Did the Vikings Ever Make It to Africa?

The Vikings are among the most well-known of the many waves of pagan raiders and pirates who threatened the stability of early Christian Europe.

They were also some of the most audacious seafarers of their time, charting out trade routes that European explorers would only sail centuries later.

But did they ever make it as far as Africa?

The Vikings did make it to Africa. Multiple accounts written within a few centuries of their travels confirm this.

More recently, historical studies and archaeological findings have backed up these accounts.    

The remainder of this article will explain where in Africa the Vikings traveled to, what they did there, and where else they went in the course of their travels.

It will also point out some of the textual sources on the basis of which accounts of Viking travel to Africa have been confirmed.

Also, see Did Vikings Have Two-Handed Axes? to learn more.

Viking axe
Where in Africa did the Vikings travel? See below

Where in Africa Did the Vikings Travel?

In Africa, the Vikings traveled to the kingdom of Mauretania on the North African coast.

At the time, Mauretania (as distinct from the present-day nation of Mauritania) was ruled by the Muslim Berbers.

This area corresponds to present-day Morocco. [1]

The Vikings raided England and France multiple times in the first half of the 9th century CE.

They began by raiding unprotected monasteries along the coast and, emboldened by these successes, launched increasingly daring raids on the major towns of their time. [2]

Viking raiding parties of the era were so successful that they overcame the defenses of even the most well-guarded European capitals.

Famously, these conquests included the plunder of London and Paris on multiple occasions. Eventually, Vikings would settle large parts of Northern England and France. [3] [4]

Inevitably, they set their sights higher.

Their next target was Umayyad, Spain.

But, unlike the English and the French, the Andalusians eventually evolved a highly successful strategy to ward off the Vikings: they fought them off at sea. 

Unable to gain a foothold on the Iberian Peninsula, the Vikings had to retreat temporarily and set their sights elsewhere.

Recouping from these losses, a Viking raiding party is believed to have sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea. 

Sometime in the 860s, they arrived at the kingdom of Mauretania on the North African coast.

Controlled by Muslim Berbers at the time, the area is part of present-day Morrocco.

While they are not known to have traveled further into the heart of the continent, this raid does place them in Africa.   

Also, see Where Do Vikings Go If Not Valhalla? to learn more.

Viking ship
What did the Vikings do in Africa? See below

What Did the Vikings Do in Africa?

In Africa, the Vikings raided the city of Nekor.

They plundered its wealth, killed many citizens, and captured some, including the daughters of the local Emir.

There is also some evidence that the Vikings took the captured Africans with them to Ireland and sold them into slavery. [5] 

Because the Vikings did not leave behind a written record of their travels, most available accounts of Viking raids are from the viewpoints of their victims.

While there are no contemporary accounts of their African sojourn, this is not surprising given that information traveled more slowly in the medieval world.   

The earliest reference to the Vikings’ African Raid can be found in an 11th-century Andalusian text, the Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik.

According to its author, the geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri, the Vikings raided the Mauretanian city of Nekor (in present-day Morocco) sometime in the 860s. 

On this occasion, the Vikings looted and plundered the city for eight days.

They killed many locals and captured others to sell as slaves, including the daughters of the local Emir.

The Emir later paid the Vikings a ransom to have his daughters released. 

Another 11th-century text, the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, seems to confirm al-Bakri’s account when it lists a large number of enslaved Africans being sold by the Vikings in Ireland a little after the date of their attack on Nekor.

It is important to note that the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland are not considered the most reliable of textual sources.

And while other more reliable sources do mention the Viking raids on the North African coast, they do not describe the eventual fates of the captured natives.

However, archeological evidence of the remains of sub-Saharan Africans in Saxon graves in England does add some heft to the Irish account.

Also, see Can You Go to Valhalla without Dying in Battle? to learn more.

Viking warrior
Which other parts of the world did the Vikings reach? See below

Which Other Parts of the World Did the Vikings Reach?

Apart from Africa, the Vikings traveled widely in Europe. They plundered and settled many parts of England and France, sailing as far west as present-day Canada.

They also sailed down the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, getting as far as Kievan, Russia, in the East and Constantinople in the South. [6]

The Vikings were among the most daring of early seagoing people.

They were adept sailors and had developed ship-building skills that were the most advanced of their time. [7]

Their longboats gave them a distinctive edge in executing the audacious raids that made their fearsome reputation.

Swift and low-hulled, they allowed the Vikings to sail the seas as well as more shallow rivers and coasts, launching surprise attacks wherever they went. 

But the Vikings were not just raiders.

They were also farmers, artisans, and traders.

They settled in many of the areas they traveled to, mingling with local populations and developing communities.

They also advanced trade routes that other European explorers would not discover for centuries.

These travels began in their own neighborhood, covering Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands; expanded into Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England; and then took in almost all of Europe and beyond.

The Vikings settled large parts of Northern England and France.

They raided Paris, London, Lisbon, and Seville and sailed down the Mediterranean, causing havoc along coastal towns everywhere from present-day Morocco to present-day Italy.

In the East, the Vikings sailed down the Baltic Sea into Kievan, Russia.

They got as far south as Constantinople. Once there, they established a strong relationship with the Byzantine rulers, fighting in their armies as mercenaries and providing bodyguards for their personal protection.

Notably, the Vikings were also the first white European people to discover the Americas, arriving in Newfoundland in present-day Canada centuries before Columbus. [8]


The Vikings did indeed travel to the North African coast, raiding the city of Nekor in the Berber kingdom of Mauretania in the 860s CE.

Also, see 5 Famous Valkyries to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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