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Southern Mali

By far Mali's most populous province, owing to the fact that it houses the capital, Bamako
Most of Mali's travel riches are concentrated in this region: unique rock formations at Hombori, the architecture of Djenné, and the unbelievable escarpment villages of Dogon Country

Northern Mali

Bordering Niger, this region has ethnic Songhai, Tuareg, Tadaksahak, and Zarma. Arid, but not as arid as places farther north.
Mali's most remote Saharan region, with a small population of Tuareg nomads, and the incredibly remote annual Saharan Nights festival in Essouk
 Timbuktu (Tombouctou)
The name isn't the only reason to visit; the town itself is a unique Tuareg desert trading center, and nearby is the magical Festival of the Desert in Essakane


  • Bamako — the booming capital and largest city by far, fastest growing city in Africa, with a good claim to be the music capital of West Africa
  • Gao — small city on the Niger in the far east of the country, one time capital of the Songhai Empire, and home to the Tomb of Askia
  • Kayes — Mali's westernmost big city, by the border with Senegal, and best known for being the hottest continuously inhabited location in Africa
  • Kidal — a remote Tuareg city, with notoriety as a centre of the Tuareg rebel movement and for Al Qaeda activity
  • Mopti — a city across three islands in the middle of the Niger; gateway to Dogon Country
  • Ségou — Mali's third largest city and one-time capital of the Bamana Empire
  • Sikasso — Mali's second largest city and one-time capital of the Kénédougou Empire
  • Timbuktu — the legendary Saharan city of gold, trans-Saharan trade, and Islamic scholarship is nowadays a (fairly commercialized) centre of Tuareg culture.

Other destinations

  • Adrar des Ifoghas — a sandstone plateau in the Sahara home to rock paintings, salt mines operated for centuries, and a surprising array of wildlife.
  • Dogon Country —a trek through this landscape of scattered cliff-side villages is not to be missed by any Mali visitor. The famous Bandiagara Escarpment is a World Heritage Site
  • Djenné — once a religious and commercial centre to rival Timbuktu, this small town of multi-storey mud buildings is quite a sight. It was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Seeing Djenné from a rooftop offers an intriguing and unusual landscape, with its soft texture, rounded lines and melancholic colouring. It also features the largest mosque in the world made completely in mud, which is restored every year by the community after the rainy season.
  • The Niger Inland Delta where the Niger splits into many rivers across a broad floodplain, which forms a giant lake on the edge of the desert during the rainy season.

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Mali - Travel guide