Most interesting landmarks of Mali

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Mali.

Natural landmarks of Mali

Cliff formations

Hand of Fatima, Mali
Hand of Fatima, Mali / Timm Guenther, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Arch of Kamadjan – Koulikoro. Large, picturesque natural arch.
  • Hand of Fatima – Mopti. One of most impressive rock formations in the world – group of vertical cliffs up to 600 m high and resembling giant hands rising from the desert. Sacred place to locals.
  • Mount Hombori – Mopti. The tallest mountain in Mali – an isolated monolith with nearly steep sides, rising some 750 m above the surroundings. Caves in this mountain have been inhabited for some 2000 years.


Mali is very rich with tall perennial waterfalls and several permanent ones. Here are listed just two.

Gouina Falls, Mali
Gouina Falls / Jacques Taberlet, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Gouina Falls – Kayes. Magnificent falls on Senegal River, approximately 500 m wide and 16 m tall.
  • Telly Falls – Mopti. Some 60 m tall waterfall, falling over Bandiagara Escarpment near Telly village.

Other natural landmarks

  • Fara Missiri – Sikasso. Mysterious grotto, important to local animist religion. This grotto is adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and is some 50 – 80 m high.
  • Trantimou grossular-andradite – Kayes. A find of unique gemstone – grossular-andradite. This beautiful gooseberry green stone was discovered in 1994.

Man made landmarks of Mali

Rock art

  • Adrar des Ifoghas (Adrar des Iforas) – Kidal. Sandstone massif with many rock drawing sites. Includes a gorgeous drawing of a group of giraffes.
  • Airé Soroba – Mopti. Rich collection of rock engravings and paintings, ending with Islamic writings by Arabs from the 11th century AD.
  • Kita Kourou cave paintings – Kayes. Sacred mountain for local animists. Caves and grottoes in this mountain are adorned with old cave paintings.
  • Mogoyabougou and Mingaré rock shelters – Koulikoro. Some of the most interesting rock paintings in this area. These polychrome paintings show animals, flowers, weapons.
  • Siguifri shelters (Fanfannyégènné Siguifri) – Koulikoro. Neolithic cave engravings (dots) and polychrome paintings. Some cup-marks in the stones are up to 4 cm deep.

Tellem and Dogon heritage

Teli village in Mali - Dogon houses in the forefront, Tellem houses - in the cliff
Teli village – Dogon houses in the forefront, Tellem houses – in the cliff / Dorothy Voorhees, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nearly every Dogon village af Bandiagara Escarpment deserves to be listed here – all of them are beautiful and very unusual.

  • Atô – Mopti. One of the most spectacular Dogon villages at the foot of Bandiagara Escarpment.
  • Indelou – Mopti. Village of Dogon animists on the top of Bandiagara Escarpment. Animist religion here is active, with many rituals on-going and many sacred places.
  • Ogol Da in Sangha – Mopti. Animist part of Dogon city with numerous temples, fetishes and shrines.
  • Songo – Mopti. Traditional Dogon village with interesting adobe buildings. Dogon people have preserved their traditional way of life, including the circumcision ritual with associated petroglyphs. Many other villages in this area are of similar interest to travellers and explorers.
  • Tellem burial caves in Bandiagara escarpment – Mopti. In different (mostly undisclosed) locations of Bandiagara escarpment are found caves which are filled with bones and utensils of Tellem people who left this area in the 16th century. There are caves where thousands of skulls are located. The historical textiles have been well preserved in the dry climate.
  • Tireli (Tereli) – Mopti. One of the most beautiful Dogon villages.
  • Yougou Dogorou and Yougapiri – Mopti. Village hewn into a vertical cliff by Tellem people. Tellem have left the area, Dogon people have built their traditional house at the base of cliff. Similar villages are widespread along the Bandiagara Escarpment.

Ancient cities

Streets of Timbuktu, Mali
Streets of Timbuktu / Emilio Labrador, / CC BY 2.0
  • Es-Souk – Kidal. Abandoned pre-Islamic – early Islamic desert town with ruins. Rocks around the town are adorned with petroglyphs.
  • Djenné – Mopti. Important trade city in the 15th – 17th centuries, founded around 1000 AD. The old city of Djenné is built entirely from adobe – mud-bricks – and represents a distinct tradition in urban planning. Especially impressive is the large Great Mosque, built in 1907. Town had a fortification wall.
  • Hamdullahi (Hamdallahi) – Mopti. Large abandoned city, founded in 1820. Served as a capital of Massina Empire. This fortified city covered 244 ha. Destroyed in 1862.
  • Jenne-Jeno (Djenné-Jéno) – Mopti. One of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa, developed around the 3rd century BC. Between 750 and 1000 AD here lived up to 27,000 people. Fortification wall around the city was built sometimes around 850 AD, city was abandoned sometimes around 1400 AD.
  • Timbuktu – Tombouctou. Historical centre of once very important trade and knowledge center, once one of most prosperous places in the world. World centre of Islamic learning in the 13th – 17th century, more than 700,000 valuable Timbuctu’s manuscripts have been preserved here up to this day in the libraries of city. City has preserved much of its historical adobe architecture.

Mosques and madrassas

Typical mosque in Mali
Typical mosque in Mali / John Spooner, / CC BY 2.0
  • Great Mosque of Djenné – Mopti. The largest adobe building in world, has unique design. First mosque here since the 13th century, current built in 1907 or 1909.
  • Djinguereber Mosque – Tombouctou. Mosque and famous learning centre, built in 1327 from earth.
  • Komoguel Mosque – Mopti. Large mosque with interesting architecture, built from mud and adobe in 1933 – 1935.
  • Mopti Mosque – Mopti. Spectacular mosque from mud, built in 1933.
  • Niono Mosque – Large mosque from adobe, similar to the famous Djenné Mosque. Constructed in 1948, later enlarged.
  • Sankore Madrasah – Tombouctou. Ancient learning centre, one of three great mosques in Timbuktu. First building was constructed here in 988 AD. This learning centre could house up to 25,000 students.
  • Sidi Yahya – Tombouctou. Historical centre of learning, consists of mosque and madrassa, built in 1400 – 1440. Impressive adobe structure.
  • Sirimou Mosque – Mopti. Unusual, beautiful adobe structure.

Other man made landmarks of Mali

Tomb of Askia, Mali
Tomb of Askia / Taguelmoust, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Kamablon – Koulikoro. Circular brick building with a conical roof. It is reroofed every 7 years and walls inside and outside are painted with interesting pictographs, which predict what will happen in the coming seven years.
  • Kouga tumulus – Tombouctou. Enormous burial tumulus from the late 10th – 11th century AD, prehistoric megaliths nearby.
  • Médine Fortress – Kayes. French built this fortress in 1855 to protect this colonial town from Toucouler army. Now it serves as a reminder of the colonial past of Mali.
  • Tomb of Askia – Gao. Unusual, 17 m high pyramidal adobe structure – purported tomb of Askia Mohammad I, emperor of Songhai. Constructed at the end of the 15th century AD. Today used as a mosque.
  • Tondidaro stone circle – Tombouctou. Group of massive tumuli from the late 7th century AD, located among megalithic stone settings from earlier times. Megalithic stelae are decorated with images, unfortunately most are toppled and damaged now.

Described landmarks of Mali

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It is well possible that the most romantic African country is Mali. Like many countries in this beautiful continent, Mali nowadays has complex times, but in the past it has seen prosperity, flourishing of science and political importance. Here developed several empires, were built enormous cities. Traces of those times have been preserved up to this day – in the highly unusual architecture, living traditions, ruins of once prosperous cities and art monuments.

Highlights of Mali are:

  • Ancient cities – centres of trade and science. Especially interesting are the legendary cities of Timbuktu and Djenné, which once were some of the most affluent and splendid cities in the world. Libraries in Timbuktu have more than 700,000 medieval manuscripts – an incredible wealth!
  • Traditional landscape of Tellem and Dogon people along Bandiagara Escarpment. Everything here is unusual – up to 500 m high and some 150 km long cliff wall with ancient settlements and burial caves cut in it, highly unusual architecture of Dogon people on the top and at the base of cliffs, cliff paintings, numerous living traditions.

Featured: Great Mosque of Djenné

Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
Great Mosque of Djenné / Geri, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Europeans may look in disbelief – is it for real? Does it exist? The Great Mosque of Djenné is as real as it can be – this magnificent structure is the center of the ancient Djenné city, it is physical and spiritual center of this amazing Sub-Saharan metropolis.

Recommended books

Mali, 3rd (Bradt Travel Guide)

In Mali you may float past hippopotami whilst sailing down the River Niger, greet 300 herdsmen atop brilliant white camels, or stand on an escarpment looking out over the mystical cliff villages of the Dogon people. This new edition features thoroughly updated information on everything from elephant migrations to rock-climbing.

Mali in Depth: A Peace Corps Publication

In 1235, the Malinke people of the small state of Kangaba became involved in a struggle for independence. Their leader, a young man named Sundiata Keita, fielded an impressive army to meet the intruding Tekrur forces.

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