Mali occupies the heart of a territory that once supported Africa’s greatest empires and is rich with historical resonance. This history bequeathed to Mali some of its most dramatic attractions – the legendary city of Timbuktu (Tombouctou), whose name has never lost its allure for travellers, the gloriously improbable mosque at Djenné and the bustling river port of Mopti are simply three among many.
Mali’s history has always been a story of its deserts and rivers. The lucrative trade routes of the Sahara once made the region among the world’s richest, and the Niger, one of the grand old rivers of Africa, is still the lifeblood of the country; to journey along the Niger River route (preferably on a slow boat to Timbuktu) is one of the continent’s great adventures.
But all of Mali is alive with a fascinating cultural mix of peoples, from the nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara to the Niger fishing societies of the Bozo to the Dogon people clinging to the cliffs of the Falaise de Bandiagara. As a result, everywhere you go there are fascinating ceremonies, world-famous musical traditions with strong roots in the local soil, and traditional cultures as accessible to travellers as any you’ll find in Africa.
West Africa travel guide
West Africa has cachet and soul. Home to African landscapes of our imaginations and inhabited by an astonishing diversity of traditional peoples, this is Africa as it once was.
Best treks with killer views
Trekking may be hard work but it’s all worth it to encounter exceptional landscapes, extraordinary mountain peaks and serene snapshots of local colour. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures.
Mali destination guides
If you’re looking for a tranquil stay, you should probably look elsewhere.
Desert of dreams: experiencing the Sahara
A fount of solitude and the desert of childhood imaginings, the Sahara Desert is like nowhere else on earth. It is the world’s largest desert, at once continental in its scale and exquisite in its detail, from a sand sea the size of a small European country to an orange sand dune sculpted to perfection by the wind.
Great waterways of the world
Traditionally, along with the sea, rivers and canals were the main means of transporting goods, so history and culture is ripe along the banks of the world's rivers. Using these ancient highways to explore a destination is a quieter and more relaxing affair than the usual transport of planes, trains and automobiles.
Sights in Mali
Activities in Mali
Restaurants in Mali
Budget hotels & hostels
Timbuktu), that most rhythmical of African names, has for centuries been synonymous with Africa’s mysterious inaccessibility, with an end-of-the-earth allure that some travellers just have to reach.