star hotel.
On the second day, we will go across the Mauritanian desert towards Azouega, the tallest dune in Mauritania.
It’s quite a long drive but on the way, we will stop in Akjoujt for a picnic lunch under a tree.
We are planning to get into Azouega around 5pm, when we will set up our camp right next to the tallest sand dune in Mauritania, and one of the highest in Africa.
Overnight in a tented camp.
Early morning, we will head to Chinguetti but not without first stopping in Terjit.
Terjit is a desert spring, more popularly known as an oasis. For centuries, many of the endless caravans traveling along the trans-Saharan route used Terjit as a place for shelter, a spot to break their journey and enjoy the cool breeze under the shade of the spreading palm trees.
We will take our time in Terjit, having lunch and walking over the edge of the valley.
Then, we will head for Chinguetti but on the way, we will stop in Mhaireth, located on the other side of the valley and with a sea of palm trees even bigger than Terjit’s.
In the evening, we will reach Chinguetti.
Overnight in Chinguetti.
Chinguetti is a medieval trading center dating from the 13th century and one of the main centers for the trans-Saharan trading route.
It used to be a meeting point for Maghrebi pilgrims who were on their way to Mecca, so it became one of the holiest cities in West Africa, hence a renowned center for Islamic and scientific scholarship, the reason why Chinguetti is today home to several libraries containing ancient books and manuscripts.
We will visit all of that.
Then, we will head to Ouadane but instead of taking the normal road, we will drive through the desert over sand dunes, an epic trip only disturbed by occasional Bedouin settlements.
Ouadane is home to an old city today a UNESCO World Heritage site which, once upon a time prospered from the trans-Saharan gold trade. Overlooking the Sahara plains, the ruined old city is an absolutely impressive sight.
We will have lunch in Ouadane, visit the old city and then, we will go to Zouérat because we have a train to catch on the next day 🙂
Overnight in Zouérat.
Every day of the year, a train 2.5 kilometers in length, travels more than 700km across the empty Sahara to Nouadibou, transporting hundreds of tonnes of iron ore which will be subsequently shipped to different parts of the world.
We will get on top of one of the 200 wagons, sit on the iron ore and travel along the 14-hour journey. This will be the most epic day of the trip and perhaps, one of your most epic adventures ever.
For me, it was indeed :).
The train can depart at any time between 12pm and 8pm but before that, we will have the chance to visit the actual mines, to see how they fill the wagons with the ore, an experience for which you need a special permit and very few travelers have been able to witness.
The journey to Nouadibou takes around 18 hours. Water and snacks will be provided.
Overnight on the train.
Nouadibou is the second city in Mauritania.
The arrival time is uncertain, but upon arrival, we will go straight to a hotel where we can have a much-needed shower.
Then, we will have lunch and visit the city, including the infamous ship graveyard.
Overnight in Nouadibou.
Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania, and a pretty weird capital, since this might be the only world capital where you may bump into small sand dunes in the middle of the city.
We will visit the camel market, home to the largest concentration of camels I have ever seen, and then, Port du Pêche, one of the liveliest fishing harbours in West Africa.
Dinner and overnight in Nouakchott.
After enjoying breakfast altogether, we will take care of your transfer to Nouakchott International Airport.
February 8th to 15th
These are the hotels where we always stay but note that once in a while, they might be subject to availability.
Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival, which typically costs 55€.
This is the roughest trip we offer, for the simple reason that we will spend nearly 20 hours on a train full of ore, so it’s a trip aimed at adventurous travelers.
In Nouakchott and Nouadibou, we will stay in some of the best hotels in town, no problem but, outside of the two main cities, the accommodation is rough.
The tour starts in Nouakchott, which has an international airport.
The most common connections to Nouakchott are via Paris (Air France), Morocco (Royal Air Maroc), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Tunis (Tunis Air) and even Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Spain (Vueling).
We limit our tours to a maximum of 12-13 people.
In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a 500€ deposit.
Then, the remaining amount should be sent no later than 30 days before the departure date.
Methods of payment will be shared upon booking your spot.
Either you are joining one of our trips, or you are traveling by yourself, you might want to look for proper travel insurance. Against the Compass has been a partner with IATI for several years already, recommending it to all readers, as well as covering all Joan Torres’ personal trips.
We like it because It covers all the countries where the FCDO advises against all travel, it offers budget plans and covers all sorts of adventure activities.
Against the Compass readers can benefit from a 5% discount.
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