To help inspire or plan your trip to Mali, some of its major attractions
for travellers are shown below, including some of the best natural, historical, cultural and adventure sites in the country.
These include all of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Mali which represent the best
of the world's cultural and natural heritage.
Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
The Malian capital of Bamako is a bustling city of over one million people situated on the banks of the Niger River. The National Museum provides an excellent introduction to Malian history and culture with impressive collections of masks, textiles and ancient artefacts. West Africa is renowned for its music and Bamako is an excellent spot for catching live bands, particularly on the Route de Bla Bla. Elsewhere Grande Marche is a huge market selling food, clothes and some more unusual produce in its fetish stalls.
Djenné is one of the oldest towns in West Africa, inhabited since 250 BC. It was an important centre of the trans-Saharan gold trade and the spread of Islam. The Grand Mosque, built in 1906, is the largest mud brick building in the world, a truly unique and extraordinary site. The facade has to be restored every year after the rainy season by thousands of volunteers. Elsewhere the town is a maze of narrow alleyways and traditional mud-brick houses, seemingly little changed in centuries, ripe for wandering and exploration. The Monday market is one of the most lively in West Africa, these days food, spices, fabrics and pottery are for sale rather than the gold, ivory and slaves of days gone by.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Old Towns of Djenné
|Cliff of Bandiagara|
Bandiagara is a 135 kilometre long escarpment of cliffs and sandy plateaus. It has been inhabited by the Dogon people for over 600 years when they fled here to escape Islamic persecutors. The Dogon still live a very traditional lifestyle in villages with some beautiful architecture, such as flat-roofed huts, tapering granaries, clifftop cemeteries and communal meeting places (Togu Na). The Dogon are famous for their elaborate masked dances and ceremonies which are integral to their traditional beliefs. This region is an excellent area for trekking - along, up and down the escarpment as you travel between the Dogon villages.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
The thriving market town of Mopti is located on the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers. The markets attract ethnic groups from all over the country, including the Tuareg, Dogon, Fulani and Songhai and sells all manner of food, spices, textiles, traditional goods and blocks of salt, which have been carried across the Sahara by Tuareg camel caravans (in times past the salt used to be traded weight for weight with gold).
|Niger River Cruise|
The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa and is a major thoroughfare in Mali connecting Mopti to Timbuktu. A quintessential experience of travelling in Mali is to take a river cruise to Timbuktu aboard a pinasse - traditional wooden boats powered by engines. On the way you can visit riverside villages such as those belonging to the Bozo, a tribe of nomadic fishermen, view the wildlife of the river including hippos and bird species such as egrets, herons, sandpipers and hammerkops and camp at night on the river's edge. The real highlight however is simply watching the scenes of life on the river - Fulani herdsmen taking their cattle into the river for watering, boats carrying goods, livestock and passengers down the river and women lining the banks washing clothes.
Timbuktu is one of the most evocative and mysterious names for travellers. Located on the edge of the Sahara desert, it became rich as an important trading town and once had one of the largest universities of the world, Koranic Sankore University, as it became the intellectual and spiritual centre for the propagation of Islam throughout west Africa. Today, Timbuktu's attractions include the three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, as well as the old houses of European explorers.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Timbuktu
|Tomb of Askia|
The Tomb of Askia was built by Askia Mohamed, the Emperor of Songhai, in 1495 and comprises the pyramidal tomb, two flat-roofed mosque buildings, the mosque cemetery and the open-air assembly ground. It is a fine example of the monumental mud-building traditions of the West African Sahel. The Songhai Empire flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries through its control of the trans-Saharan trade in salt and gold and the tomb marked the conversion of the empire to Islam after Askia had visited Mecca.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Tomb of Askia