Mali is not the place to go for safaris.
What it does have is a smorgasbord of surreal landscapes, beautiful artwork, Timbuktu, castellated mosques made entirely of mud, pink sandstone villages carved into cliff faces, and undulating desert scenes that look like out-takes from Lawrence of Arabia.
When To Go:
The very best time to visit Mali is between November and January, before the heat hits in March and after the wet humid season. Trips down the Niger are also a good bet in November as the river is usually high enough for passenger boats to get through.
By December and January boat trips may be more of a hop from one sandbank to another if not cancelled altogether. November, though, is also the high tourist season so if you prefer to sacrifice a bit of comfort for peace and quiet, you could go in December for the crossing of the cattle at Diafarabé.
Mali's most famous cultural event is the Festival in the Desert, a musical extravaganza of the country's best musicians amid the sand dunes near Timbuktu which takes place in early January.
In fact anytime from October through to February is a reasonable time to go, but trying to get around Mali in the hot season from March to May is strictly for masochists.
Floods - Desert Bandits
Heavy rains have led to flooding in parts of the country. Travellers should seek local advice on road and transport conditions.
Travellers are advised to avoid the regions bordering Mauritania and Niger as well as north of Timbuktu, as they are the domain of desert bandits. Caution is also advised in the area bordering Côte d'Ivoire, due to ongoing instability in that country.
Mali - Fast Facts:
Full Name: Republic of Mali
Capital City: Bamako
Area: 1,240,140 sq km / 478,818 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +0 ()
Languages: French (official), Bambara (other), Songhai (other), Arabic (other)
Religion: Muslim (90%), traditional African religion (9%), Christian (1%)
Currency: CFA Franc BCEAO (CFA)
Electricity: 220V 50HzHz
Electric Plug Details: European plug with two circular metal pins
Country Dialing Code: 223