A Saharan Odyssey

Mauritania – A Saharan Odyssey Tour – an 15 day Small Group Tour from £4895 per person.

Deserts are evocative places. Perhaps it’s their apparent emptiness that appeals. A distant horizon that allows us to relax our eyes and absorb a wild and unforgiving vision. However, deserts are rarely truly empty, and if your life has been attuned to their subtle cycles, neither need they be unforgiving.

The raw and beautiful landscapes and people in a spare and loose synergy. For some, to travel here satisfies a natural human curiosity. For others, it poses a host of new questions. See it for yourself.

This is a new expedition through Mauritania, an itinerary which is the outcome of many years of research in the Sahara. Our expedition starts in Chinguetti, one of the most well conserved oases in the whole Sahara.

An “out of any track” exploration to try to spot Aouelloul crater, created by the impact of large meteorite more than tree millions of years ago, we drive to Ouadane,  founded “just” in 1147 of our era. It is the remotest oasis in Mauritania, the western outpost before the total emptiness… Where we will continue.

The rarely visited El Ghallaouiya canyon hosts more than six hundred graffiti figures, depiction of warriors, chariots, hunters, wild animals, and more, a unique “open sky gallery” going back thousands of years at the time before the desertification, when the desert was a green savannah.  From El Ghallaouiya canyon landmark starts the more intense exploration: beyond the horizon, hundreds of kilometres of virgin sand and dunes ranges. We will “navigate” Erg Ouarane immensity.

For days the only human traces that we could find will be prehistorical stone tools. We will search for a pass between Aoukar mountain chain to try to explore the Aoukar depression that was, before the desert era, a large lake with populated shores. South of the prehistorical lake we will search for Aoudaghost archaeological site with miles of ruins hidden by the mountains. Aoudaghost has been the northern town of the Ghana Empire, the oldest known Empire in Black Africa, dating back to the VI century.

We will explore paved alleys, remains of stone building in the surrounding  deep caves hiding large jars, and… skeletons. Only few sites of Aoudaghost have been studied by the French archaeologists in the early ’60, the traces of the excavation have disappeared, covered by the sand and we will have the impression to be the first. Finally, we reach the town of Kiffa, renowned for the traditional glass beads produced by Moorish women before returning to Nouakchott.

This is not an easy trip, and definitely not recommended for first time visitors to Africa, but for those seeking real adventure it is hard to beat.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Arrive in Nouakchott and transfer to a comfortable hotel. There are no guided activities or meals included today. Overnight Hotel Azalai or similar.

Holidays and Tours to Mauritania

Holidays and Tours to Mauritania

Today will be a full driving day mostly on tarmac roads in a north westerly direction from the capital. The further we head into the desert the more spectacular the scenery becomes, a beguiling expanse of dunes before later the dramatic Adrar mountains come into view. We expect to arrive for sunset in Chinguetti, and tonight meet your experienced Saharan leader for a briefing of the adventure ahead. Overnight at La Gueila Auberge or similar (BLD)

Our goal today is to journey from Chinguetti into the desert wilderness to the remarkable Aouelloul meteorite crater. With a diameter of around 250 metres, it is thought that the impact from space causing this crater took place some 3 million years ago.  After exploring the vicinity of the crater we return to our base in Chinguetti. Overnight at La Gueila Auberge or similar (BLD)

Continue our journey to Ouadane, a historically significant and remote oasis trading post established in the 12th Century. Although now overall largely in ruins, the central old town still has some intact building, some of which are still inhabited. Continue to one of the Sahara’s greatest mysteries. Guelb er Richat is known as the ‘eye of Africa’ comprising three concentric rock rings with an interior depression. The largest ring has a diameter of an astonishing 40 kilometres (25 mi). The geological feature is clearly visible from space and there are numerous theories as to its existence, none yet proven. Tonight we start to enjoy the calming experience of camping in the true Saharan wilderness. Overnight wild camping. (BLD)

Our Saharan odyssey stretches further into the desert wilderness, traversing the sandy expanse between spectacular rock formations. Along the way we may encounter desert nomadic people.  We reach the abandoned fort of El Ghallaouiya built by the French “camel battalions” and now being taken back by the desert. Continue to the impressive spectacle of Trig Chauail, an open sky petroglyphic museum comprising some 220 panels and 600 subjects, a retrospective exhibition of 6000 years of human activity. This is a truly incredible sight to witness behold in this most barren of landscapes. Tonight, we plan to camp in the Ghallaouiya canyon. (BLD)

Now we move into the expanse of Erg Ouarane a seemingly never-ending sea of 800 kilometres of shifting virgin sands. We spend these days navigating the desert through GPS and compass immersed in the majestic Sahara. Each night we will wild camp with the dunes as our companions. (BLD)

After the thrilling adventure of the Erg Ouarane, our arrival at the Aoukar depression represents a change of landscape comprising sand dunes, saltpans and scattered escarpments. Here there once existed a vast saline sink lake which has now disappeared. The remains of hundreds of villages scatter what would have been the shore of the now extinct lake. We will explore the region and overnight in wild camps. (BLD)

Continuing through landscapes of dunes, dried lakes, acacia and nomadic camps, we reach the archaeological site of Aoudaghost, believed to be the northern town of the Ghana Empire, the oldest known kingdom in Black Africa dating from the 6th century. Aoudaghost was a rich caravan town, trading mostly in gold. In ancient Islamic manuscripts it was described as being like Mecca and the whole region was once inhabited. We will explore and search for ancient clay granaries whose entrances are fortified by stonewalls.  Only a few areas of Aoudaghost have been studied by French archaeologists primarily in the early 1960’s and sand has largely covered any trace or the research. These days due to the shear remoteness of the region, these archaeological hidden treasures are rarely visited. Aoudaghost was added to the UNESCO tentative cultural list in the early 2000’s. Overnights in wild camps. (BLD)

We head now back towards the Atlantic for Nouakchott. Our destination en route is Kiffa, renowned for its traditional glass beads produced by Moorish women. Overnight Hotel Le Phar du Desert or similar. (BLD)

We continue on ‘la route de l’espoir’, linking south west Mauritania with the Atlantic coast and the capital. Overnight Hotel Oasis or similar. (BLD)

We expect to arrive back in Nouakchott by early evening where you will be transferred to the airport for your onward late evening flight. Day use in a room before departure is available upon request depending on departure time. (B)

Dates & Price.

  • Tour Code
    Trip Status
  • Tour Code 21-01 JAN
    Start Wednesday January 13, 2021
    End Wednesday January 27, 2021
    Available Seats: 16

    Adult ( 1 - 16 Pax ) £4,895.00 /Person

    - +

    Trip Extras:

    Mauritania – A Saharan Odyssey (SAO) Single Supplement
    £ 555.00 / unit

    Single travellers - we understand that in our busy world many people travel alone. Although we do charge a single supplement, if you are willing to share with another traveller then please contact us and we will do our best to match you up. Otherwise please select the applicable single supplement below.

    Learn More

Tour Notes

This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 4 travellers.

Please note that this tour operates on the basis of a maximum of 3 passengers per vehicle, plus the driver. Therefore, only 2 passengers will sit on the back seat, which allows for more space and comfort.

Single supplement from £555.

This itinerary is designed to experience fascinating places where foreigners hardly arrive. We kindly ask you to remain tolerant and flexible in order to fully enjoy and appreciate the unique nature and wildlife, the spontaneous hospitality of the local populations, the African magic and mystery, the metaphysics, ceremonies, life philosophies and religious beliefs that local people are willing to share with us.

This tour is an exploratory expedition. The itinerary and visits as described are subject to changes and adaptations while on tour. The changes are decided by the organizer. Wind, visibility, land conditions, local authorities’ decisions, events of “force majeure”, technical, mechanical or other unexpected events may delay or change our schedule. We are not responsible for any delays or changes in the itinerary.

Flights from London to Nouakchott return start from around £620. Please contact us for a quotation.

We include airport transfers in the price of your tour if you are arriving on the first day and leaving on the last day of the advertised itinerary. These will be provided by our local representative or on occasions by the hotel used for the first and last nights of the tour. When the transfer is provided by the hotel this will often be via a shared shuttle bus operated by the hotel. If you are planning to arrive before the start date, and/or leave after the end date of the tour, Undiscovered Destinations can arrange private transfers at an additional cost. Please check with us at the time of booking.

Please note that if you have arranged extra pre and/or post tour accommodation, either through Undiscovered Destinations or directly with the hotel or an agent, airport transfers are not included in the price of your tour. Please contact us if you would like Undiscovered Destinations to arrange private airport transfers at an additional cost.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Transport throughout
  • All accommodation – mixture of camping, guesthouses and hotels
  • Services of English-speaking experienced guide / tour leader
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Soft drinks at nights in the mobile camps – no alcohol is not served in Mauritania
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
  • Camping equipment, including igloo tents and mattress. Please bring your own sleeping bag though.

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas – Visa available on arrival at the airport (currently 55 euros)
  • Drinks and mineral water at meals, except for those at nights in the mobile camps
  • Items of personal nature
  • Tips (Discretionary)