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Best things to do in Mali

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Where in the world: Africa  /  Mali

Top 15 things to do in Mali

1. Bandiagara Cliffs (Dogon Country), Mopti

Marvel at the ancient rectangular mud huts built into Bandiagara Cliffs (Dogon Country), a World Heritage-listed sandstone escarpment and home to one of the oldest surviving African cultures. Carved into the base of a 500 m (1,640 ft) high cliff and stretching for some 150 km (93 mi), this settlement built by the Dogon people has origins in the Paleolithic era. Take a guided tour along the cliff's trails, visiting the monochrome beige villages and witnessing their fascinating heritage, including cliff paintings, rock-cut dwellings, and traditional masks, plus ancient rituals. Spanning 4,000 sq km (1,544 sq mi), the area encompasses 289 settlements scattered between plains, sandstone plateaux, and escarpments.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Great Mosque Of Djenne, Djenne

Considered one of the greatest Sudano-Sahelian architectural achievements, Great Mosque Of Djenne represents a prominent cultural landmark and World Heritage Site. The first mosque built on this floodplain dated from the 13th century, although the current scaffold-like, mud-brick structure was rebuilt in 1907 by the French administration and local masons. As you approach the site, notice the cone spirals and three box-like minarets standing tall over the main entrance on the northern side. Inside, during visiting hours, explore the decorated halls occupied by devotees, including the ornate prayer wall facing towards Mecca.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Musee National de Bamako, Bamako

Get an overview of Mali's heritage at Musee National de Bamako, which details the history and culture of Mali from prehistory to present day. An archeological collection has a fossilized skull of a prehistoric man and an artistic view of life during the Paleolithic age, while an ethnographic collection displays masks and carvings from various parts of the country, including contemporary puppets and ancient textiles. Established in 1953 as the Museum of French Sudan directed by a Ukrainian archaeologist, the museum now also hosts exhibits of contemporary arts. Check out photographs from the Bamako biennale, and stop in the gift shop for a good selection of souvenirs and art-related items. French and English speaking guides are available.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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4. Parc national du Mali, Bamako, Bamako

A breath of fresh air in the center of the city, Parc national du Mali, Bamako serves as a popular relaxation spot for the locals, with a bike path and three separate playground for children. Opened in 2010, the park encompasses 103 hectares (255 acres) and includes several eateries, ranging from an upscale restaurant to street food stands providing quick snacks and cold drinks.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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5. Zoo National du Mali, Bamako

Trade the traffic-infested streets for lions, elephants, monkeys, crocs, and tortoises at Zoo National du Mali, perched on a hilltop outside the city. The zoo features a small forest and an artificial river for big cats, plus a variety of colorful fish located in a separate aquarium. Watch chimps swing in a hammock and observe large green enclosures with buffalos, ostriches, and deer. Some spots have an additional surcharge, including the reptile house, aviary, and aquarium.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Bamako City Centre Market, Bamako

Steep your senses in the flavors and colors of Bamako City Centre Market, a traditional market in the heart of the capital. This noisy, vibrant mish-mash of stands, huts, and semi-covered shops offers anything you can imagine, from food to electronics to livestock. Donkey carts and women with crammed baskets on their heads pass by jam-packed stalls, while vendors hawk goats, turkeys, and sheep heads. Look for traditional Malian handicrafts as you explore this labyrinth. The intensity here may overwhelm the faint-hearted: go with the flow, and bring a bottle of water.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Djinguereber Mosque, Timbuktu

Djinguereber Mosque stands as a monument to the architectural achievement of Abu Es Haq es Saheli, a 14th-century poet and architect. Dating back to 1327, the building remains largely unchanged, with only minor renovations done since its original construction. Built with limestone and organic materials such mud and straw, the structure remains a fine example of "earthen architecture," a durable method of construction in a dry climate.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Cathedral of Bamako, Bamako

Built in the first half of the 20th century, Cathedral of Bamako served as the city's only Catholic place of worship until 1957. The Mass celebrated here differs from most Catholic services, featuring gospel singing in the style of Afro-American church ceremonies.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Tomb of Askia, Gao

Take a closer look at Tomb of Askia, a proper example of traditional mud-building, and also a World Heritage Site. Many believe a former emperor lies buried in this 15th-century structure. To discover its mysteries for yourself, climb the stairs of the 17 m (55 ft) high pyramid and check the interior rooms, or stroll around the rest of the complex, which also contains two mosques and a cemetery. The site is still used as a place of worship, so remember to dress and behave respectfully.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. Bamako Grand Mosque, Bamako

One of the tallest and most conspicuous buildings in the city, Bamako Grand Mosque features a combination of Saudi and West African architectural styles. Two minarets top the square building, where hundreds of worshipers come to pray or meditate.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Fort de Medine, Kayes Region

Formerly the center of French colonial administration in Mali, Fort de Medine occupies a strategic position on the Senegal River. Take a walk around the 19th-century site, which includes several connecting structures, a prison, and an armory. Today, the fortress represents a National Heritage monument under reconstruction.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Casino De L'amitie, Bamako

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Bamako Artisan Market, Bamako

Polish your bargaining skills for a visit to Bamako Artisan Market, offering a wide variety of handicrafts ranging from traditional musical instruments to dried baboon skulls. Browse through jewelry, leather products, , beaded bracelets, and woodcarvings--all make ideal gifts and souvenirs.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Niger River

Travel along Niger River--the third-largest in Africa--for an opportunity to observe local communities and wildlife onshore. Take a boat ride and glide from town to town, spotting people cooking traditional meals, drying and washing clothes, and socializing at riverside markets. You can also see animals like cows and goats coming to the river for a drink. To top off your adventure, stop at any riverside town and try some local culinary delights.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. La Dune Rose, Gao

Spend your sunset or sunrise at La Dune Rose, and witness the formation changing color as the sun moves. You can also climb to the top of the dune, where you'll see the river flowing just a few footsteps away. If you hire a boat, you can observe the dune from the surface of the river, giving you the best perspective over the area. For an exhilarating descent, slide down the dune and feel the warm sand between your toes.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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