Do you like Ethiopia, its rich history, and the rock-cut churches of Lalibela? Then, the adobe architecture of Timbuktu and Djenné in Mali and their almost thousand-year-old Mosques and places of learning should be your next adventure.
If you want to know more about this interesting country in Western Africa and where to stay when you visit, you’re in the right place — let us be your guide!
The Best Places to Stay in Mali
Mali is definitely not one of the most receptive and welcoming countries in Africa for tourists. That’s a real pity, as it boasts some of the most exciting and interesting historical landmarks on the continent.
Simply put, your only real option for staying in Mali is the capital of the country called Bamako.
Aside from that, there are plenty of other places where you can go and visit interesting attractions, but there’s hardly another place where you can find reliable accommodation.
The 2 best areas to stay are:
- Bamako: The largest and the most developed city in Mali is definitely the best and the only option for staying in this country, providing a large number of accommodation options and restaurants, as well as plenty of interesting landmarks.
- Timbuktu and Djenné: These two ancient, historical cities located deeper in the desert parts of the country boast some of the most important and culturally relevant historical landmarks in West Africa, including ancient centers of learning and some unique mosques.
The Best Areas & Hotels in Mali
Practically, your only real option for finding any reliable accommodation — no matter the price range, the size, or the type — is the capital of Mali, called Bamako.
This large city of almost three million people boasts plenty of hotels scattered around its streets, but they’re mostly located either on the outskirts of the city or in its center. Luckily for you, Bamako has a wide range of hotels suitable for everybody’s wallets or preferences.
Here, in the capital, you can find both extremely cheap two-star hotels or apartments and very luxurious, quite pricey five-star accommodations with no less than two swimming pools.
Timbuktu and Djenné are present on our list because they’re extremely important in terms of culture and history.
Unfortunately, they don’t provide any type of reliable accommodation. That’s why your best choice is to get settled in Bamako and then travel to the other parts of Mali.
When the famous African explorer Mungo Park visited Bamako in 1797 (and again in 1806), he estimated that the country had a population of only 6,000 people.
Today, the numbers have gone through the roof, with almost three million people living in the capital of Mali. It’s the administrative, economic, and political center of the country.
The name Bamako, in the Bambara language, simply and quite evocatively means “crocodile river.” The capital of Mali is located on the powerful Niger River, the third largest river in all of Africa, after the Nile and Congo River.
The river is still home to three types of crocodiles but also hippopotamuses, lizards, and numerous types of fish. Bamako is developing as swiftly as its population rises.
The urban conditions are getting better with each day, new buildings keep sprouting around the city, shopping malls are opening everywhere, and the infrastructure is constantly improving the quality of the city-dwellers.
Some of the most important institutions in Mali, like the Modibo Keita International Airport, the National Museum of Mali, the University of Bamako, the Mali National zoo, the Monument de la Renaissance Africaine, and the Grand Mosque of Bamako, are located here.
The National Museum, the mosque, and the zoo are especially attractive to tourists and are constantly swarmed with people.
If you want to learn about the history of this old and historically important country, make sure to visit the museum and learn as much as you can about its tumultuous and traumatic history.
If you want to have a relaxing day with your family and see the typical African animals without visiting some of the nearby national parks, make sure to visit the interesting zoo.
Bamako is packed with all kinds of accommodation options and hotels — from luxurious five-star hotels to very cheap two-star apartments. The same holds for the restaurants and the nightlife scene.
Bamako Budget Hotels
- Le Baobab is a very cheap but also quite decent two-star accommodation option located further from the center of Bamako. The hotel offers free parking, a garden, and a terrace on the premises, as well as a nice restaurant to have lunch or dinner and a bar for a relaxing drink before bedtime.
- Dunia Hotel Bamako is another slightly more expensive (and slightly better) two-star hotel located around a mile from the National Museum of Bamako. The hotel has a lush garden, a large outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, and a terrace with a view. The hotel also provides a free airport shuttle, room service, and breakfast in the morning.
Bamako Mid-Range Hotels
- Au bord de l’eau is a beautiful three-star hotel that comes at a really reasonable price. Every room in the hotel offers a private bathroom, satellite TV, a wardrobe, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and a sitting area. The premises of the hotel, on the other hand, have an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, and a terrace.
- ONOMO Hotel Bamako is another slightly more expensive three-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool. Every unit in the hotel is equipped with a terrace, a patio, a private bathroom, and an excellent view of the garden. Of course, the hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool where you can relax on a hot day, as well as a restaurant, a fitness center, and a bar.
Bamako Luxury Hotels
- Radisson Collection Hotel Bamako is a gorgeous five-star hotel in the heart of Bamako, offering all kinds of services and amenities typical for a luxurious hotel anywhere in the world. It offers no less than two swimming pools and two restaurants, a spa and wellness center, a bar, and a fitness center on the premises.
- Azalaï Hôtel Bamako is another beautiful and very luxurious five-star hotel. Located around 500 meters from the French Embassy and particularly suitable for a couple on an adventurous trip, it has two outdoor swimming pools, a restaurant, a bar, a fitness center, and a spa and wellness center on the premises. The rooms are large and have sitting areas and private bathrooms.
2. Timbuktu and Djenné
In a survey of 150 young people from Britain, 34% of them said that they didn’t think that Timbuktu exists, and around 66% of the youngsters answered that it was a mythical place.
Since some time during the Renaissance and after the famous book by the author Leo Africanus — the Cosmography and Geography of Africa — the rest of the world has associated this desert city with mythology, mysticism, and excessive wealth.
Every perception of Timbuktu was veiled by exotic legend. Actually, Timbuktu indeed was one of the most important African cities in the history of the continent.
Permanently settled in the 12th century, it quickly became a major trading and learning center.
The city reached its zenith somewhere between the 14th and the 15th centuries, when it was absorbed into the Mali Empire and was established as one of the most important Islamic centers for learning.
Today, this small town of no more than 50,000 people is the historic stronghold of Mali, boasting some of Africa’s most beautiful mosques and the ancient University of Timbuktu.
At some time in history, there were 25,000 students, precisely a quarter of the total population of the city. Halfway between Bamako and Timbuktu, around 250 miles from the capital of Mali, lies the small town called Djenné.
Historically, it was connected to the trade and culture of its older counterpart, Timbuktu, and somewhere in the 17th century, it took over its salt, gold, and slave trade monopoly. Simply put, it’s as historically important as its older sibling.
Most people come to Djenné to witness its striking and one-of-a-kind adobe architecture (made from earth and organic materials) and the Great Mosque of Djenné.
Along with the Old Town of Djenné, it’s one of the most visited and most important holy places in the whole of Africa. The mosque was initially built around the 13th century, but today’s structure is around 100 years old.
Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, the whole community of the city takes an active role in its constant preservation and renovation, usually during the city’s festivals, that also include a lot of music and tasty food.
So, Where Should You Stay in Mali?
We’ve reached the end of our short but extremely interesting journey through Mali, a troubled yet important country in West Africa. Now, before we end our adventure, let’s do a quick recap of the two (or three) best places in Mali.
|🏆 Best for First-Time Visitors||Bamako|
|⛪ Best for History Buffs||Timbuktu and Djenné|
So, while this country is a bit under-developed, it’s still worth visiting because of its rich history and unique culture. Happy travels!