Mauritania is a geographical behemoth bordering both the Sahara desert and the sea. Few of the residents of this sparsely inhabited country are comfortable with tourists, although the further south you go, the more friendly and open people become.

What to do

On the list of UNESCO's protected monuments for 2007, the Chinguetti Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Africa and currently threatened with the shifting sands of the Sahara. See it while you still can. The rest of the country is lightly sprinkled with a population of only 3 million, so urban enclaves and nightlife are not likely to be found. The closest you'll come is the city of Nouakchott, where fishermen sell their catch at the local market and Mauritanians come together to sell trinkets and gifts at the Artisanal flea market.

Getting there

Flying in to Mauritania may be one of the biggest challenges of your trip. There are flights from Europe to Nouakchott, but landing anywhere else requires a chartered flight from France or somewhere in Africa. These flights are expensive, although not so unreasonable that the well-funded independent traveler couldn't get one in a pinch.

Where to stay

There are hotels and accommodations in Nouakchott and most of the smaller regional capitals, but stays are expensive and the accommodations can be lacking in comforts. Local Mauritanians are generally a hospitable people, so it is a possibility to get invited to stay with a family or a friend you make. People are generally more hospitable the farther south you travel.