Thinking about going to Mali one day? The season you go makes a big difference! Check out the best time to visit Mali (along with the cheapest, least busy, and worst times) in our trip-planning guide.
Why You Should Visit Mali
Land-locked Mali in West Africa is a hidden gem for travelers seeking unique architecture, historical sites, sprawling desert and river delta landscapes, and a thriving local culture.
Head to Mali’s capital, Bamako, to visit the Zoo National du Mali, Mali National Park, and the National Museum of Mali. You’ll see impressive mosques and cathedrals, and check out towering monuments along the way!
Modern and traditional shops are around every corner – especially in Mopti, where travelers often visit – with local restaurants serving up tasty food and Malian favorites like seafood, lamb curry, and rice with meat and veggies.
Most travelers find themselves seeking out the still-standing reminders of Mali’s long and storied past by heading to the 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
Out in the Land of the Dogons, the Cliff of Bandiagara is an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site with architecture – earthen homes, granaries, sanctuaries, and more – dating back centuries.
Mali is also home to Timbuktu, another World Heritage Site with rich Islamic history, where you’ll find 3 stunning historic mosques from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Tomb of Askia in Gao, standing over 55 feet tall and built in 1495 by an emperor, features an adobe pyramid-shaped tomb and surrounding complex with smaller mosques and a cemetery.
The world’s largest adobe building stands over 65 feet high in Djenné, Mali, aptly named the Great Mosque of Djenné. The entire mosque is made of mud bricks baked in the Mali sun since 1907.
Nature lovers will appreciate Mali’s Gouina Falls in the Kayes region, dropping the mighty 1,640-foot wide Senegal River down 52 feet over the edge in a cascading plummet.
Sprawling sands of the Sahara Desert blanket about 41% of Mali, forming massive sand dunes that become a tourist attraction in themselves. La Dune Rosa in Gao is a favorite to visit as it turns pink at dawn and dusk!
With so many reasons to visit Mali, you just need to know the best time to go to enjoy your stay. We’ll cover that next!
What Is the Best Time to Visit Mali?
- Overall best time to visit: April-June
- Cheapest time to visit: October-November
- Least busy time to visit: August-October
- Worst time to visit: February-March, August
The best time to visit Mali will really depend on the nature and goals of your trip. Every season brings something different!
If you’re hoping to experience the best weather, festivals, and sightseeing opportunities, your “best time to visit” will be different than if you’re looking for the cheapest or least busy time of year to go.
Overall, the best time to visit Mali across all categories is April to June. This period offers warm weather with some rain, but plenty of festivals and excellent opportunities for sightseeing around Mali’s historic sites and architecture.
The cheapest time to visit Mali is usually during the months of October and November, when hotel rates dip dramatically and temperatures increase to around 94F after a brief drop from July to September.
August to October is usually the least busy time to come to Mali, with very few tourists arriving and lower-than-normal hotel rates as a bonus.
Try to avoid visiting Mali in February, March, and August. These are the most expensive (February) and crowded (March, August) months to visit.
We’ll take a closer look at each travel season for Mali next.
Overall Best Time to Visit Mali
April through June is the overall best time to visit Mali, but it’s hot with average temperatures from 85F to 91F. Rainfall is moderate through June, which is great for sightseeing.
While it rains a bit during this period – 0.4″ in April, 1.8″ in May, and 4.6″ in June – it’s actually part of Mali’s dry season. With less rainfall daily, you’ll have more opportunities to get out and explore the country.
The torrential rains (8″-10″ per month) won’t come to Mali until July and August. That’s one reason that the drier April to June period is the best part of the year to visit overall.
The weather is a big part of why this season is great for a visit, but it’s also a little less crowded at this time of year than in the busiest months of the year (February, March, and August).
With fewer crowds filling up the hotels (especially around the capital, Bamako), prices drop and you can score better deals on accommodations.
But since this period covers part of spring (the peak season), there’s a lot going on in Mali during this time of year, including festivals.
Check out the Dogon Mask Festival in April, Plastering the Great Mosque in late April and May, and International Rails Festival in May or June.
Cheapest Time to Visit Mali
The best time to visit Mali on a budget is from October to November, during the slower fall season when temperatures drop and prices follow suit.
During the months of October and November, you can find the best deals of the year on hotels in Mali, especially in the capital where most tourists stay.
October sees average hotel rates from about $50 to $131/night. November nightly rates range from $51 to $134, making it only slightly more expensive.
Compare these nightly rates to those found during the peak season, which can be as high as $154/night, and it’s clear that visiting in October or November is the cheapest time to go to Mali!
Temperatures are around 94F at this time of year, humidity ranges from 40% to 60%, and rain is very minimal with 0.2″ in November and 1.6″ in October.
It’s a nice bonus that crowds are very small during this part of the year, too.
You’ll generally find plenty of availability at hotels in the capital and fewer crowds around town, at attractions, and visiting historic sites.
Least Busy Time to Visit Mali
September to November is the least busy time to visit Mali as visitor numbers hit their annual low and fewer festivals and events happen within the country.
If you’re looking for a time to visit Mali without crowds of tourists, September to November is the perfect time to go. You’ll even save a few dollars by visiting during this time of year.
You’ll find hotels with wide-open availability, especially in October and November. October and November are also the cheapest months of the year to visit Mali!
The Harmattan season takes place around this time of year as dry, dusty winds from the Sahara Desert blow across Mali, taking the rainy season with it.
September gets around 6.4″ of rain, but October receives 1.6″ and November only gets around 0.2″. If you plan to sightsee and do things outdoors, planning for October or November will be best.
With less and less rainfall each day as this season creeps in, the winds are welcome as temperatures still hover in the 89F-94F range. It’s hot, but manageable with steadily-decreasing humidity.
Worst Time to Visit Mali
February, March, and August are the worst time to visit Mali due to higher prices (February) and peak months for tourism (March and August) creating more crowded conditions.
February to March is part of the driest season in Mali, with little to no rainfall during these spring months. Temperatures are warm, with average daily temperatures around 82F to 88F.
August is the complete opposite – it’s cooler, around 79F, and the wettest month of the year. Bamako, Mali receives about 10.1″ of rain on average throughout the month. About 27 days of the month are rainy!
Aside from weather, why are these months the worst time for a visit to Mali? In February, hotel rates are the highest of the entire year ($58-$154/night).
In March and August, Mali gets more visitors than the rest of the year, making prices rise slightly and crowding hotels, attractions, restaurants, shops, and historic sites.
Things to Consider
Before you start planning a visit to Mali, there are a few things you should know to keep yourself safe and ensure you’re prepared for the customs and culture here.
- Check for travel advisories before you go. Right now, Mali is not safe to visit due to increased risk of violent crime, kidnapping, and terrorism targeting locals and foreigners alike. There’s currently a Level 4 Travel Advisory from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs stating “Do Not Travel.” These warnings can change, so be sure to check your government’s advisories before planning a trip to Mali.
- Prepare for heat and sun. Mali is pretty hot, with high temperatures surging to over 100F during parts of the year. With vast stretches of desert, it can feel even hotter! Make sure you prepare for the heat and sun with plenty of water each day as you set out, regular breaks in the shade, and regularly applying sunscreen to protect your skin from burning.
- Exchange your currency upon arrival. Mali uses the West African CFA Franc, like many of the neighboring countries. U.S. dollars and euros are not accepted here, but it’s easy to exchange these currencies for CFA Francs once you arrive at the airport or in big cities like Bamako, the capital.
- Expect a language barrier. In Mali, locals mostly speak Bambara or, less commonly, French. English is not widely spoken, so you’ll need to brush up on Bambara, French, or rely on a translation app to help you communicate with staff wherever you go.
- Mind the local etiquette. Etiquette is taken very seriously in Mali, so be sure to follow local customs. Point with your entire hand, not a single finger. Don’t drink alcohol, if you find it on the menu, which is frowned upon in the Islamic culture here. Don’t take pictures of people, including government officials and military members.
Frequently Asked Questions
What else should you know about the best time to visit Mali? Take a look at the most frequently asked questions to learn more.
Is Mali good for tourists?
Mali is normally a good place for tourists, but current travel advisories warn that it's not safe to visit right now due to risk of violent crime, kidnapping, and terrorism.
What is the rainy season of Mali?
Mali's rainy season lasts from June to September, with these months receiving 4.6 inches (June) to 10.1 inches (August) of rain on average. August sees up to 27 rainy days throughout the month!
What do I need to know before going to Mali?
Mali isn't currently safe for tourists and you may face increased risk of being the target of violent crime (like armed robbery or assault), kidnapping, or terrorist acts in areas that tourists frequent.
It's very important to keep your passport safely guarded and secure, along with any personal documents, cash (don't bring a lot), or valuables.
Can you wear shorts in Mali?
Locals frown upon women bearing their knees or wearing pants, so it's best to stick to long skirts that cover the knees or to wear a sarong or wrap that can be tied around your waist to cover the knees when entering public areas.
Is Mali friendly to the US?
The U.S. and Mali continue to cooperate for the benefit of the Malian people through humanitarian efforts, peacebuilding, and long-term strategies aimed at promoting the health and wellbeing of Mali citizens through the USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategy for 2022-2026.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Mali?
We’ve looked at the reasons you might want to visit and the best time to go for different trip goals. With travel tips and frequently asked questions in mind, let’s recap the best time to visit Mali.
Overall, plan to visit between April and June – 85F to 91F temperatures, some rain, excellent sightseeing, and lots of festivals make it the best time to visit Mali.
On a budget? October and November offer the lowest prices on hotels in Mali, with most being concentrated in the capital Bamako.
September to November are the least busy months to go, with fewer crowds and affordable rates on hotels, too. Expect temperatures in the mid 90s at this time of year.
Try to avoid visiting in February, March, or August, which are the worst months to go. Higher prices and bigger crowds make Mali less pleasant at these times of year.
Safety and security should be your top priority, so heed any current travel advisories and don’t visit Mali until it’s considered safe with lower levels of crime targeted toward tourists.
Once you’re able to plan a safe visit to Mali, lots of historic sites and natural wonders await you!
From the thriving local culture and food to breathtaking adobe mosques and more, you’ll leave Mali feeling amazed at the history of this desert gem.