Mali, where the Niger River meets the Sahara Desert, was once one of the world’s wealthiest regions thanks to its lucrative trade routes. Today, Mali is far less prosperous, but it remains one of the world’s most unforgettable tourist destinations.

Timbuktu may be Mali’s most famous city, but the country’s capital and largest city is Bamako, which has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Bamako also contains Mali’s liveliest nightlife, busiest markets, and most fascinating museums. The city of Djenné is much smaller than Bamako, but its Great Mosque is the world’s largest mudbrick building. Most of Djenné’s other mudbrick buildings are almost as impressive.

Of course, no visit to Mali would be complete without stopping at the legendary city of Timbuktu. Once a wealthy trading post whose name remains synonymous with mysterious and exotic lands, Timbuktu’s atmosphere feels more Arabic than African thanks to its streets made of sand and desert location. Timbuktu’s three mosques are closed to non-Muslim visitors, but can still be admired from the outside. The houses of the first Western explorers who visited Timbuktu are preserved with commemorative plaques.

Also highly recommended is a visit to Mali’s isolated Dogon country, filled with spectacular landscapes and people whose culture has remained unchanged for centuries.

Mali accommodation ranges from hotels comparable to Western standards to rooms with beds or mattresses accompanied by mosquito nets. Sleeping on rooftops under the bright stars is a truly unforgettable experience.

Mali’s borders with Niger and Algeria, as well as the areas north of Timbuktu, are considered dangerous for travel, but the southern part of the country, where most tourist attractions are located, is much safer.