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Saly – About an hour and a half from Dakar, the resort town of Saly draws sunseekers to its beautiful shores.
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Buzzing coastal towns – Saly is a beach-vacation hub and part of Senegal's Petite Côte, a sweep of buzzing coastal towns south of Dakar.
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Mbour – A rush of activity comes with the arrival of fishing boats in Mbour, just down the road from Saly.
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Toubab Dialaw – The bohemian village of Toubab Dialaw, just an hour south of Dakar, has a pristine beach and a lively arts scene.
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Sine Saloum – Time slows down with a journey into the Sine Saloum region's labyrinth of mangrove creeks.
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Mar Lodj – One of the best places to feel the region's calm is Mar Lodj -- a small, car-free island in the Saloum delta.
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Dakar – Back in the capital, the hustle of commerce extends to Dakar's sidewalks.
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Thieboudienne – Senegalese specialty Thieboudienne is made from fish, rice and vegetables simmered in tomato paste and stock. This hearty dish, Thiebou Yapp Guinar, is made with chicken, olives, and crunchy balls of fried rice.
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Saint-Louis – Steeped in history and charm, Saint-Louis was the colonial capital of the whole of French West Africa until Dakar usurped it in 1902
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Senegal is seen as a model for democracy and stability in the region
The Petite Cote is a sweep of buzzing coastal towns, dozing fishing villages and idyllic beaches
Dakar, the capital, is a fascinating city for dancing, bargain-hunting and authentic culture
(CNN)The most westerly point of Africa is surprisingly undiscovered by English-speaking tourists.
And that's a shame for the tourists, who are missing out on vibrant and welcoming Senegal, where rich traditions and natural beauty combine to great effect.
French travelers have been enjoying Senegal's sandy beaches and textured landscapes since the 1970s.
While basic French will come in handy, there are English-speaking guides in most places.
The country is seen as a model for democracy and stability in the region, and with its peaceful and hospitable culture, it's an ideal choice for a first-time visitor to Africa.
A deep source of pride for its people and a treat for visitors, Senegal's "teranga," or hospitality, is part of its identity.
Friendly locals are quick to invite visitors for Senegalese tea -- a strong infusion of green tea leaves with mint and sugar brewed over glowing coals.
In an elaborate ritual known as "attaya," the tea is always brewed in three rounds; the first strong and bitter, the second weaker and the third, very sugary.
There are all sorts of different folkloric explanations as to why, with one musician explaining, "The first is bitter like death, the second is soft like love and the third is sweet like friendship."
Many locals will double as guides within markets or cities, sharing priceless insider knowledge.
While offered freely, a tip is expected, and as with all prices, bartering is the norm.
Saint Louis' colorful streets ooze French colonial charm.
6. A colonial capital
Dripping in history and charm, Saint-Louis was the colonial capital of the whole of French West Africa until Dakar usurped it in 1902, largely thanks to its superior port and growing peanut trade.
Easily explored on foot, the city's bougainvillea-laced streets offer the perfect antidote to Dakar in size, pace and atmosphere.
A stay at the nostalgic Hotel de la Poste evokes the glamorous story of Aeropostale, the French aviation company that pioneered first air-mail, and then in the 1920s, some of the first long-haul passenger flights to Africa and South America.
Guests can stay in the (modernized) room of legendary pilot Jean Mermoz, a hero in the city.
A 20-minute drive and boat ride to the Langue de Barbarie peninsula is rewarded with a sandy beach shared only with some rapidly retreating crabs.
En route, local women can be seen sifting white salt mounds from tidal ponds, deftly balancing baskets on their heads.
Whether it's the rattling rhythms of mbalax, gentle kora or deep djembe, there's live music to be found every night in and beyond Senegal's capital.
Renowned Senegalese musician Baaba Maal hosts a world music festival in December, while Saint-Louis welcomes five days of jazz artists in May.
Just4U is one of the best-known venues for stumbling across top African artists in Dakar, and on Saturdays night-owls should try Thiossane (Rue 10, Dakar), the club of home-grown superstar Youssou N'Dour.
8. Fish, fish and fish
Senegal is a treat for seafood lovers -- fish is the country's staple and most menus are peppered with oysters, prawns and squid.
The national dish, thieboudienne, marries freshly grilled fish with spicy tomato rice, cassava and carrots.
It's served up at Dakar's Chez Loutcha, a favorite for locals.
At Mbour, it's well worth heading to the docks at 5 p.m. to spot the arrival of the fishing boats -- dozens of ornately painted vessels bringing in the daily catch.
As fishing is one of the country's major industries, hundreds of Senegalese gather to play their part in the riot of color, sounds and of course, smells, central to the whole operation.