Goree Island

Harbour on Goree Island

Travel to Goree Island – Laid-back Isle de Goree

Goree Island (or Isle de Goree as it is often known as) is situated 3 kilometres from the city of Dakar. This was the first French settlement in the continent. Later on, it became notorious as a market for slaves. The island has several old colonial buildings, mainly the House of Slaves Museum and a small and beautiful beach.

Goree Island is also the terminal for the Paris-Dakar Motor Rally. Each year Goree Island welcomes thousands of visitors, statesmen, artists and travellers. The island offers its visitors the opportunity to observe the striking contrast between its eventful past and the quiet course of the present. The island has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Goree Island played an important role in the history of Africa, particularly in the development of the slave trade. Only three kilometeres from Dakar at its nearest point, the island consists of a flat plain that ends in a steep basaltic hill (the Castle), and is only 900 metres by 300. Possibly sighted by Phoenicians and others in antiquity, it was first discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Dias, in 1444.

Goree was the principal entry point off the coast of Africa for slavers and merchantmen flying the French flag. Thousands of Africans passed through this island fortress on the continent’s bulge. After the abolition of the slave trade in France in 1848, Goree was an outpost for policing the seas. As its role in trade declined, it became a stepping off point for French colonization of the interior of West Africa.

Goree had the first school and the first printing plant in French Africa. It was also one of the “four communes” which in the 19th century were electing deputies to the French National Assembly. Like Zanzibar off the East Coast of Africa, Goree is important in the early history of American relations with Africa. The United States established a consulate in Senegal in 1885. Many buildings on Goree are currently undergoing renovations, sponsored by Senegal and many other governments and international organizations.

Goree Island, rich in its history, is possibly the favourite and most famous tourist attraction. Among the most frequently visited sites, there is the Slave House with its famous “Door of No Return,” a poignant reminder of Goree’s role as the centre of West African slave trade.

The Botanical Gardens were founded by the French in 1667. The Church of St. Charles was built in the style of provincial churches in western France. The Historical Museum in the old Fort Estrees exhibits on anthropology, West African pre-history and the political and religious history of Senegal.

See the William Ponty School where many African leaders were educated. The picturesque ruins of Fort Nassau are worth exploring, as is the Saint Michel Castle, originally built by the Dutch in the 17th century.

Visitors to Goree Island can sightsee on foot and swim off the island beach.  Ferries run at regular intervals throughout the day from Dakar.

  • Explore one of the richest historical sites in the country.
  • Discover both past and present of the island.
  • Relax on a fine beach with laid-back atmosphere.

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Africa Travel Information