These are what make Mali: wind sculpted desert sands, the flowing waters of the great river Niger and the grassy plains of the savannah. And then, each January, African beats join the mix as music lovers from across the globe flock to the annual world music Festival in the Desert, held at Essakane.
The peoples of Mali are as diverse as their country’s landscapes; from the artistic Dogon farming people with their elaborate masked dances to the music-loving ancient nomadic Tuareg tribe, known as the ‘blue men of the desert’ for their indigo robes and turbans.
An adventure holiday in Mali may not appeal to the traditional safari crowd but it does attract independent minded adventure travellers who are looking for memorable encounters with the friendliest of people across some of the most surreal landscapes in Africa.
Adventure Holiday Highlights in Mali
On the banks the River Niger, Bamako is a great place to get in tune with Mali’s vibrant musical culture and its authentic African identity. Join in the hubbub and haggle for sweet treats at any of Bamako’s bustling and colourful markets and take a deep breath in the city’s sweet scented Botanical Gardens.
The ‘Jewel of the Niger’ and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Djenne is an ancient town that still boasts 2000 perfectly preserved mud-built houses and the traditional mud-built Great Mosque of Djenne, the largest in all Africa. Take time to visit the market here, where spice stalls mingle with goat sellers and where the many different cultures of Mali meet to trade goods.
Comprising three islands joined by dykes where the Niger meets the River Bani, Mopti is a thriving commercial centre and busy port. Take a boat ride from here up the river at sunset and use the town as a jumping off point from which to explore the Dogon Country.
4 Dogon Country
The Dogons were originally a tribe of hunters who settled this area over 600 years ago. They now scratch a living by farming the land here, building intricate houses which represent parts of the body, and perform theatrical masked dances on stilts. A trek along the Bandiagara Escarpment is the best way to see the landscape, these fascinating people and their unique villages.
Apart from getting the stamp in your passport and being able to brag about having reached this legendary city at the desert’s edge, there are some interesting mediaeval mosques and tombs to see in Timbuktu. Djinguereber, built in the 14th century, is the oldest and is an intricate structure of many rooms with a hundred lofty pillars.
To find out more about this fascinating country see our Country Guide to Mali.