As the smallest country in Africa, Gambia may be compact but it is definitely bursting with life, located in a beautiful area. Known as the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’, Gambia has 80 kilometres of stunning coastline, national parks full of incredible sights and a moving history. Gambia holidays are made for all ages and tastes, with its warm climate and welcoming people.
Along with the famous Gambia River, tropical forests, marshes and large areas of wooded savannah, holidays in Gambia are the perfect destination for nature-lovers.
To the north, in the capital city of Banjul, bright colours and an authentic African vibe await you. Wander around the markets and streets whilst absorbing the history and culture that is around every corner. The city’s enviable coastline of white sand and azure waters make it the perfect place to stay.
Another bustling city is Serrekunda, which is a colourful and vibrant location. Its rolling coast and lively market scene, complement the impressive resorts located around its northern coastal point.
Top Hotels in Gambia
Kombo Beach Hotel
Holiday Beach Club
Senegambia Beach Hotel
Seaview Gardens Hotel
Badala Park Hotel
Bamboo Garden Hotel
Palm Beach Hotel
Mansea Beach Hotel
At a Glance
- Language: English
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 6h 20m
When to go
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Out and about in Gambia, delve into the city’s historical and cultural heritage, starting with the Jufureh and James Islands that have artefacts that hark back to its colonial past.
If you want to barter for a bargain, head to the bustling Albert Market in Banjul. Here you will find many handmade goods including fabric, shoes and local produce. At Bakau there is also a craft market, or you can touch the tame crocodiles at Katchikally Crocodile Pool. Walk in the Bijilo Forest Park near to Kairaba or Senegambia.
Mess about on the River Gambia on a long-distance boat trip in the River Gambia National Park. Here you will spot monkeys amongst the stretch of riverine vegetation, hippopotamus relaxing in the water and pelicans feasting on fish.
In eastern Gambia you can try to solve the mystery of Wassu megalithic stone circles, which are the most ancient man-made structures in the country.
Wine and Dine
Seafood is always on the menu in the Gambia as it has a constant fresh supply. You can choose from Atlantic prawns, lady fish, butter fish and barracuda on menus.
Order the 'catch of the day' in one of the beach bars in the south of the country and the staff will go to the local fishing village and purchase some of the freshly caught fish, just for you.
In Kololi, have lunch at Coco Beach Restaurant at the Coco Ocean Resort that serves tasty salads and snacks, while Solomon's Beach Bar is great for reggae, seafood and the local larger, Julbrew. In the evening, have dinner at Jojo's on Senegambia Road and enjoy steak and pasta to the sounds of the live music outdoors.
If you are in Banjul book a table at The Avocado Restaurant at The Coconut Residence and enjoy international cuisine. For a taste of Arabia, order a shawarma at Ali Baba's Snack Bar near to Albert Market.
For an unforgettable family holiday in Gambia, make sure you explore the exotic beaches, animals, music and food in the area. Whether it be on the sandy beaches, around the hotel pool or learning about the local wildlife and culture, Gambia has a lot to offer the whole family.
All ages will love the Wide Open Walls project. Set in the villages around the Ballabu Wildlife Conservation Area, a living art project has been created by locals who have created street art, covering their homes and village buildings with bright caricatures of local animals and figures.
If your family members want to get a bit wild, take a trip to the forests and mangroves of Makasutu, where you can spot baboons and mongoose on the nature trail that runs through the park.
Action and Adventure
Blessed with an abundance of jungle, river ways and beaches, Gambia is the ideal location for some adventure. Wildlife lovers must visit the Fathala Game Reserve in nearby Senegal and cross the Gambia River to watch rhinoceroses, warthogs, giraffes and monkeys in their natural habitat.
Venture to the unique ecological nature reserve of Makasutu and experience a journey in a dug-out canoe.
Teeming with rare species, vibrant vivid flora and fauna and fantastic views from their peaks, the Kiang West National Park and River Gambia National Park are a must-see. Baboon Island in River Gambia National Park is also a great place to spot a baboon or two.
Another of Gambia’s hidden natural wonders, Bijilo Forest Park is great for a hike. Full of luscious vegetation, red colobus and patas monkeys the small-scale reserve is sure to impress.
Life's a Beach
The Gambia’s sandy beaches are a must-visit for sunbathers who want to soak up some tropical sun, with temperatures ranging from a hot 29°C and 34°C. Thankfully you will be gently eased by the cooling breezes.
Picturesque Kotu is considered one of the best beaches in Gambia. Upon its white sands sit beach huts that meet sapphire blue waters, all surrounded by palm trees. The relaxed atmosphere seeps into the beachside restaurants and bars, along with the beachfront luxury hotels and charming guesthouses.
If you want something a bit more environmentally friendly, check out Kartong and Gunjur in southern Gambia. With the most pristine beaches, these shores are home to a number of excellent eco-retreats.
For the ultimate escape, pay a visit to the deserted beach of Batokunku. You can walk for miles and spot several seabirds along the way. There is also a small beach bar where you can refresh yourself.
On your Gambia holiday, you must check out 'The Strip' at Kololi, which is home to lively restaurants, bars and clubs that play music into the early hours. For something more low-key, the resorts of Kotu, South Kotu and Fajara have a choice of bars and restaurants within the hotels.
If you cannot face leaving the beach, you can relax with a glass of Julbrew in a simple beach bar. You’ll find drinks are less expensive than in the hotels and many have a decent menu as well. There are some bars which show live sporting events.
Nightclubs in Gambia range from open air venues to modern clubs that play a range of music including R&B, African and Caribbean reggae, hip hop, house, soul, Salsa and Ndaga and are open until the early hours.
Hotels and resorts often have visiting dance troupes as guest entertainment, along with musicians, drumming and fire eating. At Ngala Lodge, jazz music is always on the menu with a world-famous trumpet player and the Police Jazz Band.
Choose from intimate stays in a boutique former colonial mansion, to romantic sunset drinks at a beach bar, holidays in Gambia are made for couples.
With a selection of adult-only hotels and resorts, with some offering spa and wellness treatments, you are bound to feel relaxed and calm.
The great outdoors is sure to put you in an amorous mood, what with the constant sunshine, beaches for miles and the opportunity to dine under the stars. Take a River Gambia Sunset Cruise
through the mangrove swamps, full of wildlife and locals in canoes collecting oysters. Enjoy a swim or go fishing, before you indulge on a buffet dinner with champagne on the top deck during sunset.
Get closer with a traditional West African dance lesson and or sign up for an African Djembe drumming workshop on the beach.
Or, to truly get away from it all, get shipwrecked on peaceful Jinack Island, which has no roads.
Music and dance are very much at the centre of Gambian life. With French and colonial influences, this melting pot of ethnic groups and cultures make it a very diverse country.
As a former British colony, traces of the slave trade are still evident in Gambia. The fishing village of Albreda has a small museum dedicated to its history, as well as ruins of a fortified slaving station.
Fort James Island also has ruins of one of the British Empire’s key slave forts and is only accessed by boat.
In Banjul you can learn about the history of Gambia at the National Museum and also study the ruins of the Sao Domingo Church, one of the oldest churches in West Africa.
Top Gambia holiday destinations
Dreaming of Gambia already but not too sure where to go? Have a look at our top Gambia holiday destinations and plan your perfect break: